Marine Protected Areas are in effect in north coast

Bear season is closed; commercial crab season delayed again
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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I was dead set against the government marking off ocean waters from the Oregon border to Mexico and calling them Marine Protected Areas.

As I’ve stated since the discussion began, closing large areas off the coast is no way to properly manage a fishery. There could have been other methods of managing a fishery while still allowing sport-fishing angler access.

Community and personal testimony was allowed during the hearings. Oftentimes, sadly, regardless of the testimony against the areas under discussion, where even whole communities protested the establishment of the areas off their shores, the California Fish and Game Commission simply forged ahead, totally disregarding any testimony. The establishment of the MPAs went forward, adopted and, therefore, created.

Many anglers, including myself, take our boats to ocean waters to fish. Salmon and rock cod are the main fares in north state waters. Those who may pursue something like albacore tuna generally have to go many more miles offshore, beyond the MPAs.

So now, you or the skipper of a party boat must know the MPA boundaries.

No fishing, no diving, no anything is allowed in those defined areas, except to look at the pretty waves.

It’s especially important to know the MPAs when using your own boat. There are several methods to ensure you don’t get busted for being inside an MPA. A list of all north coast MPAs, including detailed regulations and maps, can be found at

You can use a GPS to track your location relative to any MPA. Additionally, you can view MPAs on nautical charts or other background maps by visiting MarineBIOS at

The North Coast MPAs are now active. Besides all arguments against them, it’s just that much more difficult boating in ocean waters now.


Bear season is closed


Are you holding 2012 bear tags you haven’t yet filled? Well, put away the big guns. The DFG officially closed the 2012 bear season on Dec. 18.

Some years ago, the DFG not only limited the number of bears that could be harvested but also the number of tags that could be sold.

Today, anybody who wants a bear tag can purchase it. The number of tags being issued is unlimited. However, the ceiling cap on the bear harvest is 1,700. When the DFG extrapolates the numbers and takes an educated guess that the magic number is going to be reached, it closes the season.

Remember, even if you didn’t harvest a deer or bear, you’re still supposed to report that on the DFG Web site at


Commercial crab season again delayed


Great news for the sport angler: The commercial crab fishing season north of Sonoma County has been further delayed. Now, it’s not set to open until Jan. 15. That means no commercial crabbing along the Mendocino County coast. There is a full-blown commercial fishery along the Sonoma County coast and points south.

The DFG is delaying the northern water fishery as the crab its testing is still considered under sized. Crabs aren’t considered harvestable until their meat level reaches 25 percent of their body weight.

Nothing stops you under sport-fishing rules, however. You can go on a party boat out of a port like Fort Bragg or take your own boat knowing you won’t have the competition of a commercial boat for the same crab.


Current fishing


The countdown is on. The American River, from Nimbus Dam downriver to the confluence, will have no fishing closures. The river, from its primary closure point from the power lines at Ancil Hoffman Park upriver to the dam, will re-open to all fishing Tuesday, Jan. 1.

That may not be good news, though. Any success on the river is going to be dependent on the weather. Continuing rain won’t bode well for the river.

Extra releases are being made from Folsom Lake to stay at its low, flood-control level. Whatever Folsom releases goes directly though Lake Natoma and out of the gates at Nimbus. Water flows are at 10,000 cubic feet, much too high to make for a fishery. High, fast, dirty water equals a dangerous area.

If the rain subsides, the river flows decrease, and then there might be a decent fishery on opening day. Steelhead will be there now and will still be there when the river is deemed more fishable.

Don’t be in a rush to get out on the river if it’s considered dangerous. Besides the obvious danger of high water conditions, there also is the issue of what equipment will work.

While you may really want to tie into a chrome bright hefty steelhead, fishing with heavy striper-type gear for something like a steelhead that may only go three to five pounds seems ridiculous. Using much heavier gear than you would under lower water conditions greatly reduces the sporting aspect of the fishery.

But, if the river level drops and the water clears, then the probability of a good fishery does exist. These fish run deep so you need to have enough weight on that line to allow you to bounce along the rocky bottom; but not too much weight that you consistently hang up.

Adjusting the weight you use to allow just the right drift can be tricky. It’s a fishery where, until you do get it right, you can expect to lose hooks.

For the bait caster, the majority of those who will hit the river, salmon eggs will work, as will fresh and cured roe or even a night crawler. A number of lures will work, such as a Glo bug, or anything else that emulates a salmon egg or a small cluster of salmon eggs, a steelhead’s favorite foodstuff.

If the river drops, the big gravel bar area around Sailor Bar is a favored spot and where I caught my first steelhead. There is fishable water on either side upriver, just below the hatchery.

As the river opens to fishing Jan. 1, that also is the day new fishing licenses will be required.

Contact George deVilbiss at