Crabbing

Discussion in 'Saltwater Fishing Forum' started by Prawn Star, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. Prawn Star

    Prawn Star Active Member

    Does anyone know why sometimes you only get female crabs in a trap? Also, when prawning does your sonar detect prawns? Do you get a different bottom colour reading?
     
  2. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    Good question. We have crabbing dialed in this year and are doing great. Our situation is just the opposite in that we are getting all males that are in the 6 and a quarter to 7 and a quarter range, all though the majority are of legal size.

    It may have to do with the type of traps you are using and how you fish them. We use old large commercial traps which have correctly sized escape holes (open rings) for smaller crabs which includes most females. The females tend to be smaller than males on average. We also use heavy lead core commercial trap rope which adds to the weight.

    We bait up heavily and leave the traps down for several days which I suspect provides lots of time for most of the females and smaller males to find the escape holes and get out of the trap while the trap retains the larger males over time. On occasion larger males will get jammed in the escape holes (rings) so the females and small crabs can't escape.

    My fishing buddies and I use to fish more traps and bait them all up in the morning and check them on the way back in but found that far less productive and much more time consuming and hard work. Now we spend that extra time salmon fishing.

    We now fish just two large commercial style traps that are well placed and only pull one of the two traps at the end of the fishing day and re-bait it. Our two traps stay in the water all summer. We often limit out and it is a lot less work to pull just one trap. They are very heavy, especially when loaded up with keepers. You will not be pulling them by hand. We have a large sheet of rubber mat we got from Trotac which we put over the side of the boat to protect the boat and it also keeps the stainless wire of the trap body from getting hung up on the cleats etc. It is easier to handle the very heavy loaded up trap when lifting it up onto the side of the boat as it slides on the rubber. We do replace the large heavy zinc on the trap as needed.

    It may be risky using large heavy traps in a smaller boat. If you have a car topper etc, stick to the light weight traps.

    I would also suggest you try deeper water as the smaller crabs seem to be in the shallower water, not that there are not large crabs there, just that there will me more smaller crabs/females. In late fall closer to the river mouths can be good locations as the crabs feed on flushed down spawned out salmon.

    It is possible that you are also getting your traps raided and the keepers stolen. Drop an icon on the location on the plotter to see if the traps have been moved if they were raided and put back down. If you are using light weight traps they will drag in strong wind.
    We also use zap straps of various sizes and colours through the ring on the plastic closure hook and the stainless wire of the trap which will alert you if the trap was raided, as they have to be cut off with side cutters or a knife to open the hinged top lid on a commercial trap. Doing it this way will not interfere with the function of the rot cord which can still rot out and release the trap lid so that the crabs can escape if the trap is ever lost, which keeps you in compliance with the regs.

    Good crabbing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
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  3. 63stingray

    63stingray Active Member

    Are you allowed to leave crab traps overnight ?I'm sure read somewhere that your not allowed or in certain areas , I leave mine out for a hour or two and do pretty well but I get away from the crowd and find the bigger ones I won't keep any crab that's under 7 not much meat on the barley legal ones .
     
  4. Fisherman Rob

    Fisherman Rob Well-Known Member

    Simply because the males get taken and the females don't and the commercial fleet has a huge impact on the distribution of males. That said, we crabbed in in Sooke basin end of July, beginning August and experienced a bit of an anomaly in that 90% of the crabs in the pot were male even though the commercial boats were in operation. Meanwhile back in Caddy bay, it was the usual 90% female.
     
  5. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    Not aware of any overnight restrictions and we do our best to stay up on the incredibly complex and ever changing sport fishing regs. Sometimes I think you need both a marine biologist and a lawyer on board to keep them all straight. If you are aware of any over night crab closure anywhere on the coast please feel free to post the reference, as it would be of interest. Where we fish, many traps are left down overnight, both commercial and sport. Such a regulation is not necessary, would be next to impossible to enforce and might well place small sport boats at risk in that they would be in some circumstances trying to pull traps when they should be heading in to avoid deteriorating weather/wave conditions which could put persons and their boats at risk.

    Here is the sport crab restrictions specific to Sooke that I am aware of:

    http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/tidal-maree/a-s20-eng.html#cr-rest

    I do agree with you on being selective, how many crabs can one eat, and we have released a lot of keepers this summer. We tend to keep the larger hard shells and release the smaller soft keepers but we have the luxury of being selective. If we only got out once or twice a year for crab I would see no problem with keeping male crabs that are just over the limit. I note that in Washington the legal size limit is actually smaller than in BC.

    The most common violation we see are guys cleaning crabs at the dock and removing the carapace before driving them home.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
  6. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Agree with Rockfish's experienced observations - but I would add that the smaller males sometimes get into fights with larger males that they loose. Then they seem to go to the "hospital" for a while (often minus a leg or claw or 2) - which is often a deeper spot that the prime feeding depth/location. - like deeper than 70 feet or maybe even into the 120 foot depths to avoid the competition and fighting with the larger males. There seems to be little concentrations of females along a beach sometimes, too - esp before they develop eggs. Going through a molt often means no feeding - but maybe sometimes they still feed a bit - or start a molt while in the trap - that affects what you get as well.

    On the prawning question - it depends on your sonar/sounder. Sometimes yes - if you have a good one - and those prawns will often swim up the sides of a channel as dark approaches into somewhat shallower depths and vice-versa as daylight breaks - they generally hang-out deeper than 350 feet or so during the day - but as shallow as 240 or so at dusk.

    Yes on the overnight soak - commercial guys are supposed to haul traps weekly for Areas G & H - but up to 18 days for other areas. As far as I know - there are no similar restrictions on soak time for sport crab fishing.
     
  7. 63stingray

    63stingray Active Member

    I read it a couple months back it said it was closed for overnight crabbing in the harbour so basically Point Atkinson to Point Grey and the from Point Grey to The green bell at the south arm . Also a little bit in the Howe Sound Area to.
     
  8. Hookin'up

    Hookin'up Well-Known Member

  9. JuandeOne

    JuandeOne Well-Known Member

    This may not apply to you particular situation but large males prefer fresh bait. Rancid or spoiled bait is left to undersized and females. Make sure you bait your traps on the right side of this equation. Any commie crabber will tell you this is rule #1.
     
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  10. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/tidal-maree/a-s28-eng.html#28-6-7-9-11-12

    http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/includes/Night_closure_area.jpeg

    Thanks I found it. First I have heard of it. It is part of area 28. It says: “It is illegal to fish for crabs from one hour after sunset to one hour before Sunrise”. It does not define crab fishing. Is it considered the act of putting down traps and retrieving them and the crabs exclusively or does it also include simply leaving the traps down over night and pulling them in daylight?

    I did not find an explanation as to why this was felt to be necessary.

    The zone looks to include parts of Vancouver Harbour and off English Bay which is arguably the most crowded water on the coast so perhaps it is more about safety and navigation as opposed to fishing issues. I believe there is also a large ship anchoring zone in that area. They may not want a large ship taking out some guy pulling traps in the dark or ships getting tangled up in traps when they swing on the anchor and some guy trying to get his trap back getting his boat squashed like a bug. Perhaps the local SFAB guys could explain it. I am curious, is there any commercial crabbing going on in this no night crabbing zone ?

    I got a chuckle out of the use of "illegal". It reminded me of something an instructor said in a law course years back along the lines that we should use the word "unlawful" and that illeagle is a sick bird.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
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  11. ryanb

    ryanb Active Member

    They don't want traps being left out in the dark in such a busy shipping area as Vancouver harbour. Understandable.

    Lots of commercial crabbing in the area, they are subject to the same regulations.
     
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  12. Prawn Star

    Prawn Star Active Member

    Excellent feedback. I use a round stainless trap. Not commercial but weighted down. I have heard that if left soaking too long and bait gets eaten the males figure out how to open the gate to escape. I fish the Campbell River area and know of "spots". I guess I'll have to get more experience. As far as the prawns go I have a Lowrance HDS5. I have noticed at 350ft in a prawny area, a green colour on the bottom which is different than the usual darker colours. That's why I was wondering if it could be prawns.
     
  13. NautiGirl

    NautiGirl Well-Known Member

    This is likely because sometime in the last year, they busted poachers who were hauling out females during the night by the bucketload from Sooke harbour. There might be lots of males now, but likely next year, there will be a drop in the overall population.
     
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  14. eroyd

    eroyd Active Member

    I wade for crabs on the lowest tides. Obviously shallower area's. Most of the crabs I pick up are male. Maybe the females bury in deeper? Seems there is certain patches that contain just females.
     
  15. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    It may also be because the recently arrived commie crab fishers from the mainland have left, apparently permanently and there is less commercial pressure. I understand they did not have the best reputation locally with the sport guys. The long standing local Commie crabber is reported to be willing to work with the sport sector and for example does not drop strings on critical salmon fishing spots like the Otter Point three rocks or over fish the weather protected spots in the harbour that sports guys with very small boats depend on. That may be another reason why the sport crabbing has been better this year in the harbour.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
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  16. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    Prawn Star.

    crab.jpg

    This is the trap we pulled yesterday on the way in from Ho fishing. 18 legal keepers to 7 and a quarter inches. Needless to say we released most of them but kept a few of the larger hard shells. Don’t think there were any females, but a few undersized males that were too big to escape out the escape holes.

    I use to have a trap like yours. Essentially a small light weight all stainless copy of the large commercial traps. Bought it new with rope and float etc for around $150. It never fished near as well as the larger true commie traps. Further the smaller trap was subject to the crab thieves far more than my current traps which in two years have not been touched. Once they unscrewed the zinc and stole it and then on the last day before we were going to remove the smaller trap and pull the boat for the winter, they stole the trap.

    We picked up some large well used commercial traps for $40.00 each and a thousand feet of lightly used lead core commercial rope for $20.00. So far the thieves don’t seem to be interested in these traps, to big, too heavy, too much work to pull, dirty, tend to damage the gelcoat, harder to transport, harder to sell and not worth much. We leave them heavy and don’t cut out the heavy rusty rods on the bottom as some sport guys do to make them lighter/easier to pull and handle. The thieves seem to be more attracted to the easy, light, low hanging fruit traps in shallower water. Not to mention we place both our traps where we can and do watch them from shore and some of us know each other at the marina and keep an eye on each others traps. Keep the camera handy. It helps to keep your float set up large and unique so that it does not blend into the mass of sport and commercial trap floats and is easy to identify from a distance. Far safer for the thieves to pull a trap float set up that looks like many others.

    As for gate escape, it is far less of an issue on the large commercial traps as the strong stainless tines close down into a bracket that does not allow the crabs to push them side ways. I have had a gate jammed open once, tines bent on rare occasion and twice have had a tine (not sure what to call the thick stainless wires on the gate) broken off. Possibly Otters could have been involved since at the time the trap was placed off an Otter colony beach. The cheap square traps, tend to let crabs escape out the corner edges of the trap as well as the gates.

    What does happen is that if left for a while the big males some times will start to cut through the stainless wire of the trap body, usually around one of the escape rings and can eventually make a hole big enough for the crabs to escape on the outside of the escape ring. I think they get part way out the escape hole and then try to make it bigger when they can’t get through it. For animals with a tiny brain, operating on instinct they are rather smart. In season we make temp. repairs with zap straps and will patch them up with stainless wire in the off season. Once with a broken gate tine, we zap strapped closed the broken gate and the trap still fished very well with just the one gate until the gate tine was replaced in the off season. We go through a lot of zap straps, - love the dollar store. We also repair the heavy bait bags with zap straps when the crabs cut into them.

    Best bait for us is a large amount of fresh Salmon or Halibut heads and fish frames. The 4 very large fresh full chicken legs from Walmart for $4.50 to $5.00 dollars work great. Lots of fat on them to ooze oil and carry the scent for distance in the current. The bait has to be protected or it will be gone fast and stop fishing. Even protected in bags the very small shrimp will get to it and eat it up but it will last longer.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
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  17. Tips Up

    Tips Up Well-Known Member

    Tried my luck at crabbing in Sooke Harbour yesterday. I don't generally bother because my success rate has been very hit and miss. Also have had traps go missing a couple of times. Had kids on board yesterday so took the traps.

    Trap one was in 35 feet of water near other traps and was pretty full. Mostly female and under sized but 2 keeper hard shells. Trap 2 I dropped and marked in 65 ft of water but found in 100 ft of water a couple hundred yards from where I had dropped it. Empty. Well at least it did not get stolen this time.

    Tips
     
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  18. Prawn Star

    Prawn Star Active Member

    Thanks Rockfish. Excellent tutorial on crabbing. When searching for a "crabby" area what should I look for? Depth, structure, current? I know of areas around CR but they have traps on them all the time. One FN trap at the mouth of the Campbell just off the spit must produce well as it is there year round.
     
  19. Rockfish

    Rockfish Well-Known Member

    After years trying different things, for the last two years we have kept our two traps near each other in the same local. It is better if there has not been a commercial string placed near it recently. If a commie string goes down nearby the catch will drop off for a while.

    I like a spot that has a very smooth bottom on the sounder for dungies. If it is at all bumpy I find we get red rock crabs mixed in with the dungies, which sometimes I don’t mind occasionally as they have a different flavor and it is nice for a change.

    Current and wind does not matter to us, as our traps are very heavy, and the rope of sufficient length that they never drag or drift, even when a kelp island manages to hook itself up to the float. We slash up the kelp with a knife and remove it before pulling the trap. We do pull the traps and the boat for the winter to avoid the big winter storms.

    As for depth it depends on your area. Crabs migrate and it seems to me some areas are nurseries, some have a lot of females and some areas have lots of males. As an experiment, I dropped a trap down under the boat (9 to 14 feet) at the marina loaded up with fresh salmon guts (huge scent) and it came up with around a hundred dungies in it after a two hour soak. However, they were all about 3 inches. One of my fishing buddies drops his traps in 100 to 130 feet off Victoria and does well for dungies.

    We were out fishing for Ho’s again yesterday and checked the 2nd of our two traps on the way in. There were 12 dungies in it, no females and 8 keepers, so not as good as our previous pull on the other trap with the photo.

    That spot you mentioned out in front of the river with the first nations trap sounds like a good area. If it were me and I was out and saw them pulling it I would go over and ask if it would be OK with them if we drop a crab trap near by. Showing a little respect in that situation could pay dividends and having them know you and your distinctive float could be issue preventive.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
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  20. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    You can catch Dungeness in up to 150-200 feet of water - or thereabouts - but I generally like the 20-50 ft depths - after correcting for tide (e.g. at LLW). As Rockfish mentioned - be careful with rope length - take into consideration tide and current needs. If you are in a high current area - debris can hit and wrap around your buoy - or even take it out if along with the trap if it is a rootwad or similar debris - or knock it off a shelf into the deeps. I like sand and mud bottoms - not rock - for Dungeness. Estuaries are often high producers for Dungeness.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
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