Despite some pretty drastic changes to the sport crab fishing regulations, jumbo crabs in good numbers are now starting to fill the hoops and rings of sport anglers. Between rough ocean conditions and a steep learning curve on how the new hoops and rings fish best, the sport season started a little on the slow side. But now anglers are getting the hang of things and scores are starting to go up. "We've only had a few days on the water, so we're still trying to dial in the hoop nets," said Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing. "From what I've learned, the crabs don't stay on the bait nearly as long as the traps. They move on pretty quickly. Timing is the key, stuffing bait jars with squid and checking the hoops every 30 minutes or so seems to be working." According to Klassen, most of the Eureka boats have been fishing south of the entrance in 40 to 100 feet of water.
The bright spot so far this season has been Trinidad. Small boats and kayakers launching from the beach have been scoring quick limits inside the harbor. When the ocean has allowed, boats have done well near the bell buoy in 200 to 300 feet of water. Just outside of Prisoner Rock has also been a top spot.
Though not official, the quality testing shows the crabs out of Eureka at 19.5 percent, Trinidad 20.4 percent, and 18.7 percent out of Crescent City. A typical year will find the meat content at around 20 percent, with the theory being that crabs will add one percent of meat a week and reach the 25 percent mark for the commercial opener of Dec. 1.
Reminder: CDFW strongly encourages anglers to follow the Best Fishing Practices Guide developed by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Voluntary actions anglers can employ include keeping the line between the pot and main buoy taught and vertical, reducing the amount of vertical line at the surface, avoiding setting gear in the vicinity of whales and turtles, and marking gear consistent with regulations. Best Fishing Practices Guide can be found here: nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=195428&inline.
For current sport crab regulations, visit cdfwmarine.wordpress.com/2022/11/08/new-hoop-net-regulations-in-effect/.
Weekend marine forecast
This week's marine forecast is looking good for offshore crabbing and rockfish, with very little wind in the forecast. As of Tuesday, Thursday's forecast is calling for southwest winds up to 5 knots and waves west 6 feet at 15 seconds. Friday is looking similar with north winds 5 to 10 knots and north waves 4 feet at five seconds and west 4 feet at 12 seconds. Saturday's forecast is calling for southeast winds up to 5 knots with west waves 4 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday the winds will be from the south 5 to 10 knots with west waves 4 feet at 12 seconds. These conditions can and will change by the weekend. For an up-to-date weather forecast, visit www.weather.gov/eureka/ or www.windy.com. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.
365-Day Fishing Licenses now available
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will begin selling 365-day fishing licenses far sooner than expected. Beginning November 15, 2022, California anglers will be able to purchase a 2023 fishing license that will take effect on January 1, 2023, and last the entire year. All licenses purchased on or after January 1, 2023, will be effective from the date of purchase for a continuous 365 days.
Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) introduced AB 817 in February 2021, allowing a transition of California's fishing license validity from a calendar year to a full 365 days from purchase. Prior to this change, anglers who purchase their license after New Year's Day were charged the same price for fewer days of fishing, and some are not willing to pay the full price of a license when purchasing it later in the year resulting in fewer license sales. This change will allow anglers to receive 365 days' worth of benefits after purchasing a license any time of year.
"Thanks to the dedicated staff efforts at CDFW, California will be moving to our new 365-day fishing license even sooner than expected," said Wood. "This license will encourage more Californians to fish and increase fishing license revenue which funds critical state fishing and conservation programs. Making fishing more accessible really supports communities that rely on outdoor recreation and tourism, like my northern California district."
To purchase a fishing license, please visit CDFW's online internet sales webpage. At checkout there is an additional option to enroll in auto-renewal for fishing licenses, which allows anglers to automatically purchase and receive their new license when their current one expires, so California's anglers never miss a day of fishing! For more information, visit wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing#445183569-365---day-sport-fishing-licenses
As of Wednesday, only the main stem Eel and Smith rivers are open to fishing. However, the Smith will be closed starting Thursday. All other North Coast rivers subjected to low flow fishing closures, including the South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen, are closed. The Mad River from the mouth to 200 yards upstream, the main stem Eel from the South Fork to Cape Horn Dam and the Mattole River are all closed until January 1, 2023. The Department of Fish and Wildlife will make the information available to the public no later than 1 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as to whether any river will be closed to fishing. The rivers can be opened at any time. The low flow closure hotline for North Coast rivers is (707) 822-3164. For more information, visit fishingthenorthcoast.com/2021/09/22/2021-2022-low-flow-information-for-north-coast-rivers/.
Main stem Eel
The main stem Eel near Scotia was running at 400 cubic feet per second as of Wednesday. Flows aren't predicted to fall below the 350 cfs threshold by the weekend, so it could remain open. There were some fish caught over the weekend by bank anglers and boats drifting the lower river. Most of the fish are dark. There are also some coho around. River forecast levels can be found here: cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=SCOC1.
The Smith, even with flows remaining above the 600 cfs minimum, was closed over the weekend. As of Tuesday, the river was back open to fishing with flows right around 660 cfs but CDFW has determined it will close after Wednesday. Minimum flows are 600 cfs at Jedediah Smith State Park to enact angling restrictions. River forecast levels can be found here: cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=CREC1.
"Salmon fishing was good all of last week on the Chetco, with big numbers of hatchery and wild kings," said Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. "Low water slowed the action by the weekend, and catch rates dropped significantly. More rain is now needed. Anglers also are awaiting rain to get back on the Elk and Sixes, where fishing was fair last week. The two northern rivers generally fish best after the second big rise of the season, which could happen this coming week."
Brookings ocean update
According to Martin, the ocean has been rough out of Brookings, but smaller swells late last week allowed boats to get out. "Lingcod fishing was very good near Bird Island. Conditions look good this week."
Kenny Priest operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.