Steve Moore from Visalia, Calif. was fishing with Joe Whaley of Joe Whaley's Guide Service at Riprap on the Chetco River last Tuesday when he caught this 17-pound, 14-ounce steelhead by side-drifting puffballs and row. The Pilot/Larry Ellis
It is no secret that for the last few months, the crabbing in Crescent City Harbor has been absolutely off the charts. Local-area residents in southern Oregon have been making regular pilgrimages to the popular crabbing bay and have had very little problem getting their limits of jumbo Dungeness crab.
But California needs to take a serious look at how their fishing regulations are being written. In the last two weeks, some Brookings residents expressed to me a concern that the Pineapple butterfly crab trap was declared illegal to use in California.
That prompted me to call Englund Marine in Crescent City last Thursday. When I expressed this concern to one of the attendants, he told me to turn to page 48 of the fishing regulations and take a look at "gear restrictions".
Although no reference was specifically made to the Pineapple butterfly trap, the gear restrictions went on to say that, "Nets, traps or other appliances may not be used except as provided in this Section."
The word "appliance" evoked a hardy guffaw, as if everyone was going to proceed to crab using a refrigerator or microwave oven.
In a nutshell, the regulation basically said that a crabber could only use a crab ring, a crab trap or a crab loop trap (crab snare).
No provision was made for folding traps so, by default, the Pineapple butterfly trap was not considered a legal method of harvesting crab. According to the attendant, these regulations are being enforced.
This is a true example of fishing regulations gone awry. As long as I can remember, people have been crabbing using folding traps, big wads of monofilament line and other various contraptions.
As far as I've witnessed, very little damage has ever been caused to a Dungeness crab using a folding trap. If anything, more crab have been released unharmed and fully intact using a folding trap than many other devices. Crab loop traps are especially notorious for ripping appendages off of a crab on the initial yank.
I believe wholeheartedly that the regulations on page 48 were made by people with good intentions, and that the rule will eventually change to include other forms of traps. But for the time being, to avoid getting a citation, and a pretty hefty fine, when crabbing in Crescent City Harbor: Do not use any type of folding device. Or would that be appliance?
Meanwhile, you are still allowed to use folding traps, including the Pineapple butterfly trap, in Oregon.
When the ocean has permitted, crabbers have been getting their limits of nicely filled-out Dungeness crab at depths averaging 100 feet.
The Chetco is managing to remain between 2,200 and 2,500 cubic feet per second, and fish are now throughout the entire system. Steelhead are being caught with regularity in the 8- to 12-pound class, with occasional fish pushing the 20-pound mark.
The river is getting clearer day-by-day, so side-drifters should consider using smaller clusters of roe and downsizing their Mad River Drifters and fishing leaders. For best results, use the Mad River Drifters that are plugged with a piece of lead at the bottom.
The lower Rogue has also been kicking out some large steelhead as well. Paul LeFebvre of Brookings caught, and then released, a giant steelhead last Monday that in my estimation weighed in excess of 20 pounds.
"The boaters have told me they were doing well today from The Willows and above," said Larry Cody from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.
The Rogue is predicted to crest early Saturday and start dropping later in the day and throughout the rest of the week.
"The fishing always perks up when the river drops," notes Cody, who was optimistic about the fishing this coming week.
Boaters have been scoring their steelhead by anchoring up and setting out plugs such as the 3.5-inch MagLip, Brad's Wigglers and Wee Wigglers.