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The crab are coming, the crab are coming

 

Marc Hazel of Phoenix measures a Dungeness crab taken in front of Sporthaven Beach last season. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
 

Fishing report for 

January 6-12

The ocean crabbing season that southern Oregon recreational crabbers have long been waiting for south of 42-degrees, 26 minutes north latitude will open tomorrow, Jan. 15. The question is, “Will the ocean be flat enough for sport boaters to safely crab?” That answer is a little iffy this week.

As of last Thursday, the ocean was as flat as a piece of glass, but a new series of fronts slated to hit the coastline sometime this week might make the ocean a little too lumpy for recreational crabbers.

 

 Therefore, Dungeness hunters should check the National Weather Service (NWS) daily because the forthcoming statement was issued Friday morning: “The weather pattern will become increasingly stormy next week with gales likely as early as Tuesday.”

The NWS defines “gale” as, “An area of sustained surface winds of 39 to 54 miles per hour.” Given that information, it might not be a good idea to crab this week. There will be plenty of days to crab in the not too distant future.

But thankfully, storms are a steelheader’s best friend. The Chetco was dropping to about 1,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Friday. Looking at the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services Web page, the Chetco was predicted to begin rising to approximately 2,000 cfs  on Wednesday, and continue rising to 7,000 cfs on Thursday.

This coming Friday, the river is projected to rise to 9,000 cfs while Old Man Chetco should peak to over 10,000 cfs one week from today.

You can almost do a reverse weather report given all of this data. The NWS wouldn’t predict a steep rise in a river unless they expected a lot of rain and showers to hit the area. Precipitation would have to hammer the area sometime on Tuesday in order to start raising the river on Wednesday, since it usually takes about 24 hours for the Chetco to raise after a rain. More rain should continue bringing more steelhead into the system.

On a big raise like this, the Chetco usually starts turning chocolate brown from all the runoff bringing mud into the river, so fishing would be out of the question until the river starts lowering and clearing after next weekend.

But remember that this is a forecast, and forecasts are never a sure thing. So the best thing an angler can do is to go outside and take a look at the river.

Still, anglers have been catching steelhead in the Chetco every day, but most have been fishing with light line and hitting the river early because of its aquarium-clear nature.

Boaters have been side-drifting Puff Balls and roe, while bank fishermen have been getting their fish drift-fishing, and fish have been caught every day.

But when the river starts rising and blowing out, consider tying up some leaders.

Every leader that is put in the river for steelhead should have a good egg loop knot tied at the hook, which is usually an Octopus hook made by Gamakatsu or Eagle Claw. There are several different types of egg loop knots, but the one that I use, and the one that I believe is the strongest knot, can be found on two websites: wigglefin.com and steelheaduniversity.com. The one on wigglefin.com shows the knot tied in animation.

The egg loop knot is very easy to learn to tie, and after you tie a couple of them, the knots will become second nature.

Like any knot, there is always a way of making it better. Over the years I have found out a way of making this knot as strong as it can be. In the very last step of the winding process, a person continues winding the line down the hook an additional four or five more times.

If you look at the loop being made at the end of this turning process, you will notice that the loop is twisted four or five times around itself. At this point, a person usually pulls on the leader to tighten up the loop while it is being drawn inside of the wraps. I believe that pulling a twisted loop through the wraps will weaken the knot.

What I do differently is to twist the leader between my thumb and index finger while slowly pulling the loop. In performing this action, you will notice that the twists in the loop will start to go away. If more twists are being formed in the loop, then turn the leader in the opposite direction.

There will come a point when you will notice that the loop will dangle freely with no twists in it at all. At this point you can slowly tug on the leader, pulling the loop through the inside of the wraps with absolutely no kinks in the knot at all.

It only takes a few extra seconds to tie an egg loop knot this way, but what you end up with is an extremely strong knot, one that will break close to or above the line’s rated pound test.

Before pulling that loop by tugging on the leader, always wet the line with water so the knot will be well lubricated.

Some anglers will spit on the knot to add lubrication, but remember that steelhead and salmon are guided by scent till their last dying breath. You’re trying to get rid of all traces of human scent, so use water for lubrication, whether its tap water or river water.

Today and tomorrow, while the Chetco remains around 1,000 cfs, don’t forget that you can also crab on the public pier on the Brookings south jetty next to the Coast Guard Station.

This weekend it is not likely that you will find fresh fish carcasses for bait in the dumpster at the Port of Brookings fillet station, and the ones that you do find will probably be steelhead carcasses, which attract seals and sea lions.

One of the best bait for crab is fresh chicken thighs, or chicken thighs with legs attached. They’re inexpensive, leave an excellent oil trail for the crab to follow and the seals usually leave them alone.

Tight lines!

 

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