Whidbey crab season opens July 2 — here are some tips

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Sometimes, you gotta trick ‘em

Getting all ready for the crab opener on Whidbey Island July 2?

Reports indicate the number of Dungeness crab in Marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 may be slightly higher than last year.

Here are a few tips for folks who have never fished for crab before.

Experts say square pots with four doors catch more crabs than round ones.

The only problem with square ones is you can’t let them soak more than 24 hours. If you do then the crabs can get out because every time the door opens to let one in, it creates a doorway for the ones inside the pot to leave. Also, in a little current, the door swings and the basic ingredient for a tasty crab salad escapes.

On the other hand, round pots can be soaked for several days. Round ones are much better at keeping the crabs inside because the two entry runways are off the floor of the pot and not affected by current or other crabs entering. If you can’t go back to check your string within 24 hours, round pots are the way to go.

However, if you are a bit resourceful, square pots can be improved.

The doors on square pots swing open in just a small current so attach weights, like one-ounce egg sinkers, on small posts on each door and they won’t swing open in the current. The the extra weight doesn’t seem to matter at all to the crabs when they enter. Drill a sinker hole to fit the posts and crimp the weights in place with channel locks.

Having too large a float is a bad deal. If the float is very large it can get tossed around in a wind and can walk the pot right across the bottom. Make sure to use a float that is the right size for your pot and if you have questions, talk to the salespeople and get advice. Ace Hardware in Oak Harbor is a good place to start.

Make sure you weight your pots and the line, too.

The square ones are too light, so a four-pound pound lead bar is about right. But twice that amount of weight could be needed under certain conditions.

A cast iron window weight secured with electrical tape to the bottom inside pot works fine. Use one on each side. At garage sales, sometimes you can get a sack full for just a small amount of money.

For the line, hammer out a sheet of lead weighing about five ounces and wrap a sheet around the line every 60 feet or so. If you are using an electric winch or other types of pullers, make sure the lead will go through the pulley — that’s why you pound it flat. If you are pulling the pots by hand, then you can attach the weights to the line anyway that works for you.

The law says you will have your line weighted. The reason is that if it’s not, then at a slack tide most nylon/plastic lines will float near your float. This can cause problems with other boaters getting it wrapped around their props.

Many crabbers use the snap-on line weights and others wrap quarter-inch lead sinker wire around the line.

Bait is most important, so make sure you have good stuff for them to nibble on.

It’s true that crabs are scavengers and they’ll eat anything. It’s also true they like some things more than others.

Tradition says to use fish heads, fish guts, etc. They work, but if you want to catch more crabs use prime stuff. Albacore and halibut filets, providing you don’t want them for yourself, are really good. Make it more “flavorful” with anchovies chopped into thirds.

Also a good bet are squid and herring combos (herring also chopped into thirds). Rockfish filets work as do rockfish carcasses but here on Whidbey Island, a lot of folks use chicken parts for bait. Saar’s Market usually has chicken in bulk on sale, good for barbecuing or crabbing.

Remember to use a bait container. Containers with slits that are made for pots, and suspend one from the top of the pot. Don’t put your bait on the bottom of the pot, it doesn’t work as well there. Silt collects in it and the first couple of crabs can eat it or move it around and out of the pot.

You should fill the container about two-thirds full and leave room for a little water circulation to spread the scent over as large an area as you can.

Make sure you don’t throw your old bait overboard. It’s dumb to throw the old bait into an area where you are putting your pots.

Put pots in a straight line, don’t put your pots in the water any old way. If a storm comes through or there’s a big swell, you won’t be able to find them. Take a reading on your GPS when you throw out your first one, then follow a compass heading to dump the other pots in a straight line. They should be about 100 yards apart, or a little more. When you set your last pot, take another GPS reading. Now you can find all of your pots by just following the line you took laying them out.

Crabs move and so should you. Crabs migrate around and the hot spot yesterday might get you skunked today. Don’t continue to put your pots in the same place, move around. And if a spot isn’t hot, come back to it a couple of weeks later and try again.

When dropping off a pot, check area and the tide first. If you drop off a pot in an area of no current at low or slack tide and do not allow a extra long amount of line, you can come back at a higher tide and your pot float will not be in sight.

Remember when crabbing the ocean you want to be in at least 65 or 70 feet of water.

Here are a few more tricks.

Take an empty soda can and put a couple of rocks in it. Then punch a hole in it so you can tie it inside your pot. It is supposed to make a rattling noise that attracts crab.

If you put a steel or cast iron weight in the bottom of the pot, you should consider putting a zinc anode on the metal. If there is the right combination of metals there can be electrolysis, which is in reality a small electrical charge, that may repel the crabs — guaranteed to make you come away empty handed and hungry.

Anyway, happy fishing and eating. Good luck.

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