Larry Ellis, fishing columnist

For 12 glorious days, recreational crabbers had the entire ocean to themselves, with limits of crab being the rule rather than the exception.

But starting last night (Friday, Dec. 13), the commercial fleet started dropping their crab pots in anticipation of their opening day, Monday, Dec. 16. That means that both recreational and commercial fishermen will be sharing the same ocean.

With hundreds of crab buoys now floating on the surface, it is paramount that everyone knows how to identify their own crab pots.

Crab pots are identified by the colors of their buoys. Every commercial crabber has painted their buoys in a specific way so that they are readily identifiable to that specific crabber. Crabbers strive to tailor-paint their buoys so that their particular crab buoy is their calling card.

So if your buoys haven't been painted at all, or if they look too much like another crabber's buoy, it's time to give your crab buoys a paint job.

The ideal situation is to make your buoys look as unique as possible, and readily distinguishable from a distance. You should know that, when you grab hold to a buoy line, that it is your buoy, your buoy line and your pot connected to the line.

It's a lot of fun painting your buoys, and striving to get one that looks different from the rest of the herd is rewarding. You can paint your buoys pink with purple polka dots if you so desire. You can also paint horizontal and/or vertical stripes on your buoys as well. The amounts of color combinations are only limited to a person's imagination. The idea is to paint a buoy that has your personality written all over it.

A lot of people will also take a soldering iron and burn in their name and telephone number, and then paint those indentations to the color of their choice.

A friend of mine has a unique way of identifying his buoys. He rigs them so that a pendant on a 3-foot stick could be jammed into the buoy and remain vertical over the water. You can see his buoys 200 yards away. When rigged this way, a person could also be within fishing distance of his crab buoys, and be able to monitor them easily.


Fishermen again were playing the daily double last week, soaking their pots while fishing for lingcod, cabezon and rockfish. The lingcod fishing has been excellent the entire year, with last week being no exception. Whatever your favorite method is for fishing for these mottled toothmeisters - use it! Folks have been nailing their lings, rockfish and cabbies on leadfish, shrimp flies and both single- and double-tail plastic jigs. Overall, this has definitely been the flattest October, November and December I've seen in over three decades.

Even though the Chetco River has been averaging only 600 cfs, steelhead in the 8- to 12-pound class have been entering the river en masse.

With super low and gin-clear water, folks have been downsizing their gear and catching a lot of their steelhead by drift-fishing.