The Fish Sniffer - Nov. 20, 2012 Combination Rockfish/Crab trips Bring Smiles To Angler’s Faces
Nov. 20, 2012 Combination Rockfish/Crab trips Bring Smiles To Angler’s Faces

Written By: Dave Hurley, November 21, 2012
Location: Half Moon Bay,

Nov. 20, 2012 Combination Rockfish/Crab trips Bring Smiles To Angler’s Faces

In the past week since the Dungeness crab opener on November 3, crabbing has been spectacular from Bodega Bay south to Monterey. "We have been nailing the crabs on every trip,” said Chris Arcoleo of Chris’s Landing in Monterey, adding, “Only a few pots are required to put in limits on all of our trips.”

Captain Dennis Baxter of the New Captain Pete out of Half Moon Bay loaded up with limits of crab on Saturday’s and Sunday’s crab-only trips. With 28 limits in the morning with another 23 limits in the afternoon. Baxter said, “The afternoon’s trip had more kids than parents, and there were a lot of smiles when the passengers were getting off of the boat.”

He added, “The quality of the crab is very good, and all of our limits were commercial grade,” adding, “Overall, the numbers are down since we were pulling over 50 per pot in 2011 with counts in the 25/pot this year.” 

Mike Aughney of said, “The top bets for Golden Gate anglers are the waters off of the edge of the North bar and out to N and W buoys,” adding, “There is no sense running too far offshore as there should be plenty of crabs to catch your limits off the North Bar in 100 to 150 feet.” 

For Half Moon Bay, Aughney advised, “The top areas are the 125 to 200 foot depths straight out from the harbor to off Martin’s Beach,”  following up with,” Out of Monterey sport anglers always have to work a bit harder than their northern counterparts, but limits should be the rule early in the season.”

Some work the shallows off Santa Cruz and Capitola while other sport anglers drop gear to depths of 250 feet and deeper along the canyon edges. 

With the extension of the coastal rockfish season until December 31st from Point Arena south to the Mexican border, northern California fishermen have been able to take both rockfish and Dungeness crab for the first time in three years. These popular trips have filled the freezers of many families, and they are a great way to provide fresh crab for Thanksgiving.

I had the opportunity to head outside the Golden Gate on Sunday November 4 on the Happy Hooker out of Berkeley Marina. After launching from the marina, Captain Smith headed up the Marin coast through a moderate swell to fish off of Duxbury Buoy. Smith was accompanied by son Chris Smith as second captain, deckhand Mike Verrone, and celebrity deckhand Larry, “The Legend’ Nelson. 

Smith had traveled to the Farallon Islands on the opener for 38 limits of rockfish and crab to go with 5 lings to 16-pounds with the big fish taken by Lance German of Carmichael. Despite posting limits, it wasn’t a fast bite at the Islands, so Smith decided to try his luck along the Marin coast. 

The weather was something to behold with a flat, calm ocean and clear conditions throughout the day. We stayed within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge framed by the hills north of the Gate, and also within sight of the Main Farallon Island at least 17 miles to the west. The clear conditions made for a spectacular day. 

Rockfishing was a slow steady pick taking several hours to scratch out limits and an small legal ling cod before Captain Smith said, “Now is time for the good stuff.” 

And he was right, since we only had to pull only 8 pots to fill 26 limits of commercial grade Dungeness crab.” Another bonus is that the crabs are loaded with meat in contrast to a few light crabs at the start of last year’s season. 

Working as a well-oiled team, Verrone, Chris Smith, and Nelson worked the block and gear efficiently while the remainder of the boat filled squid boats, baited pots, measured crab, counted crab, or my specialty – gaffing the buoys. 

Bonanzas such as these have been the rule throughout the coast with Captain Rick Powers of the New Sea Angler in Bodega Bay putting in limits of rockfish and crabs with a healthy ling cod count on all trips.

Also out of the gate, the New Seeker, New Salmon Queen,and New Huck Finn out of Emeryville Sport Fishing have been regularly heading to the Farallon Islands for limits of rockfish before pulling the crab pots for full limits on their way back to the harbor. The California Dawn, New Easy Rider and Goldeneye 2000 are also finding great success on crab/rockfish adventures.

Further south at Half Moon Bay, Baxter, Captains  Guy Anthony on the New Gravy and Tom Mattusch on the Huli Cat are also getting in on the combination action with limits of both species on his regular trips. All three boats are also running crab-only trips on occasion with Baxter running a special price for children under 12 and seniors over 55.

The Monterey Bay boats are also getting in on the action with the Checkmate out of Chris’s Landing posting limits of Dungeness and rockfish on every trip since the opener. “The crab are huge, full of meat, and tasty,” said Chris Arcoleo, adding, “The quality is just spectacular.” The local reefs off Cypress Point and Carmel Bay have been producing limits of quality rockfish including strong ling counts.

The combination trips will continue until the December 31 rockfish closure south of Point Arena, and the party boats have been filling quickly on the weekends. Even with the commercial boats expected to settle their price dispute soon, the crab action should remain solid through the end of the rockfish season. These trips are a great value; and when the weather conditions are right, there is no better way to expose your children and grandchildren to the gifts of the ocean.

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