When I think of July and summer, I think of Dungeness crab! Relatively inexpensive and easy to catch, recreational crabbing is one of those simple pursuits that, for most of us, harken back to the summer days of youth. Heck, I remember using just a basic crab ring, with a salmon head in the center, off the dock at Snug Harbor and getting enough for dinner. Some folks even just picked crabs off of the rocks at low tide.
These days, we’re in the big time when we add a boat! Throw in the use of modern electronics and we look like darn Dun-geniuses and Captains Crustaceous compared to the primitive pot dunkers of the past.
Speaking of modern electronics, a good plotter/sounder is indispensable to the boating crabber. While some anglers will just pick a popular spot and throw their gear in among the mass of other pots, I like to pioneer it a bit sometimes. Look for bays with sandy or gravel bottoms. You may be able to dial in and learn your sonar well enough to tell the difference between soft sand or gravel and a rocky, hard bottom. Eel grass is a good indicator that Dungeness will be there. Look for spots where the flood tide can push up food sources and the crab will move in too.
I usually like to drop my pots anywhere from 30 to 70 feet of water. I use 100 feet of leaded line on each pot to ensure I’ve got enough to account for scope or a drifting pot, which may have been pushed by the tide or had its buoy caught in some kelp. As far as pots, just about any of the retail crab traps available will work fine. However, make sure the doors of your pots can swing open and close with no impingement. I also like to put extra weight in my pots to get them to stick. Many crabbers who think their pots have been stolen have actually lost them to a sweeping tide.
The best bait for crab is usually what’s readily available. Salmon heads or carcasses are tough to beat. However, I’ve caught plenty of crab on chicken parts and other types of bait. The dungies are looking for anything down there that’s edible.
After setting, I usually like to let my pots soak for a couple hours on a flat tide. Sometimes, it’s logistically best to let pots sit overnight and I do that too. However, when the bait is gone, many times the crabs will find a way to just crawl out of the traps. Again, this sometimes accounts for folks thinking their pots got picked and crab stolen. Not to say crab theft doesn’t happen, but the culprit isn’t always of the two-legged variety.
Chinook salmon fishing should also be kicking into high gear in many places in the Northwest this month. From Washington’s coast to the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands to British Columbia, kings are the thing. The west coast of Vancouver Island usually is a hot spot in July. Other species such as rockfish, halibut, and ling cod are available there, too. It’s a great place to take that summer adventure trip. Many anglers make it a yearly event and load up their freezers with fish for the winter.
There will be two salmon derbies happening in the Northwest Salmon Derby Series in July. The first is the Bellingham Salmon Derby July 12 to 14 put on by the Bellingham, Washington-based Puget Sound Anglers club. This is a very well-run event that is family friendly with lots of prizes for all ages. Visit their website here for more info.
The second is the Big One Chinook Derby in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, July 24 to 28. Fishing for these landlocked Chinook can be very good. Go to the Lake Coeur d’ Alene Angler’s Association website here to sign up and fish.
Albacore fishing off the coast should be doable in July. When the warmer blue water gets close enough, the tuna usually follow. Satellite imaging sites like Terrafin can provide water temperature shots to let you know when to go. Weather plays a big part in this offshore fishery, too. Watching wave height, swell duration, and wind speed is key for safe and effective fishing. Keep an eye on the weather and don’t be afraid to call off the trip if conditions so dictate.
Until next month, let’s all enjoy the nice summer weather, get out on the water, have some fun and go get some fish…and crab!