Hello everyone. First let me say 'thank you" to all of you who have emailed me and posted support for me and my family. Your kind words really do mean a lot to me. I don't know who all of you guys are, but I consider you my friends - thank you!
So for today, besides playing with corals, I would like to talk about something I REALLY like to do on my spare time. When ever I get the chance, I head out to do some fishing, or in this case, crabbing!
I think every parent needs to take their kids fishing. Why? As I learned in my early days that fishing takes lots of discipline. Waiting for the fish to bite and having to stare at your pole for any little nibbles or bites really takes lots of patience. As a little ritalin deprived kid, you can imagine what kind of wonders fishing would provide. Not only you have to sit there patiently but all of your attention is at the tip of your fishing pole. The best part of it is when you actually get a bite and catch the fish. All this time you and your kids are having really quality time, talking about sports, school, family, etc.. Best of all, you can teach some real life values at the same time. You can spend all day staring at your pole and catch only one fish. No matter what, when your kid lands that fish, it will be a memorable moment. The harder it is to catch the fish, the greater the reward is when you do. You can relate that to life in general (remember you are giving advice to your children). Tell them the old saying is true, "the greater the task, the greater the rewards".
I'm going off topic here but I think I want to tell you a story that I think emphasizes on that saying.
So in Jakarta, there are these fishing ponds (freshwater). They are located through out the city and totally man made. They charge around $3 per person and you can fish up to 12 hours. Most of the fish that is available are pacus. These piranha looking guys range from 1 kilo to 10 kilos (2 to 20 pounds) monsters. The fish are stocked according to how many people are fishing. And anytime a new guy shows up, a net full of fish is added to the pond. So the more people fishing, the more fish you have a chance to catch. There are few monster fish that is added, and if you catch one of these 20 pounders, you can win up to $150!!! So you can imagine how many people show up just to try to win the big prize (the average person makes less than this a month), not to mention they can take home dinner.
One evening I saw one one our guys, his name is Adi, cleaning a fish. It was a pacu that he had caught earlier in the day. I was excited and didn't realize there were fishing places nearby. Me and my wife asked Adi to take us fishing. He asked if we wanted to go to a place where there were lots of fish. "Of course" I said, "I want to catch fish". Adi guaranteed me and my wife that we will for sure catch pacus. Man I was excited and couldn't sleep that night. The next day we set out on motorbikes, and surprisingly it was only 10 minutes away.
We got to this place where there were these small ponds, like 12 feet by 8 feet. The water was muddy and but I can see the swirls on the surface made by the fish. We stopped at one of the ponds and Adi said that this was a good spot. I was like ok, and me and my wife baited with worms and tossed into this pond. The bobber went down as soon as it hit the water, and soon enough I had two 2 pound pacus on my line! We were using two hooks, but it didn't matter, as there were tons of fish in this small pond. My wife hooked up and landed two more pacus. So in a matter of less than a minute, we had 4 fish! I was like how many fish are in here? Adi threw in some food and hundreds of fish started to splash all over the place. I yelled at Adi saying this wasn't fishing, too easy! The place was more of a fish farm. I asked Adi if this was the place where he caught his fish. "No" he said, that place is somewhere else. He said to me "hey you wanted me to take you where there are lots of fish". I said "yah but...."Adi agreed to take us to the other place that evening. But before we could leave, we had to pay for the fish we caught! Ok, we were definitely in the wrong place. My wife called the place a fish market, not a place to fish.
Six o'clock that evening we headed to another place. The ponds were big, probably at least 60 feet by 30 feet. Different ponds had different fish. One had catfish, another one had carp, and the one we were fishing for - pacus. People were starting to show up. The evening period starts at 6 pm and ends at 6 am, then another 12 hour cycle starts. We got a good spot and threw out our lines while the fish were being stocked. "From past experience", look to me like it was going to be easy catching these guys. I didn't want the small ones, I wanted to catch the big prize! Kind of a cool place to hang out, minus the zillion mosquitoes. There were these chairs made from old tires that was really comfortable. By 7 pm, I'd say around 60 people were there trying their luck. People were catching but not us. What was frustrating was that the same people kept catching the dang fish! We were getting bites but couldn't hook them. Pacus have a hard plate like mouth that gently sucks in the food if they don't have to chew it. I think their main diet in the wild are fruits. We were using worms and crickets, like everyone else, but had a hard time hooking them.
In the beginning it looked to be fun, you can buy coffee and drinks and lots of different kind of foods. I felt like being in a restaurant fishing. We ended up leaving at 12 midnight with no fish.
The next evening we returned as I was determined to catch the big prize. That night, we stayed until 2 am, no fish again. On the third night, someone did catch the big boy and won himself $150. At this point though, both me and my wife were just trying to catch one, never mind the big one. I told my wife that I am going to catch one if we have to come out every night. Good thing for her that I managed to hook one on that third night. Mosquitoes and frustration were taking a toll on everyone, even Adi didn't have much success. But man when I felt the fish on, it was a great feeling. I felt even better when he was flopping on land. Many fish were being lost due to poor hookups before they could be landed. I felt so good and mission accomplished... well sort of. I felt like getting the little guy stuffed because I was so proud!
The moral of the story? I wasn't proud of the four fish we caught in less than a minute, but sure was proud of the "one" that took us three nights to catch. I haven't gone back since, that was few years ago. But I will when I have the time and do a full report - I promise!
One of my favorite places to go fishing around the SF area is the Pacifica Pier, located in the city of Pacifica. The pier was built in 1973 in memory of Reverend Herschel Harkins, a religous historical figure from the early days of Pacifica. My uncle used to take me fishing here for salmon back in the 80's when I was a kid. It was also the first place my uncle took me fishing in the US, and soon after, I got "hooked" on fishing!
The pier is quarter of a mile long boldly facing the mighty Pacific Ocean. Everyday it gets pounded by the waves but stands strong. It gives joy to countless fishermen that drive from all over the bay area to take advantage of the great fishing. It is the only fishing pier that jets straight out into the ocean in Northern California. All other piers are located in bays or coves. The pier can be very productive for fishing all year, but during the winter months and early spring, crabbing is the way to go!
The pier has convenient bathrooms that is serviced daily. Even if the pier is closed, many times the bathrooms stay open. So if you are in the area, and need to go, you can always stop by and "go". If the roll up door is down, simply lift it up, just make sure to close it back down afterwards. There doesn't seem to be any locks on it, so I guess you can use anytime.
Conveniently located at the base of he pier is this cafe. They sell bait, snacks, coffee, etc.. Not a bait shop but more of a cafe. On the weekends, they barbecue steaks, hot dogs and burgers outside for the hungry fishermen and visitors. If the weather is bad, you might want to call them first to see if the pier is opened before heading out. Their phone number is 650-738-2380.
The pier is opened from 4 am to 10 pm. There are these die hard locals that come out every morning at 4 am to catch crabs. I don't blame them, I would come out everyday if I lived around here. The gates are closed and opened by police. Usually around 4 am, they come around and open up the gates. Then they come back around 10 at night to kick everyone off the pier. There seems to be two different officers taking turns closing the gates at night. One of them drives onto the pier around 10:15 at night and kicks everyone off. On other nights, there is different officer that comes out later, like passed 11 to 12 to close the gate. Sometimes if the the weather is really good or they are really lazy, then they don't come out at all. But one thing is for sure, they cannot lock the gates until everyone is out, so you don't have to worry about getting locked in. I ususally stay until getting kicked out. The crab seem to bite really well around 9 to 11 pm.
The pier is "L" shaped. I like to crab at the end of the "L". The wind seems to be less on this spot compared to the rest of the pier.
Pacifica pier is really a nice place to enjoy the day. The scenery is beautiful, not to mention the crabbing can get really hot!
Here is some of my equipment. The big fold up chair is really comfortable and usually my wife Anne sits there and reads her book while waiting for the crabs to bite. The cooler is to keep the crabs. The white bucket in front of the cooler is to get water from pier below. The white plastic bag are snacks!
Here is Anne, my wife of six years. She is the greatest! I hear too may guys on the pier arguing with their wives or girlfriends on the phone because they are still fishing, or crabbing. Good thing my girl likes to fish and crab! Once I was fishing this potluck tournament out of Half Moon Bay, and the guy next to me was visiting from southern California. His name was also Eddie and we became good fish buddies. He was visiting his inlaws in the Bay Area. It turns out that he met his wife on a party fishing boat. How cool is that?! To top it off, for their honeymoon, they went to Alaska for halibut fishing! Wow, talk about a soulmate! Anyways, he ended up taking third place with a huge vermillion rockfish, while I took first with a 20 lb lingcod! The second place winner was on another boat and caught the biggest halibut. After tipping the deckhand and the captain, I donated the rest of my winnings back to the promoter. The whole thing was to raise funds for a burn foundation. It was nice as after I gave back the money, all the other guys that won also donated back. The second place winner told me that after I gave back the money, he had no choice but to follow. He felt guilty about keeping the prize money - which was not a whole lot anyways, but it was the thought that counted. But in the end, good deeds always pays off. God has a way of rewarding the little good things we do in life. A month later, the three winners got a free trip on a "six" pack private rockfishing trip out to the Great White shark infested Ano Nuevo Island. Of course I pulled out another lunker lingcod on that trip too! Oh man sorry guys, I did it again, got off topic. Another story, another post...
So let's get ready to catch some crabs! Instead of using the traditional crab nets, these crab snares are the way to go at this point in the crab season off the Pacifica pier. The snares are compact and can be casted out far, where the nets can only go straight down. The snares are basically a small metal cage with loops. There is an opening door to put the bait and the sinker in. The bait I use is squid and pike makerel. You can use sardines, anchovies, chicken, octopus, etc.. But I like the combination of squid and the pike makerel. The pike makerel can be bought at Asian supermarkets stores like Ranch 99. There is one Asian market in our area called "Le Asia" in San Ramon and I can pick them up frozen for $1.49 a pound. Normally like at Ranch 99, they are $1.99 a lb. The squid you can pick up just about anywhere. I like this particular makerel, over other fish baits, mainly because they are really oily. This means that the oil will carry the scent, which will help attract the crabs. As a dicipline, I always take out the old piece of the makerel for a new one everytime I cast. When the crabs are being finicky, you need all the help you can get!
Ok, so this is what it looks like right before closing the door. Note the sinker sitting on the bottom of the bait cage. I like to use 5 ounce flat sinkers. My rods are 9 foot med/heavy action poles, and the 5 oz weight plus the bait and the cage seem to be the best combination for me. Many of the locals use giant 12 to 15 foot rods and use heavier weights, and they can cast to China! But I found out that crabs are everywhere, and no need to cast to "kingdom come" to get to them. Sometimes they are just 30 to 40 feet out from the pier! A quick note about bait, you can never put enough. And make sure you put fresh bait continuosly. Most of the locals use two sets of snares. One is fully baited and ready to go. When one snare is brought in, it is exchanged for the new one. While waiting, the old ones is refurbished!
There are three types of crabs along the California coast that are interests to us. There are two species of red rock crabs and the dungeness crab. The rock crabs, you can catch them all year. The dungeness crab season started on November 7th, 2009. The season will end on June 30th, 2010. All three can be caught on the Pier. The two species of red crabs are the Romaleon Antennarius and the Cancer Productus. These two look similar in the beginning, but very different once you get to recognize them. The quickest way to tell the difference is to feel their top shell. If it is brown red, smooth, and somewhat shiny, then it is an Antennarius. If the shell is real red and rough, then it is a Productus. Also if you catch a red crab that measures like 6 inches, most likely it is a Productus as well. The Productus species gets much larger in size than the Antennarius. But never mind these two species, the main crab we are after are the famous dungeness crabs (Metacarcinus magister - formerly known as Cancer magister). This is the crab that the vendors sell on the streets at Fishermen's Wharf in San Francisco. Every year, visitors and locals consume thousands of these tasty buggers while visiting the wharf area. These crabs are almost like a symbol of Pier 39, Fishermen's Wharf.
Did you know that the dungeness crab gets its name from a city in Washington, Dungeness? The crabs must be super abundant and popular there. The above is a picture of a female measuring nearly 6 inches. I caught the two below, a male and a female on the same snare!
How to tell the difference between a male and a female? Take a look at these two "keepers". The one at the top is a female and the one at the bottom is a male. The minimum size to keep is 5 and 3/4 inches across the shell, excluding the two outer points. The fish and game regulations do not mention anything about being able to keep females, but as long as she is not carrying eggs in her abdomen, then it is ok to keep. All the locals know this and it must be true, as fish and game officers come check around and does not say anything. I try to avoid keeping the females though for obvious reasons. These rules I just mentioned refers to catching crabs from Pacifica Pier. If you are on a boat, the regulations may be a little different. Make sure to check out the specifics from the DFG. One last thing, the females released the eggs earlier this year. Soon they will start to mate again and start developing eggs.
One main important thing is that dungeness crabs cannot be kept if caught inside the Golden Gate bridge, regardless of size or season. The SF Bay is a nursery area for the young crabs and are strictly protected. The red crabs are no problem, you can keep them from anywhere as long as they meet the minimum size of 4 inches across the shell requirement.
This male measured a little over 6 inches. A crab guage is handy to have.
Another big male caught on three loops. The loops act as a noose. While the crabs are trying to feast on your bait, pull back on your rod hard and fast. If it feels heavy, then you got a crab!
Nice cooler of dungeness crabs! Only six, we need 14 more to reach our limit. The limit is 10 per person, so between me and Anne....
Double whammy! Both got caught on their main claws!
Another nice big crab. Note the round bait cage and monofilament fishing line for the loops.
One of the local ladies holding up a monster! It must have weighed a least a kilo (2 lbs).
Another regular walking his fresh caught 10 legged meal! Note the green yellow color of his fishing line. When the currents are strong, it is best to have high visible line like this. You can keep a better eye out where your snare is going and avoid crossing other people's lines. I like to use lighter line like 20lbs test, easier to cast and reel in. Most of the guys with the big poles use 30 to 35 lbs. On my wife's pole, I use 14 lb test!
Another local guy with a fresh caught male!
Nice chest full of delicious dungies!
My wife Anne looking like an Eskimo! Note the row of fishing rods. When the action is hot, it can get crowded!
On this day, it was raining and we had the whole pier to ourselves!
So you can legally use two poles on the pier. Good deal, and you don't even need a license!
This is what it looks like from the end of the "L" part of the pier.
Sure seems longer than quarter of a mile!
Here is my wife Anne reeling in a crab. Check out the video!
Crab nets really don't work well during the winter months. The currents are too strong and sometimes the nets don't even sit on the bottom. They need strong weights to keep them down. Wait until May, the currents will be less and nets can be deadly! However in the past, by that time most of the males have disappeared and lots of undersized females are around, maybe this year it would be different. This year has been particularly good for catching dungeness crabs!
There are two resident seals that have learned how to steal the bait from crab nets. These guys are very clever and it is a battle of wits! Check out this quick video.
Back at home, ready to cook the crabs and reap the rewards! Check out this video!
Kitchen sink full of crabs!
Anne with a nice dungeness!
Me with nicer dungeness!
Some were steamed!
Some were made into soup - Korean style!
The smile on my face says it all!
Ok, now let's take a closer look at that crab snare. You can make your own snares or buy them on the pier. Many of the locals make and sell snares at $5 a piece. You can also buy them at the tackle shops nearby, The Rusty Hook and the New Coast Bait and Tackle. Regulations say that you can only have up to six loops (snares) per bait cage. The loops are normally attached to the base of the bait cage and stick out sideways. The idea is that one of the legs of the crab would get caught on one of these nooses. I suspect when the cage is sitting at the bottom of the ocean, the loops actually move up and down due to currents. Think about it, if the loops sat flat on the bottom, how would it catch the crab's legs?
Interestingly I started making mental notes of which loops was catching the most crabs. From the leader line, the first two loops rarely would catch. The middle loops were doing most of the work. The last two loops were not effecient either, but still better than the first two. I'd say 60 percent of the time, the crabs were caught on the middle loops, sometimes on its big claws. Another 30% were being caught on the last loops. And finally only 10% were being caught on the first two. Armed with this intriguing data, I set forth to make a "better mousetrap"!
Since the first two loops were not doing much, I decided to move them to the top middle. For this, I needed to make my own loops! This is my work station on the kitchen table.
Loop material - weed wacker! The size of these lines are color coded, so if you buy the blue colored one, it will all be .065 inches in diameter. There are other sizes like the thinner yellow or the thicker green or red. But the blue one is most popular and works the best. You can buy this at any hardware store.
Here are the tools you will need, wire cutter, plier, and pipe cutter. The latter is used to cut the thin aluminum tubing (found at Orchard hardware and Ace hardware stores) into small pieces for the crimps. Careful cutting the delicate aluminum tubing. You cannot just clamp down on it with the pipe cutter as it will bend the tubing. Instead you must roll the tubing against the blade of the pipe cutter and slice off small pieces. Sound confusing but you will know what I'm talking about when you do this. The crimper is not really necessary, as you can use the wire cutters to crimp - much easier too.
Many people make their own snares and some use fishing line to make the loops. It works but the line tend not to bounce back into fully opened position. If it wasn't for this reason, I think the fishing line would work better at snaring the crabs. You can experiment and find out yourself. Afterall, half the fun is designing and tinkering to make the "better mousetrap" as we say in the US.
You will also need these wire terminal circle things. To make the loop, start by removing the sleeve, and crimp one end to the weed wacker line.
I use wire cutters to crimp down the aluminum tubing, just don't clamp down too hard otherwise you will end up cutting the tubing and the line.
Slip the other end of the weed line into the hole of the wire terminal. The weed wacker line has a natural curve to it due to being spooled. You want to make sure the loop is smooth and can bounce back to fully opened position after it tightens. After making the loop, you can crimp it onto the bait cage. I personally like large loops, a local guy once told me that the larger loops are better - and I followed his advice. I don't like the small ones that comes with the bait cage. I take off all the loops and make my own extra large ones. I have snared whole bodies of crabs with the big loops, not to mention sharks, small halibut, and starfish!
Many snares you buy will look like this. Instead of using electrical connectors, the person who made this loop used crimps. This also works but only for a while. After snaring so many crabs, the weed wacker line tend to twist and the loops don't bounce back to its fully opened position.
But if you use the electrical ends, you can simply twist the metal connector to flow with the twist of the line. Hard to explain but you will understand what I'm saying when it happens. I should have made a video, but never got around doing it.
The "better mousetrap"! Note the cable ties. I use these to position the loops upwards.
And to hold the bait cage door down, I use rubber strips from a bicycle tubing. Be careful when you cut the inner tube, as this funky blue gooey stuff comes oozing out! The latch is made from a chain link, opened up.
And there you have it. Ever since I started using this type of snare with extra big loops and loops at the top, I'd have to say my hook ups increased tremendously. I catch more crabs than ever before. I was catching many on the top two loops, always catching one of the big claws. Every time I catch one like that, I think about what if I didn't have those two loops? Chances are, I would have lost that crab.
One thing you must do is take care of your equipment. This bucket is full of used snares. I soak these in warm water, loosens up the snares and helps to keep rust out of the bait cage. I don't need to show you how to make the bait cage, any design would work - circular, rectangular, square, etc.. Being so busy, I normally buy the snares and just change out the loops. Sometimes I would snare other snares that got lost. I found four that way this season, and made them into crab catching machines!
Beefore making another trip to the pier, always check on your snare. Replace any damaged loops, bend back the bait cage if out of shape, inspect the leader line, etc.. These little things will make the difference between a crab and no crab. The locals are all wise and they consistently catch their share of the crabs. On the other hand, the casual weekender usually end up with very few or none. Why? Because the casual guy is probably using snares that are damaged and old and have been sitting in his garage for ever. You must take care of your equipment!
And after fixing all the loops and cleaning your equipment for the next trip, I reward myself with a nice steamed dungeness crab!
Here are some helpful hints for newbies into crabbing with snares. Use a sturdy fishing pole with a good sized reel. Remember you must be able to reel in a two pound crab up the 30 + feet up the pier. Use lighter line as this will help you cast further and easier (20 lbs). Using flourescent yellow or green line will help you see where you are casting, and to avoid crossing other people's lines. Always use plenty of bait and change out regularly. Make sure your loops on your snare are working in top condition. Leave it out there for 5 minutes. If the action is hot, then check every two minutes. If you wait too long the crabs will eat all your bait. Bring two fishing poles as you are allowed to have two. You will double the chance of catching crabs with two lines out. If you are not catching the crabs far out, try casting short. Sometimes they come closer to the pier and you must find them. If you are not catching crabs, the chances are there are none where you are casting. Don't stay in one spot, try different places if you are not hooking up. Pay attention to the locals and ask lots of questions. They would love to help you out and even sell you their own special snares. And one last thing, if you get skunked and catch none, you must go back and try again. Keep going back and you will catch them. Once you start catching them, then it is easy. Go there during the day to learn from the locals. Then go back at night, as crabs are nocturnal, and are more active. Better yet, go out there at 4 in the morning and rub shoulders with the regulars, they will be pulling in the crabs left and right, and so will you!
Ok guys, thanks for putting up with the long thread. I originally wanted to break this up into three parts, but that would take too much time... and I know you guys are dying to see corals.
These snares will work with crabs, lobsters, any crawling things that have legs. From lobsters on the East Coast to Blue crabs in the Gulf to dugeness on the Pacific to mud crabs in Australia to spiny lobsters in Indonesia! For these lobsters, I would use extra large loops - probably will have a good chance at snaring the whole body because of their elongated form. Careful not to snare the corals:)
On a serious note, parents, please take your kids crabbing! After a good day of catching crabs, you can spend more quality time at home making snares with your kids! How cool is that!!
Ok, that is it for today. I'm off to the islands to look for corals, my plane leaves in about 3 hours.. first stop - Bali!