Wednesday, October 19, 2016

     I'm sure you've probably already seen this, but here's the CDFW's interpretation of their new rules:

New Recreational Dungeness Crab Regulations Aim to Reduce “Ghost Fishing” and More

crab measure
Measure Dungeness crab through the body shell from edge to edge directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines). Dungeness crab must measure at least 5¾ inches across. CDFW illustration
This year, the recreational Dungeness crab season opens statewide on Saturday, November 5, 2016. The daily bag and possession limit for Dungeness crab remains ten crabs per day that are at least 5¾ inches across, measured by the shortest distance through the body shell from edge to edge directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines). Dungeness crab can be taken in all ocean waters of the state where they occur, excluding San Francisco and San Pablo bays. They can be taken using hoop nets, crab traps, or crab loop traps (also known as crab snares), or skin and scuba divers may take them by hand. Dungeness crab can be taken in freshwater areas of the state between Del Norte and Sonoma counties only by hand or hoop net during the open season; the same daily bag and size limits apply in freshwater areas.
crab trap and openingPrior to the upcoming season opener, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) would like to remind crabbers of the new regulations and procedures for crab traps that became effective on August 1, 2016:
  • Crab traps must contain at least one destruct device made from a single strand of untreated cotton twine, size No. 120 or less, that creates an unobstructed opening anywhere in the top or upper half of the trap that is at least 5 inches in diameter when this material corrodes or fails.

Destruct devices prevent the continuous trapping of organisms in lost or abandoned trap gear, in a process known as “ghost fishing.” It is important that the cotton twine be a single strand and untreated in order for the material to corrode relatively quickly on lost or abandoned gear, and to keep the twine from snagging on itself once it comes apart. The smaller the size of twine used, the faster the material will corrode in lost or abandoned trap gear. The opening must be located in the top or upper half of the trap in case the trap becomes silted in over time. A common method to meet this requirement is the use of untreated cotton twine attached between the metal or plastic hook and the rubber strap that keeps the top of the trap lid (or trap side) closed. The cotton twine should be attached with a single loop in such a manner as to aid the destruct process.
  • Crab trap buoys must display the “GO ID” number of the operator of the trap.

crab trapsThe GO ID number is the unique, 10-digit identifier assigned by the Automated License Data System to your profile. This number will appear on all documents purchased through CDFW (for example, your fishing license).
Crab traps not operated under the authority of a commercial passenger fishing vessel (also known as charter or party boat) must possess a buoy, and each buoy must be legibly marked with the operator of the trap’s GO ID number as stated on his or her sport fishing license. This regulation will help to ensure that crab traps are being used by the designated operator of the trap in order to prevent others from unlawfully disturbing or removing crab from crab traps. If you are using another person’s trap, written permission from the owner of the trap must be in your possession in order to operate the trap. This regulation is not applicable to hoop nets.
  • Crab traps must not be deployed or fished seven days prior to the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

For this upcoming season, crab traps used to take either Dungeness crab or rock crab can’t be used or deployed in state waters from October 29, 2016 until the Dungeness crab fishery opens at 12:01 a.m. on November 5, 2016, and any crab traps found in ocean waters prior to this seven-day period should be removed from the water by October 28, 2016. This is to prevent the unlawful take of Dungeness crab before the season starts. Take is defined as hunting, catching, capturing or killing of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans, or invertebrates, or attempting to do so.
Other regulations that remain in place for crab traps include that every crab trap be outfitted with two rigid circular escape openings that are a minimum of 4¼ inches in diameter and located so that the lowest portion is at the most 5 inches from the top of the trap. This is to allow small crabs to easily escape from the trap. Crab traps can only be used in state waters north of Point Arguello, Santa Barbara County. There is no limit to the number of crab traps that can be used by recreational crabbers, except the limit is 60 when operating under authority of a commercial passenger fishing vessel license.
round crab pot
Round trap (or “pot”) using rubber strap, single strand No. 120 untreated cotton twine, and hook to secure lid of the trap. When No. 120 untreated cotton twine deteriorates, the lid of the trap opens and meets the minimum 5-inch diameter destruct device requirement.CDFW photo by J. Langell and J. Hendricks
CDFW would also like to inform recreational crabbers of the best practices with regards to deploying crab trap gear to reduce surface lines as much as possible in an effort to reduce entanglements with animals, especially marine mammals and sea turtles, as well as other vessels. More information can be found by accessing the Best Practices Guide released by the California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group. Although there is no time limit for checking crab trap gear (as there is for hoop nets), frequent visits will ensure that traps are in good working condition and that crab captured in the trap are not held for too long.
For the latest information about California crab, visit the CDFW Crabs website.

post by CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz

Monday, October 17, 2016

     No fish to report on, but here's a video to watch to get prepped for crab season. Don't do this.

    The morals of this story are many, but here's a few:

     Like the man said, wear a lifejacket. Have it on before things happen. Inflatable vests are reasonably priced and comfortable to wear. Float coats are warm and extend your survival time in cold water. Wear your flotation because your boat may not have enough.

     Manufacturers put the required amount of flotation in their boats but they aren't tested. "Required" and "enough" are often completely different things. Unless you are in one of the three boats guaranteed not to sink, assume that your boat will sink faster than your traps. If you are in an "unsinkable" boat, know that they aren't "unrollable". Any boat full of water loses its stability. Clinging to the bottom of your Whaler is better having no boat and will hopefully get you found and rescued quicker, but it still sucks a lot.

     If you have water coming over the transom, stop whatever you are doing, turn the motor straight ahead and put it in forward easy. Do not maintain a condition that allows water to enter your boat. Your bilge pump isn't big enough. Do not throttle up quickly, as, again, boats full of water are unstable and want to roll over. Slowly turn the boat to point the bow into any waves. Get on the radio and let other boats know where you are and what's going on, just in case.

     If you have a boat with a four-stroke outboard and the boat was designed before the year 2000, know that the designer didn't plan to have that much weight on the stern. Do your part to keep your gear forward to minimize stern weight. BTW, if your boat was designed after 2000 it may still not be designed correctly. Assume the worst.

     Your bilge pump won't handle much water. I don't care how big or how new it is, that's a fact. Most boats come with a 500 to 800 gallon per hour pump. That rating is at a 0' lift, which is less than you need to empty your boat. Any higher and the flow drops quickly. Any bends in your hose slow it down, too. According to BoatUS, "a two-inch hole that is one foot below the waterline results in 78 gallons/minute entering the boat. With every minute the hole isn't plugged, you are adding around 500 pounds of weight to the boat. That ratio increases as the boat sinks lower in the water." That hole would require about a 6000 gallon per hour pump to lift it a couple feet and keep the boat from sinking. How many gallons were coming in over the stern in the video? My bilge pump rule? Get the two largest ones you can afford and have them on separate electrical circuits. I have a 1500 GPH, 2000 GPH and 3700 GPH, each with it's own wiring circuit and switch. I sank a boat once. Like Roberto Duran said, "no mas."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    I was kidding when I said Steve caught the last salmon. I thought I was, at least. Some very good fishermen went without a bite while salmon fishing this past week. There's still a chance, but I wouldn't plan on a "salmon-only"trip. Get some rockfish, go troll for a while, then go home and eat your rockfish. Halibut are in the same situation. One boat from here went out over the weekend to look for bluefin but came home with no fish. They did see bait schools 150 feet down with streaks going through them. Were the streaks tuna? Only the tuna know for sure and they aren't talking.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

     You don't have to worry about coming salmon fishing anymore this year, because Steve Towne caught the last one. It weighed 26 pounds and was caught in 100 feet of water off of McClure's Beach. It was the only bite of the day, but even so, there may actually be another fish or two out there.
     Also, on the crab front, there was a meeting today in Bodega Bay of the Joint Committee of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The first thing on the agenda was domoic acid and Dungeness crab. The domoic acid pro, Dr. Raphael Kudela, Ph.D of UC Santa Cruz, says conditions are for normal Pseudo-nitzschia (the critter that makes domoic acid) levels and that we are coming off of the seasonal high and dropping. No guarantees, but he's pretty sure that we are going to have a season. Also speaking was Patrick Kennelly of the California Department of Public Health. His good news was that the domoic acid testing showed the levels dropping in the Dungness crab and, if  certain areas have high counts, CDFW will likely close the affected areas instead of closing the whole state. So, I'm ordering crab bait and crab gear for the shop and I'll quit whining. About crabs. For now.

Friday, September 30, 2016

      Here's Ed Parsons with a nice salmon he caught on Wednesday in 60-70 feet of water off of McClure's North end. Note the clear water in the picture. It takes a very skilled or very lucky fisherman to catch in clear water like that. Ed, you know who you are. 
      Or maybe I'm just snarky because I couldn't catch one yesterday. The weather didn't allow for a Cordell run and it was barely decent enough for a salmon mission in a small boat. My salmon mission rapidly devolved to a rockfish mission, and we got our limits and went home. I only heard of rockfish aboard the boats from here. I did hear of sardines and mackerel back by Hog Island if anyone sees a weather window for a bluefin run in the near future. 
      So, Dungeness season should be coming up, but the testing looks funny. Six of eleven tests have had Dungeness slightly over the "FDA Action Level" of 30 ppm. Interestingly, one of three tests on lobster in Southern California has also had a failure, yet lobster season opens tomorrow. Maybe that's a good sign for us, but I see three possible reasons why they are doing it:
      1. Southern California gets treated different anyhow. Because of people or money, they get special treatment. Or, maybe because they can handle some toxic crap in their food. Have you seen their air?
      2. No other state has closed a lobster season, so there's no precedent that could be shown that said they dropped the ball if someone got sick. Southern California red crab had way high domoic acid in the summer of 2015 but nobody got sick. Oregon closed their Dungeness season and boom! so did California. 
      3. Maybe the "FDA Action Level" is too low. To the best of my knowledge, nobody looked for domoic acid until recently. It would be interesting to know the "normal" variation in levels in years past. It seems very likely that we've been happily eating small amounts of this stuff all along. Nobody checked for it until someone got sick. I have heard through the grapevine that the State is reevaluating its procedures regarding the crab, and I hope that this is true. Otherwise, I have to make a trip to SoCal for lobster that's no safer or more dangerous than the Dungeness.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

     Nick Nichols sent in this picture from Saturday in front of Bird Rock. Anybody know what that shape in the water is? Don't worry, it would know you. You're not allowed to fish for these, either.

    Kelley Roy sent in this report from yesterday:"There’s salmon out there, it’s not rock fishing so you just have to put in the time.
We got a late start and put the lines in  straight out of Tomales in 150 feet of water at 9:30, there were birds and whales working but we were not marking much bait. Around 11:00  in the matter of 30 minutes we had 4 good take downs with one smaller salmon sticking and we somehow snapped the leader at the boat – I thought those days were over……..
We then moved down to McClure’s and tried the beach for a couple runs for nada then headed back out to the Tree’s in 130 to 150 feet of water and trolled north, same deal birds and whales but only seeing a little bait. At 3:30 within 20 minutes we had 2 salmon in the box.
Four of the hits came on a watermelon apex at 70 – 80 feet otw and 2 hits came on a crippled anchovy at about 50 pulls.

Gorgeous day on the water – hope these salmon stick around for a few more weeks.

Good luck!"

     Bob King caught these salmon today in 130 feet of water off of McClure's. There were a few other fish caught there, as well as 50 feet of water in front of Bird Rock, but the bait, birds, and dark water of Monday had all disappeared. Cold clear water prevails, but apparently you can still catch fish in it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

      For the record, my posts this week have been accurate and up to date. Nothing happened except for wind. Saturday, the weather got better but not the fishing. Some rockfish came in, and lots of bait fish were seen, but no salmon or halibut landed here. Today, Vern Sasaki caught a limit of salmon, one from 160 feet of water off of Tomales Point, and one from 30 feet of water on McClure's. Lots of bait around, but not too many fish. Now that the wind has passed I think we'll see the salmon pick back up as the ocean settles back down. I hope. I also hope that all the whispers about bluefin are true. Weather permitting I'll be taking the boys and wife out to Cordell on Thursday. Live mackerel are kind of hard to come by this year, so lures will have to do it. I heard that the GT Style was out scouting for macks today, so someone else thinks that there may be some truth to the rumors. I hope we're right and the weather allows a run. I need nice weather for chasing wild geese.