To say that the crabbing in the ocean last week was good would be akin to saying that Michelangelo scribbled down graffiti. Or that Beethoven coined a few ditties. Or that the Beatles wrote elevator music.
The crabbing on the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor during the opening week for recreational anglers was nothing short of spectacular. For most people last week, it was quick and easy limits. It was a week of jumbo Dungeness crab. It was crab pots stuffed to capacity.
It was also c-c-c-cold. Make that downright frigid. This kind of weather usually finds me in a duck blind, not on the ocean. But when Richard Christensen of Brookings and his son Luke welcomed me aboard their Boston Whaler, we found a quick limit of crab in no time at all.
But according to Richard, we should have found more - much more. More than a few of his pots had been ransacked by crab pirates, something that would never have happened when I moved to Brookings three decades ago. But times have changed.
With some of his pots only having two crab in them, and with all of the bait missing, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that people are pulling other crabbers' pots and pillaging the crab before dumping the pots back in the water. I've heard the same thing from other crabbers in Brookings and Crescent City as well.
So what's a crabber to do? One partial solution would be to zip tie all of the openings of your pots, and zip tie each location with two or more ties. On some pots that are zip tied in multiple locations to hold the pot together, that might mean fastening various parts of one pot with as many as 20 zip ties.
Sound a little excessive? There was a day when I would have answered yes to that question. But in today's day and age, it might be one possible solution in dissuading pirates from having to break out the dikes in order to cut all of those zip ties. All that stuff takes time, and criminals of the sea like to work fast. What you're trying to do is to make it more difficult on the poacher to steal your crab. Also, when you find those zip ties cut, you have some solid evidence to back you up when you report it to the authorities.
Most crabbers in Oregon are finding their Dungeness in 105 feet of water. Of course that water depth could change at any time depending on the weather, but for now, laying your pots in that depth has been the ticket to Crab City.
Crabbers have also been playing the daily double - soaking their pots and then clobbering the lingcod and rockfish. That way they can have a nice Crab Louie salad or crab cocktail before chowing down on some fish-and-chips. After letting your pots soak for about three hours, check your pots.
Christensen says that, most of the time, his pots were so full of crab that another one couldn't have squeezed into them. And these crab are commercial-grade size. Seldom have anglers reported finding sub-legal or female crab. It is not uncommon to find crab measuring between 7 and 8 inches.
Only a very small percentage of crab are a little on the soft side, maybe between 10 to 20 percent of the crab. So use the pinch test to determine the quality.
Turn the crab upside down and pinch the center of the large section of the first walking leg between your thumb and finger. If the leg flexes when you squeeze it, the crab is soft. Those are the ones that should be thrown back. You'll have plenty of other hard-shelled crab to take home.
Crabbing in Crecent City Harbor has gotten better in the last week as well. According to Leonard at Englund Marine in Crescent City, crab have recently moved in off of South Beach near the restaurant, but folks are still getting a few crab off of the docks near Englund's and at the B Street Pier. Crabbers are also laying their pots between 100 and 120 feet near the green can.
The beginning of the steelhead run in the Chetco continues giving a few anglers heart-thumping adrenaline rushes, but the main run is yet to come.
In addition, anglers on the Lower Rogue are catching some nice winter steelhead as well.
"In the past multiple weeks we've had some steelhead coming in," said Jim Carey from the Rogue Outdoor Store in Gold Beach.
If you decide to trip the crab fantastic in the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor, be very careful of ice on the all of the ramps and walkways, especially in the morning.