Dungeness Crab Opening Day Ritual

apogee

My name is Apogee and I am a Squidaholic
Jan 29, 2009
3,046
2,008
113
Bakersfield
Name
Apogee..
Boat
Boston Whaler Outrage 28 (End Game)
I am posting in this forum and not in the Central Coast forum to bring some insight to some of us that rarely, if ever go through the process of dragging our boats hundreds of miles north to do some crab fishing. My chosen spot was Half Moon Bay (HMB). I have pulled my previous boat, the Boston Whaler Outrage 230, 'Bite Me', to this venue years ago to search for the elusive Albacore. Bite Me, was on a tandem trailer and weighing in at three tons trailer and all.

The pull was interesting due to the last section from Los Banos, to HMB. The Pecheco Pass, is practically a residential street with cross streets with a 55mph speed limit. Could get unhealthy quick. Then there is the for all intents and purposes what seems very much like a mountain road with steep grades and sharp turns leading into HMB. I caught Albacore, so why not go for the opening day of Dungeness Crab, season pulling my Boston Whaler Outrage 28, on a triple axle trailer with the whole rig weighing in at six tons+. Seemed like a good idea to me, and it was a good idea, I just did not expect to find what was going on up there in HMB's Pillar Point launch area. It took me 4.5 hours from Bakersfield, to get to HMB. I tried to leave early, but I took my wife and we have a different interpretation of "early". I pull into the launch area at 1730 hours, and it was practically full. The camp facility attached to it was full. People were 'tailgating' throughout the parking lot, BBQ and beer with the typical revelry found at some type of sponsored event. I grabbed a parking space that was still open and went on a reconnaissance run upon arrival, leaving the wife and dogs in the truck. The local gentry was there in force and in festival spirit. I was told that "Hell, this hasn't even started yet". After ascertaining all of the relevant information I could gather as far as where, how deep, what time etc. etc. I returned to the truck and took the wife to dinner at a place near the pier entrance. It sucked. $35 for a steak you could not cut, no salad, cold bread with frozen butter packetts, "sorry we are out of baked potatoes", and the bathroom is out of service, go next door...Sheesh...$90, later it was over for good. The big decision. Do I launch now and take a chance of losing my parking space, or do I wait for it to get worse? So, I launch the boat at 1900 hours. I left the dogs and the wife in the boat while I hurried back to my parking space, then went over to the 'Launch Fee' machine to pay the $15. I pay at 1922 hours, and the ticket spits out that it expires at midnight! WTF! At this point I feel slighted and take a hike over to the Harbor Patrol Shack at the base of the pier and explain my dilemma. The officer was very cordial and wrote me out a parking pass to place upon my dash...

Okay, I am set...I put the pass in the truck, hike down the trail to the boat, pull out into the harbor and drop the anchor and rig my traps. I love it when a plan comes together. At about 2000 hours, I am done so I go below to get an hours sleep before I light this firecracker. The wife and dogs were all snuggled up in the berth and I joined them..Life is good.


At 2330 hours, it is showtime. I haul the anchor and begin making way. The scuttlebutt was fish at 150'- 180' outside of the reef. I had zero idea, so I only brought three traps and two hoop nets aboard with 100' of line. I figured I was good for 80' and that should work. I got out of the harbor entrance which the locals refer to as 'Jaws' and went north at 6 knts eyes glued to the chart and the radar. There are boilers, rocks and reefs all over this place, caution is prudent at the minimum. I finally work my way south about three miles onto 80' of sand bottom and I let everything go over the side and was done by 0130 hours. I figured I would let it soak for an hour and pull everything to get a feeling for what was down there. At 0230, I pulled the traps and had a couple of Red Rock Crab, a fish. I moved north another mile and went into 50' of water and set the traps again. I pulled them at 0300, and had a couple more Red Rock Crab. I was wondering if this $500 boat ride was anything more than entertainment at this point. I wish I had brought 200' of line like everybody else. I even thought well maybe I could double up and just put down two pots in the preferred 'Deep Water', like the locals, but I decided against running the reef at night and elected to run a tad bit more south for a couple more miles and drop at 75'. At 0400 hours, everything went back over the side. I dropped the hook near my last hoop net and went below. I was dreaming and warm when my wake up alarm went off at 0530 hours, but I was talked into staying a while longer. I faded away and woke up at 0600 hours, rolled out of the rack got dressed for the chilly morning darkness and weighed anchor once again. I pulled the first net and wow! It had six nice big Dungeness crabs just having at it. I slid the hatch open and told the wife to check this out. By the time she made it out of the cabin dressed for the Arctic Circle, I had put the hoop net back over the side, stored the spot on my chart plotter and had moved up to and retrieved my second hoop net and it had four big Dungeness Crab! I marked the location and out of the cabin she appears in the dawn of a new day. I moved up to my first crab pot and gave it a yank. Score! I have full limits for both of us with another ten Dungeness Crabs, a full personal limit, in one crab pot, and I still have two more pots in the water plus the hoop nets and one pot that I put back in on the last pull.

It is only 0730 hours and I have limits.....I retrieve the rest of my equipment and had another twenty crab, just like that, so I culled the biggest for my stash and gave an unsuspecting guy out in his boat with his buddies the other twenty crabs. They were pretty stoked and offered to buy me beer and all of that, but I was happy that they were stoked and that was good enough. It is a beautiful morning, radio chatter on Ch.19, is at Ch.72, tempo during tuna season down south and I am heading back to the barn while the crowd is still in launch phase...

The typical boat ramp zoo was there upon my return but I navigated through it all relatively unscathed and recovered 'End Game', back on to her trailer. After clear of the ramp turmoil, I soaked a towel in the bait tank water where the crabs were being kept and then pulled the plug on the bounty. They were pretty 'crabby' about that, so I layed the saltwater soaked towel over them and added some ice bags still in the bags, on top of the towel, closed the lid and put the rig in gear heading back home. We got back home at 1730, and the crabs were pissed. They tried to pinch me when I was getting them out of the bait tank and tranferring them to a cooler which my wife had me bring into the kitchen so she could start cooking them all, twenty Dungeness Crabs, cooked wrapped and stored...Well guys, that's the end of my long winded story. I hope it helps you in some manner some day if you ever decide to duplicate the effort...................Ap

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SSUfish

Well-Known "Member"
Sep 14, 2006
932
408
63
San Diego
Name
Eric
Boat
n/a
Nice! Gotta love the opener...question: How do you "store" them once cooked and how long would you guess they keep for?
 
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apogee

My name is Apogee and I am a Squidaholic
Jan 29, 2009
3,046
2,008
113
Bakersfield
Name
Apogee..
Boat
Boston Whaler Outrage 28 (End Game)
Nice! Gotta love the opener...question: How do you "store" them once cooked and how long would you guess they keep for?
Wrap them well in saran wrap after cooked. then wrap them in a layer of Aluminum foil or if you have a vacuum packager use it after the saran wrap. They will last a year no problem in a cold chest freezer if wrapped and in vacuum bags....Ap
 

swami 805

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Mar 9, 2016
2,772
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Bill
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sunk it
Good for you, those things are delicious! I'm going up there next month on a crab rockfish combo. hope it's half that good!! Thanks for the report
 
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stangclassic66

USCG Master
Oct 21, 2004
1,259
693
113
San Diego/SF Bay
Name
Capt. Erik
Boat
25’ Parker
Good for you, those things are delicious! I'm going up there next month on a crab rockfish combo. hope it's half that good!! Thanks for the report
It’s gonna be over a week or two after the commercial season starts on Nov 15 unless there is a delay.

The commercials vacuum up the ocean floor real fast. (I used to be one)
 
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apogee

My name is Apogee and I am a Squidaholic
Jan 29, 2009
3,046
2,008
113
Bakersfield
Name
Apogee..
Boat
Boston Whaler Outrage 28 (End Game)
It’s gonna be over a week or two after the commercial season starts on Nov 15 unless there is a delay. The commercials vacuum up the ocean floor real fast. (I used to be one)
I agree, the commercial guys are very efficient. The stats say that 90% of all the Dungeness crab catch happens in the first month....The lobster guys are not much better. After the opener you have about four days to make good, minus one because the new regs state that you cannot start until 0600....Friggen daylight.................................Ap
 

swami 805

I've posted enough I should edit this section
Mar 9, 2016
2,772
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Bill
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sunk it
I’m just hoping the weather is shit for a couple days before I go and the boat stays tied up. Give those pots awhile extra to soak. Could happen
 

stella marina

Well-Known "Member"
Nov 21, 2011
1,231
464
83
santa cruz
Name
Andrew
Boat
Parker 2320, 16 Klamath cc, 10 ft Livingston "bass slayer"
I heard it was a zoo in HMB....Also heard the crabbing was good too though...
nice work for the long haul.
 
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apogee

My name is Apogee and I am a Squidaholic
Jan 29, 2009
3,046
2,008
113
Bakersfield
Name
Apogee..
Boat
Boston Whaler Outrage 28 (End Game)
I’m just hoping the weather is shit for a couple days before I go and the boat stays tied up. Give those pots awhile extra to soak. Could happen
Never pray for bad weather. You want nice calm serene conditions. You will do alright this week in slack tide. Most guys are going deep..Not needed. 80' is fine. Just get several miles south where the area has not been worked over by the Kayak's and such.... 5-7 miles should do it............Ap
 

georgegav

Newbie
Jul 1, 2010
111
20
18
Burlingame California
Nice work and great write up. You may consider cooking them right at the dock. Crab don't always survive for that long and they start to spoil real fast once dead. Overall great effort and happy you had a chance to enjoy crabbing up here.
 

apogee

My name is Apogee and I am a Squidaholic
Jan 29, 2009
3,046
2,008
113
Bakersfield
Name
Apogee..
Boat
Boston Whaler Outrage 28 (End Game)
Nice work and great write up. You may consider cooking them right at the dock. Crab don't always survive for that long and they start to spoil real fast once dead. Overall great effort and happy you had a chance to enjoy crabbing up here.
Thank You. When they ship crabs and lobsters from back east. They cover the crates with wet newspaper and the die off over days is minimal. I find that a saltwater soaked towel with ice kept in the bags on top and they don’t even realize they have been caught in the first 12 hours. My ride home was about 6 hours total time when I removed these crabs from my live-well and they were still pretty frisky. If one died before I had a chance to cook it, I would not use it. Being that it was my first time up there, next time I am coming early and setting up shop complete with a way to cook those buggers on the spot as you suggest.......Ap
 
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georgegav

Newbie
Jul 1, 2010
111
20
18
Burlingame California
That's great bud, crabbing tends to continue to be good until the commercial season opens then we see a drop in our crabs per pot. Like you said make a weekend of it. Plenty of great places to eat within walking distance of the lot. Send me a PM and I'll point you in the right direction.
 
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apogee

My name is Apogee and I am a Squidaholic
Jan 29, 2009
3,046
2,008
113
Bakersfield
Name
Apogee..
Boat
Boston Whaler Outrage 28 (End Game)
Love those conical nets!
Me too....I do not expect much, but for the sake of boating while it is still kind of nice out there, I am going to launch tomorrow and go set some of those nets for any straggler lobsters..............Ap
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