Sporting Chance to Grab Crab (in Emeryville!)

November 6, 2012
Tom Stienstra
Updated 11:54 p.m., Sunday, November 4, 2012

The next two weeks look like a magical time for the recreational Dungeness season: great crabbing, good weather and no competition from the big commercial boats until their season opens Nov. 15. 

The weekend opener was sensational for boats heading offshore out of San Francisco Bay and Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.

Out of Emeryville Sportfishing Center, five party boats ran “crab combos,” that is, fishing trips for rockfish to the Farallon Islands and stopping on the way back to check their luck in the crab pots. Those five boats had a total of 146 people, who caught 642 Dungeness crabs (six-crab-per-person limit on party boats), 1,460 rockfish (10-fish limits) and 10 lingcod to 14 pounds.

The best crab grounds were 10 to 15 miles off San Francisco, with the pots baited with squid, according to Craig Stone, owner of Emeryville Sportfishing Center.

“It was a great start to the season, with beautiful weather and limits for all aboard,” Stone said. “As long as the weather holds for us, it looks really good out there. Early-season storms and rough seas can knock us out, but it was glassy calm out there.”

Out of Half Moon Bay, the New Captain Pete is running crab-only trips for $50 for adults, $35 for kids, on weekends, and Capt. Dennis Baxter reported that on the opener, 21 people aboard had six-crab limits, a total of 126 crabs.

“We pulled five pots and had a steady 20 to 25 crabs per pot,” Baxter said. “The Dungeness are in great shape, nice and hard and full of meat.” The crew dropped their pots 4 miles west of the harbor, he said.

At Pillar Point Harbor, the line of trailered boats being towed to the launch ramp stretched for about a mile, and the huge parking lot filled early, forcing many to park along Highway 1. “Everybody played nice and had a good day,” Baxter said.

According to Baxter, last year averaged about 40 to 50 crabs per pot.

Sport fishers have two weeks to reap the current bounty until the giant out-of-the-area commercial vessels descend on the local coastal waters and cut into the take.

Contact: Emeryville Sportfishing Center, (510) 654-6040,; and New Captain Pete, (650) 726-6224,

Tom Stienstra is The San Francisco Chronicle‘s outdoors writer. E-mail: Twitter: @StienstraTom

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