Let's Go Fishin': River rises and crabs start to crawl
by Mike Baxter
Feb 20, 2014 | 1433 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A catch of sand dabs. Courtesy of Mike Baxter
A catch of sand dabs. Courtesy of Mike Baxter
Well we had a couple days of winter and the river was happy to rise. The San Lorenzo crested at 407 cubic feet per second with the early February rains.

The rubber dam went up for two days with the increased flow and the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project was able to trap a few steelhead for next years STEP program and to raise juvenile fish for next years release of smolt steelhead. The rain came as great news to hundreds of steelhead and many coho salmon that had been milling around the tide water of the lower river. It seemed as though most of those eagerly awaiting fish migrated up river in a hurry.

It’s funny timing that most of our local steelhead start to spawn right around Valentines Day. I had several reports from readers that watched steelhead pair up and spawn during Cupid’s holiday. I have a feeling the fish will leave the river as fast as they entered it as they seem to have a built-in sensor detecting dry years. The San Lorenzo River and all rivers in Santa Cruz County remain closed to fishing at the time due to drought conditions.

In the ocean, big efforts go towards sand dab fishing and crab catching. Both activities are yielding fresh seafood for those trying. Commercial fishing for crabs has not been as productive as past years with increased pressure and more traps in the bay than in years past. The summer-type weather pattern has helped with many more calm “fishable days,” so this makes up for fewer crabs per pot.

This time of year crabs seem to start migrating, so catches are on the rise.

Sand dab fishing may not be the most challenging, but hauling up 6 to 8 of the tasty flat fish at one time can yield some delicious dinners! The canyon edges on the east side of Soquel Hole have been a very prolific for sand dab fishing. There is no limit for these fish, so remember catching them is quick and they are slow to clean. I like to keep enough for a two dinners and give a few away. After cleaning them, the remains work great for crab bait. I hope for more rain, a successful steelhead spawn, and you get out for crabs and sand dabs.

- Mike Baxter has fished in the Monterey Bay Area since he was a boy and has been a licensed charter boat captain for more than 20 years. Contact him at captmikebaxter@yahoo.com.


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