There is a danger to crabbing in open waters

By: George deVilbiss
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Have you priced fresh crab lately? It’s expensive.

Last week, it was detailed in this column that you don’t need to ride on a party boat to trap a load of crab.

If you enjoy cooking and cracking fresh crab, you can save a great deal of money by setting out your own baited pots.

However, there is a danger involved.

If you crab inside Bodega Harbor, there isn’t much of a problem. The water is calm, and most anything that floats can put you in position to place and retrieving your pots.

The danger can occur the minute you go outside the jetty into the open-water range.

Draw an imaginary line from Point Reyes to Bodega Head. Water to the east of that line actually is Bodega Bay; west of that line, the Pacific Ocean. Bay waters aren’t anywhere near as potentially rough as the Pacific, but both can be dangerous for any sized boat, as evidenced by a recent tragedy near Bodega Bay.

A 21-foot boat was crabbing north of Bodega Bay, dropping pots in the deeper water where big Dungeness crab are known to roam. The boat’s propeller got caught in the crab pots’ rope.

That’s never a good scenario, and in ocean water, it’s terrible. The anglers raised the motor in hopes of freeing it from the rope. The trouble is there are commonly good-sized waves in the open-water range, and the closer you get to shore, they tend to break.

So, in trying to free the rope, the boat without any power control got crosswise to a wave and capsized. Nearby boats came to the rescue, but one angler didn’t make it.

Another time while I was at Bodega, a 16-foot aluminum was crabbing in outside water, concentrating its effort on the western side of the jetty. It lost power, and the next thing they knew, the boat was on the rocks.

The three anglers were able to get off the boat and onto the jetty. The Coast Guard was called, and the boat was retrieved and towed to port. The boat, which crashed continuously on the rocks, was a wreck.

So, just know and understand that hundreds of anglers crab regularly in the Bodega Bay area. Incidents are minimal, but they can be devastating. Equipment and gear can get damaged or lost; lives can be lost.

If you want to crab, go for it, inside or outside harbor water. Just always be aware. Accidents happen when you lose that awareness or get in a hurry.

If you want to crab inside Bodega Harbor, don’t put your pots – or rings – in the middle of the boat channel. Use your depth finder and drop your pot at the edge of the channel, which will be well marked on your scope with an obvious wall.


Current fishing

Most anglers are staying away from fishing in the high country – and for good reason. Snow has put most on the list of inaccessible. It won’t be long, under current weather patterns, though, for ice fishing to be a top priority at mountain lakes you can access.

Never tried ice fishing? Read this column next week as to how it’s easily done.

Port of Sacramento: Striper catching is pretty good, and most of the action is being found by those in boats. Drifting jumbo minnows, trolling a Rebel or Rapala and jigging have worked well. It’s tougher for those who are shore-bound. You can soak a minnow under a bobber cast out at least beyond the channel drop-off. Mudsuckers and bloodworms also have attracted bass.

Collins Lake: They do heavy trout plants in the spring and they’ve done four fall plants, most recently just before Thanksgiving. Troll the top 15 feet by hauling a threaded crawler behind a flasher or small Rapala; or, fish from shore around the dam, the campground or marina with Power Bait. Action is good.

Clear Lake: Those who toss artificials for bass are finding the bite off and on, and you never know which it’s going to be. However, disdained by most bass anglers, those who soak live baits are putting bass in their live wells. Some of the top action is being found around Shag Rock, Konocti Harbor, Jago Bay and Anderson Island. Also, catfish to 14 pounds are all over the lake and grabbing live minnows.

American River: Salmon season closed last Sunday. Steelheading in open-water stretches has been tough, though some are caught.

Bay Area: All the boats that were offering combo trips are back in port earlier than normal. While getting full limits of crab for everybody on board is the rule, the other fishing isn’t panning out. Sand-dab fishing can be popular but hasn’t found big concentrations to make it worth trying. Live bait availability is dwindling, so halibut and striper fishing inside the bay is marginal.

Contact George deVilbiss at at