Pacifica Pier and Half Moon Bay Pier Crabbing

Went out with some friends (and some kids) I used to work with at EA this past Saturday.  Goal was to bring home a bunch of dungeness for our families.  Kara had just gotten her ankle cut open recently so we were limited to easily accessible piers.  Wound up deciding Pacifica Pier would be our best bet and we all agreed to meet up around 3am to carpool out.

Got to the pier around 4am and gates seemed to already be open.  Not sure if they opened up at 12am like last weekend.  I heard that opening weekend they had a deal with the locals to have it open at 12am to deal with crowding.  /shrugs

Anyhow we parked and grabbed our gear and waddled off to try our luck.  Was pretty crowded this past weekend still

Pacifica Pier Crowded for Dungeness crabs
Pacifica Pier: Crowded with people going for Dungeness crab

Oh also this picture was taken later in the day after the sun came up.  When we got there the sun hadn’t risen yet d=

We had, I think, 4 hoop nets and a full on crab cage.  Baited up with a mix of squid, chicken livers, and salmon fish heads.  I think the rest of the bait was still frozen at that point.  Kara and I split up the baiting more or less.  She was focusing on the crab traps while I set up some poles for snaring.  We had 3 kids with us who were very excited to start snaring.  I believe it was their first time out fishing ^^

Set up 3 rods with sofa king snares and baited them up with chicken livers and squid.   Each had a 4oz ball weight in them to keep them on the bottom.  Two rods were ~7ft, one was about 15ft.
Going to pause here to address the weight issue.  I’ve noticed I’ve been getting a lot of hits on “how much weight for crab snare” or other search terms along those lines.  So here’s what I’ve found so far:

  1. 4oz+ at Pacifica Pier.  The swells and current here are always monstrous.  If you’re not using one of those over sized danielson crab snares, use 4 ounces of weight.  You might need a river sinker (the flat-ish round ones) to fit if it goes above 4oz.  This past weekend the swells were pretty bad and 4oz was getting blown around.  Just check the weather/swells.
  2. Half moon bay pier/pillar point harbor/etc.  This place has a lot of different names.  But off the pier there in particular 4oz is probably over kill.  I use 4oz just because its what I’ve left in my snares.  I’m guessing as low as 2oz would be fine for just about any day besides the most windy.  The outer jetty does a good job keeping the water calm here.  A side tip for this area: cast near the rocks away from shore.  You can catch red rock crabs while snaring here.   Dungeness are far rarer and you’ll usually be wasting your time casting out and away from the rock wall behind the pier.
  3. If you’re going out to say the north or south jetty at half moon bay you’ll want at least 3oz on any day.  This is outside of the jetty, and even the slightest wind can kick up the swell.  Be sure to really get those snares way out there.  I’ve discovered I used to lose a lot of snares merely because I didn’t cast out far enough, and would always land my snares in the rocks and lose them.
  4. Really, just use 3oz of weight to be safe.  4oz is best.  Gives you distance and holds bottom in most conditions.  Use at least 17lb line.  Any lighter you may snap the line on casts or lose it once you get a crab or two.  Those things are not designed to get dragged through the water ;]

Okay.  Moving on.  Went ahead and taught them how to cast and to make sure to check behind them before swinging back and all that jazz.  We snared and crabbed for a few hours (I’ve forgotten the time already @_@) and at one point pulled up Kara’s crab cage with a legal dungie! 😀  And a mystery fish head.  We think the crab dragged the fish head in there with it…was weird.  The crab also had the bottom carapace open already?  That part that tells you if its a male/female.  Was weird.  Was pretty lethargic too.  We weren’t sure what was wrong with it, but dangit, first legal, so into the bucket it went.

Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab

You can see the mystery fish head in the bottom (that white blurry thing…)  A little while after that we discovered one of Kara’s crab hoops was stuck near a pillar.  We weren’t sure if it was wrapped around the pillar, stuck on some mussels, or just hung up on some kelp down there.  Hung tried to get it up for like an hour.  Made headway for quite awhile, but at some point it stopped budging.  Here’s what it looked like:

I lost another rod that day as well.  Worse yet it was another lucky one/family favorite.  This time it was my mom’s favorite rod.  I have no idea how it happened, but someone managed to snap it right between the reel and seat.  I’ve never even seen a reel snapped like that before.  Tragic.  RIP.  I really need to stop loaning out the good stuff to people…people are just taking out all our lucky/favorite rods one after another…I don’t even know how I’m going to tell my mom…And it doesn’t end there.  I had just respooled that with expensive line…Didn’t even get to use it twice before that happened.  FML. /sigh  I now need to make two memorials for lost lucky rods :[

In the end we had to leave it since it wouldn’t budge anymore.  We decided to try our luck for at least some rock crabs since we only had 1 crab after a few hours.  We packed our gear up and decided to head to the Half Moon Bay Pier.  I took a quick walk around to check out how people were doing before we left.  Seemed like a really slow day.  I saw maybe 1 in 6 people had a crab, and only a few people had 2.  Noone that I saw had more than 2 crabs.  Was surprising.  I’m guessing the sea was just too rough Saturday.  I’m wondering if Sunday went any better.

Anyhow we drove off and met back up at the HMB pier.  Was a few people out there snaring/crabbing. One group packed up and headed off pretty soon after we arrived.  Not sure how long they’d been out there but had 3 5-6″ red rock crabs for the day.  Not too bad.  We dropped our pots (some smelt mixed in this time) and I set up a few light tackle rods for some rock cod fishing (hey, one can hope right?).  Had to try to salvage the day somehow d=

Got messy fast.  Set them up with a few spare hook rigs lying around.  3/0 red gamkatsu octopus hooks.  One was a hi-lo rig, the others were carolina rigged.  All had 1oz of weight.  I instructed them to just drop straight down and wait for a bite.  Also to not cast towards the rocks because they’d snag up and we didn’t have many hooks/weights left (we hadn’t planned on fishing).  About 30 minutes later I was done baiting their hooks, setting the rods up, and dropping my nets.  Finally had time to get around to setting up one of my rods and start fishing.  Rigged up a gulp minnow up and threw 2 split shot in front of it.  Baited up with a bit of squid and started bouncing it off the far end of the pier.

Wasn’t but a minute or two later all 3 kids ran over to join me and then it went downhill @_@  Tangles, snagged in the jetty, they wanted to use my pole instead of theirs, etc.  In the end we got 0 crabs while there, only saw 1 more crab pulled up after we arrived.  Only one pot’s bait was even getting eaten.  Then the kids got their 3 rods tangled together so badly I had to cut the line on all of them.  My surf fishing pole’s line is completely boned.  No idea how, but they managed to tangle it so badly that I had no idea which line was going out, and which part was looped on the bail.  Need to completely respool.  Another rod I had to cut the line to untangle the line from being wrapped around the gears of the reel maybe 15 times.  I really feel for my dad these days :  I feel bad for what I put him through when I was younger, but I was always learning at least.

Anyhow, we ended the day meeting a tagged pelican and the fattest seal ever that wouldn’t go away.  He wound up sticking around for hours so we packed up and hucked the bait.  At one point he went after someone elses net as they raised it and nearly pulled 3 people over the railing.  Aggressive.  Here’s the video of Bob (what we named him).

Noone wanted just 1 crab so we wound up giving it away to a family who was out crabbing for their first time.

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