Crabbing on your own is a little work but well worth it

By: George deVilbiss
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Most anglers rely on any of the numerous party boats to get a limit of crab. Why not? The boat’s deckhand does all the work, and the angler reaps the reward of crabs in the sack.
It’s not necessary to jump on a commercial party boat to get crab. Depending on where you go, even those with smaller 14-foot aluminum boats can be successful.
I’ve done a great deal of crabbing at Bodega Bay utilizing my boat, then a 17-foot Klamath. I’ve pulled a lot of crab in a day of fishing, culling out the smaller crab while retaining the larger.
OK, it takes a little bit of an investment. You need pots and rope long enough to attach to the pot so you can retrieve it. But it’s actually a small price, as the items can be used for many years.
A few anglers with larger boats will spend bigger bucks purchasing an electric pot puller similar to a hydraulic puller on larger boats. With this type of equipment, you can drop pots in deeper water, where party boats and commercial anglers drop theirs.
However, if you’re limited to hand-pulling the pots, you really want to stay in shallower water, maybe to 50 feet deep. At reachable areas from the boat ramps at Doran and West Side parks, there’s a lot of water where pots can be dropped to attract crab.
We’ve easily pulled 50 or more keeper crab a day inside Bodega Harbor, dropping pots on the edge of the ship channel. Head outside the jetty, and there are good areas to place pots all over the bay.
In a normal day, we’d bait three or four pots, set them where we’d hope crab would be and let them soak for an hour or so. We’d check the pots every hour, culling out the unwanted crab and putting keepers in a bucket. We kept the boat docked in order to make the rotation every hour.
During slack time, we’d be at the campsite cooking that hour’s catch. By day’s end, there would be a large pile of crab – a mix of rock crab and Dungeness.
You’ll see buoys everywhere, by others with their pots out.
You’ll get the favored larger Dungeness crab and red rock crab. Some actually prefer red rock to Dungeness, claiming the meat is much sweeter.
While there is a specific season for Dungeness, fishing season for all other species of crab is open year-round.
There is a minimum size limit for all crab so identification of Dungeness vs. other species is crucial. The differences are obvious. The minimum size is six inches for Dungeness crab and four inches for other crab. The Dungeness limit is 10 if you get your own and 35 for other species. On a party boat, the crab limit is six.
The one thing you have to do after a day of crabbing and putting your boat on the trailer is to flush the motor unit with fresh water. Every launch facility I’ve seen in salt-water regions had a freshwater wash-down. You have to provide your own hose, however.
Give it a try. It’s really simple, and you don’t have to pay out big bucks to ride on a party boat – where you’ll generally get limits, but just Dungeness crab.
Take your own boat. It takes a little work, but you can get so much more, and it really is fun to pull your own crab.

Current fishing
With the last wet weather pattern and the Thanksgiving holiday, fishing was the furthest thing from the minds of many anglers. Most are content with staying indoors, warm and dry.
However, there is good fishing, and it’s the time of year to get on the water without much competition.
San Francisco Bay: Boats out of the Emeryville harbor are doing combo tips. Rock cod fishing may not be open, but limits of crab are the rule. Afterward, the boats work the bay waters for stripers and halibut. They nail impressive “butts,” too, with a good flattie hitting 25 pounds.
Lake Amador: It may be pay-to-play fishing, but they raise and plant big, impressive cutthroat-rainbow hybrids to attract anglers. While some take a boat, you can do well fishing off the rocks of the dam or the mud bank areas around the spillway. Be sure to have a two-rod stamp on your fishing license. Suspend Power Bait, eggs or a crawler under a bobber with one rod while you cast-retrieve a lure with the second rod. One lure that always seems to work well is, believe it or not, a simple white crappie jig. Some trout have been running 5-6 pounds.
Eagle Lake: With the last series of storms, the weather is cold. This is the time of year when fishing for rainbows is red hot. The lake is shallow to begin with, so all you have to do is be in water no more than 10 feet deep with an orange grub trolled from three to seven feet down.
American River: Not much for catching salmon, but you can go for two- and three-pound steelies. Spinners and mini crawlers will attract, but roe is always a dynamite getter.
Folsom Lake: With the cooler weather and water, many bass have moved into shallower water. Cranks and swimbaits along with jigs and spoons are accounting for bass in depths from 10-30 feet.
George deVilbiss can be reached at