There’s more than one way to crab, and season is open

Fishing report: Trout plants underway at Amador, Collins; salmon still biting in ocean, and party boats have room
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
-A +A

California is home to a variety of crab. The two primary species are red rock and Dungeness.

The always-awaited season for Dungeness crab, the largest of all species off the coast, opened Nov. 3.

My experience with the red rock species is that they inhabit shallower regions closer to shore. You can often find a wayward Dungeness in closer, but generally they’re much smaller than what you’ll find in deeper water.

To get to the larger crab, it will take a boat. There are party boats in every port that will have crab pots set out to pretty much guarantee you a limit.

If you take your own boat, there is no limit on the number of crab pots you can set in deep water. You’re allowed to keep 10 Dungeness crab. If you ride in a party boat, the limit is six south of Mendocino County.

The recreational size limit for a Dungeness crab is 5¾ inches. Measure across the shell, directly in front of and excluding the lateral spines. From a party boat south of Mendocino County, a crab must measure at least six inches.

Some people crab from docks and piers. A fishing license isn’t required, but the fisher-person can use a maximum of two traps.

While closed pots are the most common, especially in deeper water, some anglers prefer ring units. Just know you have to check the hoop ring unit at least every two hours.

Another method for taking crab is by using a snare, though you have to be extremely patient, as the catching is slower. I have a number of them and have used them with fair success at the entrance to Noyo Harbor, off the jetty at Fort Bragg.

The snare is meant to be used from shore with the use of a fishing rod. It’s a square wire mesh box you can load with bait. There are a maximum of six heavy monofilament legs with loops attached to the side of the box.

To use, coarsely chop something like a couple of anchovy and stuff the wire box. Snap the box onto your line with a snap swivel. No weight will be needed, as the weight of the bait-stuffed box is more than adequate.

Cast it out as far as you can reach. When it reaches the bottom, pick up the majority of slack in the line and anchor your rod.

Your rod won’t bobble like it will when you get bit by a fish. A crab will try and walk off with it so it will take subtle dips. Slowly reel in the unit. Hopefully, a crab is tangled and caught in one of the loops — but not always. Sometimes, the crab is holding onto the unit and when you attempt to bring it out of the water, the crab will let go and drop off. You can beat the potential loss by sliding a long-handled trout net under the crab.

You can put your catch in a bucket of water, but an easier way is to put the crab in a gunny sack. Tie the top of the sack with a rope and keep it in the water until you leave.

All that’s left is the cooking and great eating.


Current fishing


Local salmon: Part of the river is now closed to fishing to protect non-hatchery salmon to spawn naturally in the river. Basically, the closure area — until Jan. 1 — is from the gauging cable just below Ancil Hoffman Park upriver to the Hazel Avenue Bridge. Fishing can be great below the closed section, as fresh fish continue to arrive. Get them now before the runs are over.

Collins Lake: Trout plants are underway despite the lake being nearly 40 feet down. This round of plants will continue until Thanksgiving. They’ll take a pause through the winter and resume planting in February. Hopefully, we’ll have received a lot of rain by then to raise the water level. For those going now, the spillway region is yielding nice stringers of rainbows for those slinging Power Bait from shore. Use a sliding sinker. Trollers also are scoring. A threaded crawler always works, and a flashy little spoon will fool a trout.

Lake Pardee: The lake is closed and will reopen in February.

Lake Amador: Think 1,000 pounds of trout a day will do any good? That’s what they’re putting in the lake, Monday through Friday. Trollers are nailing nice, big cut-bows that average two to four pounds. Bank slingers traditionally do well off the dam and spillway regions. The trick is, don’t go to the bottom. Suspend your Power Bait, salmon eggs or a crawler under a bobber or cast-a-bubble. Use one rod that way and cast-retrieve a lure with the other. You can hammer big trout here.

Ocean: In July, you could hardly get a ride on a party boat, as they were booked well in advance with the salmon bite so hot. Today, there is still salmon biting outside the gate, and the boats are hardly full of people. It’s a good time to consider a trip out of Berkeley or Emeryville. If not salmon, consider a trip for rock cod. The bottom fish bite in most ports, especially the Bay Area fleet and Bodega Bay. Limits remain the rule with good numbers of lings in the sack. Most boats are offering combo trips. After the limits of rock cod are obtained, they’ll pull their pots and everybody also comes home with a limit of Dungeness crab.

Lake Berryessa: This lake is almost like Folsom Lake. The closest place to launch would be Markley Cove. Right now, it’s bass, bass, bass — largemouth, smallmouth and spots. OK, you have to drop to 40 feet, but drop-shot or spoon and you’ll hammer bass to four pounds. They’re munching on massive schools of shad, so be sure whatever you use can look like a wounded shad.

Camp Far West: The good news is the lake hasn’t dropped anymore. With last week’s rain, it actually has risen a little, and as long as you aren’t towing the Queen Mary, you can launch at the North Shore. Bass fishing has been outstanding with bass found in 10 to 12 feet and many weighing more than two pounds. Work the rocks around the dam and throughout Rock Creek and you should have a good day.

Contact George deVilbiss at