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Plenty and Full 

An excellent start to sport crab season

click to enlarge Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing with a nice pot full of Dungeness crab taken Saturday on the sport opener.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Priest

Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing with a nice pot full of Dungeness crab taken Saturday on the sport opener.

In a typical year, the sport crab season can go one of two ways. If the crabs are plentiful, the meat content is usually on the lighter side. If there are fewer crabs around, they are typically fuller and in better shape. This is all due to their food source — more crabs means smaller shares of food, while fewer crabs usually means plenty of food to go around. Five days into the season, it's looking like we may have both quality and abundance. Last Saturday's opener produced limits of big, healthy crabs both offshore and inshore.

Tim Klassen of Reel Steel Sport Fishing fished the opener and reports the crabs are in good shape, and there seem to be quite a few of them. "After an overnight soak on Saturday, we averaged about 12 to 22 keepers per pot Sunday," said Klassen. Though not official, the quality testing shows the crabs out of Eureka at 22.7 percent. 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.

According to Klassen, both the north and south sides outside of Humboldt Bay fished well. "Pots dropped in 80 to 130 feet did well," he added.

Crabbing in Humboldt Bay was also excellent, with plenty of limits reported. Up in Trinidad, the kayaks and small boats reported quick limits of crabs on very short soaks.

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: www.nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=195428&inline.

Weekend weather and forecast

According to Scott Carroll of Eureka's National Weather Service office, we're looking at a fairly dry week. "Very light rain is in the forecast for Wednesday and it doesn't look like it will affect any river levels," he said. "After that, we're looking mostly dry the rest of the week and through the weekend. The next chance of rain will be Monday."

The weekend marine forecast is looking good for offshore crabbing, rockfish and halibut, with very little wind in the forecast. As of Tuesday, Saturday's forecast is calling for north winds 5 to 10 knots with west waves 6 feet at 11 seconds. Sunday is looking similar, with winds coming out of the north 5 to 10 knots with west waves 3 feet at five seconds and west 6 feet at 13 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. To monitor the latest Humboldt bar conditions, visit www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/swan. You can also call the National Weather Service at 443-7062 or the office on Woodley Island at 443-6484.

Pacific halibut closing Nov. 15

The Pacific halibut season is scheduled to close Nov, 15. As of Oct. 31, the quota stands at 30,602 pounds against the 39,260 quota. The season reopened Sept. 3 and was slated to close until the quota was reached or until Nov. 3, whichever is earlier. For more info, visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/marine/pacific-halibut#31670772-in-season-tracking.

The Rivers:

As of Wednesday, all North Coast rivers subjected to low-flow fishing closures, including the Smith, Eel, South Fork Eel, Mad, Redwood Creek and Van Duzen are open to angling. Be sure and call the low-flow closure hotline at 822-3164 to determine if the river is open prior to fishing. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will announce whether rivers will be open by a telephone recorded message each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Mad River

The Mad was off color all week and will remain that way through the weekend. Predicted to be on the drop through the weekend.

Main Eel

The river blew out Tuesday but is dropping quickly. Predicted to be under 3,500 cfs by the weekend.

Van Duzen

Hiy 3,850 cfs Tuesday, but was already under 1,500 cfs by Wednesday afternoon. Should be at a fishable level by the weekend, but may be off color.

South Fork Eel

Reached 5,300 cfs Tuesday evening, but predicted to drop quickly. Should be fishable by the weekend, especially the upper sections.

Smith River

The Smith blew out Tuesday but was back into fishable shape Wednesday. Scores over the weekend weren't great, with just a handful of fish caught each day. Boats are spread from the forks to the outfitters. Hopefully the latest rise will bring in some new fish. A few coho have been caught, which typically means the king run is getting close to the end.

Chetco River

The Chetco River fished well last week before blowing out with the latest series of storms, according to Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He said, "After being high and muddy all weekend, the river is expected to be back in shape the second half of this week. A nice mix of wild and hatchery kings have been spread throughout the river. Now that low-flow regulations have been lifted, anglers can back-bounce or run plugs with treble hooks."

Elk/Sixes Rivers

With the high water over the weekend, the Elk and Sixes were in good shape for salmon, reports Martin. "Action has been fair, with good numbers of hatchery kings on both rivers. All wild adult kings must be released on the Elk. Flows reached 8.5 feet on the Elk Thursday, and were down to 5.7 feet Friday. Saturday and Sunday were prime. The Sixes has been fishing since Sunday. Both could be very low and clear by this weekend."

Kenny Priest (he/him) operates Fishing the North Coast, a fishing guide service out of Humboldt specializing in salmon and steelhead. Find it on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and www.fishingthenorthcoast.com. For up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information, email kenny@fishingthenorthcoast.com.

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