The Shimano Tekota reel has been on the market for around a decade now and is one of the favorite reels of big water fishermen here in the NW. Even though this reel comes in a non line counter version you rarely see them in use, it’s the line counter Tekota that everyone utilizes. I’ve used the Shimano Tekota 500 LC reel on my guide boat during every trip going on 9 years now and I’m going to share my experience and take on the good and bad regarding its construction and performance. This is a robust reel with a lot of quality and great features but it does have some flaws and downside. We’re going to take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Shimano Tekota 500 LC.
The Shimano Tekota’s Line Counter
This reel has the best integrated line counter on the market. Oftentimes you will see a line counter reel that looks like the manufacturer added the line counter as after thought. This isn’t the case with the Tekota LC, the line counter is cleanly integrated into the reel and the counter’s rounded corners make it comfortable to hold.
The line counter itself is durable and with minimal maintenance, will outlast the other components on the reel during heavy use. I’ve never had the line counter mechanism fail. The only problems I’ve had with the actual line counter are fogging of the display window due to internal moisture. On another occasion the plastic see through window covering the line distance numbers came off. These reels hold approximately 225 yards of 65# braided line. One downside that isn’t obvious even after using the reels for a while is that the reel needs to be completely loaded with line in order for the line counter to be accurate. So when you break off 20 to 50 yards of line, please realize that there is going to be a difference in the amount of line that this reel says is deployed verses the other reels in your spread. This can be a huge problem when targeting suspended fish or when fishing multiple rods down the same side of the boat. A little bit of lost line isn’t enough to make much of a difference but if your reel has noticeably less line on it make sure you compare how much it is off so you can still keep it fishing at the same level as the others. The “less than full” line counter problem that is inherent in this reel is also a major reason to not use the larger Tekota 600 LC unless you really plan on doing some deep drop fishing and don’t mind having to respool an extra 100+ yards onto the reel to keep its line counter accurate. The 600 LC’s high line capacity is nice but if you don’t really need that much line, you will find it prohibitively expensive to keep filling such a large reel all the way to the top with braid every time the reel gets a little less than full.
An obvious advantage that the Tekota has over traditional level wind reels, is its large oversize handle. This handle allows the angler to get a great grip and allows anglers without much coordination to still effectively crank fast. New anglers find this handle style easier to use then the traditional double handle bass reel style. The grip itself has a rubber insert that covers the metal rivet that attaches the grip to the handle. This rubber insert has fallen out on a few occasions. Please keep in mind that my reels see very heavy use and that this probably won’t happen to most anglers.
I do very little if any maintenance on my reels and I have never had a problem with any type of corrosion on Tekotas, they seem very impervious to salt water corrosion issues. Fishing reels like any good tool are supposed to look good, and Tekotas look great but there is one exception to this. The side plates of the reel are anodized aluminum but the middle section is painted. The paint on this middle section will chip and flake off when abused, which is to be expected of a painted surface. I don’t know why Shimano doesn’t anodize the whole reel but I wish they would because a reel with chipped up paint doesn’t look as good as an anodized surface that is scuffed up. The line out clicker is loud but not too loud, and it holds up well to constant use. This reel has always had an adequate drag and retrieval rate for the fish that we fish for here in the NW. However I wouldn’t say that they have a high retrieval rate or an extremely strong drag when compared to some of the latest reels that have been created for just this purpose, but keep in mind none of these new reels have line counters. If you use G. Loomis rods be prepared to have a constant issue with having to tighten and retighten the reel seat when using these reels. G. Loomis needs to make a slightly larger reel seat to accommodate the size of this reel’s foot. I don’t think this is a Shimano issue but it’s worth mentioning here. I used to burn up or break Abu Garcia level wind reels in six to twelve months! Now I get about 2 years of use out of a Tekota 500 LC, sometimes more. These reels will last longer under normal use but I use them 200 days a year for every species that we fish for, salmon, steelhead, bottom fish and sturgeon. Some of our sturgeon are 8+ feet long and fighting these huge fish is what really does a number on these reels. I also troll heavy lead (16 to 20 oz) which also accelerates the wear and tear on these reels. Under normal use a person can probably expect 10 years to possibly a lifetime of use. In the event that something fails on one of these reels, I have had good success sending them back to Shimano to be repaired. A typical repair bill is $30 to $40 and the turnaround to get them back is generally three to five weeks. The bottom line is this, you can find a better reel to fish with but if it’s a line counter reel that you need, you will be hard pressed to find a better one then the Shimano Tekota LC series. For the longest time this has been the best line counter reel available, however the combination of durability, quality construction and aesthetics make the Daiwa Saltist a good runner up.
The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!
Does the Willamette River’s Multnomah Channel play a part in the lanes springers will be using to travel?
Yes a very large percentage of the Willamette River Spring Chinook will take the Multnomah Channel route to get up into the main-stem Willamette. The Channel comes in about 15 miles downstream of the Willamette Mouth so it is the first strong smell of the Willamette they get and it is apparently mighty alluring!
What are the preferred Willamette boat ramps to access the Willamette?
Starting from the mouth of the Willamette and working upstream, they are; Fred’s Marina, Cathedral Park, Swan Island, Willamette Park, Jefferson Street Boat Ramp, Oak Grove, Cedar Oak, Meldrum Bar, Clackamette Park, Sportcraft Marina, Bernert Landing. I’ve never launched above Willamette Park so I’m just quoting (http://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/library/d…Guide.pdf?ga=t) for the launches above there.
What are good stretches to troll herring downhill (other than follow the other 1,000 boats)?
Assuming you’re talking about the Willamette. Because the current tends to run much slower then the Columbia, it isn’t as important to troll with the current in this river, unless of course the current is running hard and you aren’t making any headway upstream. Most folks in the Willamette focus on a specific area (such as the Sellwood Bridge) and troll up and down working the different ledges. In the harbor (downstream from downtown Portland) folks troll pretty randomly until they find fish and then they work the fishy areas hard.
If herring does not seem to be the trick, would you switch up to a bright spinner while trolling or try to play the anchor and kwikfish type of game?
If folks are catching fish around you on herring then I would stay with herring. If fish aren’t being caught at all then it isn’t because of the herring it’s because the fish aren’t in that location or the tide is wrong. The best time to catch spring chinook is an hour before and an hour after the tide change, so if I wasn’t catching fish or seeing them caught, I would head downriver toward the tide change. Once the bite stopped there, I would head upriver toward the tide change (it’s much harder to chase the tide change upriver than to find it downriver, it happens pretty fast as it moves upstream.) I don’t anchor fish for Springers, it just isn’t as effective for me as trolling herring or prawns.
When fishing Drano Lake, I notice quite a few guides start out early in the morning trolling wrapped Kwikfish, what’s the best way to ensure your offering is getting down to where the fish are?
See that’s the key … you don’t need to get down to where they are, they aren’t deep. The fish are shallow really early in the morning and standard Kwikfish and Super Flatfish work great during that time. Folks troll them 50′ to 60′ back which is plenty of line to get them down. Well why wouldn’t prawns work that early in the morning? They would but if you run them shallow i.e 10 to 14 feet down, the boat spooks the fish and they don’t see your offering which is right below the boat. If you found a way to get the prawns back that far and still shallow they would probably work equally well. If you want to get your Kwikfish deeper run a bead chain or two on your line or even a small sinker. Kwikfish really seem to work at Drano during cold water years and early in the seaon before the water has warmed up. Obviously the best place to use them is in the main lake where you can let that much line out and not interfere with other anglers. Kwikfish also target those shallow fish that most anglers don’t target because most anglers fish directly below the boat which is a must when you’re in close quarters, but when your out in the lake you can fish the whole water column.
We all know the popular spots on the Columbia River for Spring Chinook, but the fish have to move between them and I can’t believe they cannot be caught in those places also?
The popular spots are popular and tend to be productive for one or two of the following reasons; they hold fish, and/or they are easy to fish. The best and seemingly most popular are where both of these reasons happen in the same spot. Fish move from holding location to holding location during the early to mid part of the season, after that the majority of them are blasting through. They can be caught in the in-between areas but like you and I discussed on the phone the other day … do you really want to devote the limited amount of hours in the day to the in-between areas where even if they are there they may or may not be willing to bite? Or do you want to get the heck upstream or downstream to where you know the next holding area or tide change is going to be happening? Spring Chinook fishing isn’t easy and I want to spend my time in the most productive water possible. The key difference between Tillamook tide water and the lower 146 miles of the Columbia River is that in Tillamook those fish are only a few miles and days/weeks from spawning and their spawning grounds. Spring Chinook are in a different part of their life cycle and hundreds of miles and at least a month or even months away from spawning. So what I’m saying is that they aren’t holding in the Columbia like they would in the Wilson, when these fish move they don’t move to the next hole around the corner, they move 15 miles upstream, as the water warms, some don’t even stop. The exception to this rule would be the gigantic amount of fish that hold behind Bonneville Dam, but we don’t get much fishing time up there anymore. The correlation that you we’re drawing would be more likely to occur in the Willamette where the fish do hold for a much longer period of time before heading over the falls. There is always a certain stretch during May where you can pretty much expect to catch a springer behind every rock!
How deep does the water have to be before Spring Salmon will suspend? When they do suspend, will they split the difference between the top and bottom or do they favor a bit deeper vs a bit more shallow?
A certain percentage of the fish are always going to suspend and when this is a small percentage I find that I’m wasting my time fishing for them especially if the greater percentage is hugging the bottom. I would only target those suspended fish if the bottom was so snaggy that fishing very close to it proved to be a nightmare (i.e. so much time spent retying that I’m not being effective). More likely I would go to a location where the bottom suited the technique. I want to spend the bulk of my time in the zone, and the zone is defined as where the bulk of the fish are located AND where they are willing to bite AND where the pattern for harvesting them can be duplicated time and time again. I don’t find that the majority of the biting fish suspend in the Columbia. Just ask anyone who fished that deep water from the rail road bridge downstream to above Davis Bar last year. They may have caught a few fish (a very few fish) but most caught nothing in that deep water. How deep does the water have to be? Not trying to be elusive here, but that depends on the conditions. Last year we were catching fish on the bottom in 40 to 50 feet of water on the Columbia. However it was a unique year and I attribute that to the low flows that we were experiencing. I remember years past (2004) when I caught fish at Laurel Beach on anchor using Kwikfish in 35 to 40 feet of water. So what I am about to tell you is just a rule of thumb and the fish don’t often consult me so they don’t always know these rules. I believe they favor shallower water and they tend to move deeper as the day gets longer. “Spring Chinook will suspend between 16′ and 24′ when the water is deeper than 40′.” This is something we mostly focus on in the Willamette where we KNOW we are fishing on suspended salmon that are kind of holding or not really moving too fast. If you see a large number of them running shallower than this, I would venture to say that it is later in the (Columbia) season and that what you’re actually seeing is steelhead.
Is there a need to brine herring or sardines before you wrap the Kwikfish?
No I don’t believe there is a need to this before hand.
Is there a need to add any scents after wrapping the plugs for a better scent trail, what do you guys do?
You can juice them up with sardine oil and all kinds of other scents but I typically just fish them as fresh wraps and then after 20 to 30 minutes I will pull them in and juice them up really well with Sardine Oil and put them back out for another 20 minutes. After that I pull them in and put on new bait wraps.
Crabbing is a lot of fun and an inexpensive and rewarding way for the whole family to get out and enjoy a day on the water with the added reward of catching a great meal!
This article focuses on crab fishing for Dungeness crab but could be applied to harvest other types of crab, make sure you check your local regulations before heading to the water.
Dungeness Crab are found in the Pacific Ocean, its river estuaries, and bays. They inhabit the ocean and bays from as far south as Santa Barbara, California all the way north to the Pribilof Islands in Alaska, and every bay and river entrance in between.
This large population and wide distribution makes them a very popular target for recreational crabbers as well as an important economic resource for commercial crabbers and coastal communities.
When looking for a great place to catch Dungeness, remember that the general rule is “the closer to the ocean the better”. Dungeness need saltwater to survive and they find high levels of freshwater to be toxic. The higher the salinity, the more crabs you’re going to find.
Dungeness Crab can be found on all bottom types but the preferred bottom material for an adult Dungeness is sand or sandy mud.
Best time of day for crab fishing – incoming tide.
The best time of the day to catch Dungeness Crab is during the incoming tide. This tide doesn’t flow as hard as the outgoing tide and it’s easier for the crabs to walk around without fighting heavy current or getting washed away. The incoming tide also has a higher salinity so it is more comfortable for them.
When crab fishing in rivers you will find that the outgoing tide combined with the river’s flow is much stronger than the incoming tide and it’s a frequent occurrence for a crabber to start dropping their gear, just to watch the pot, line and floats all go under. The heavy outgoing current can suck your floats under. Don’t worry you can still get it back … as long as you weighted your pot heavily, it won’t go anywhere. You just have to wait for the tide to go slack and your floats will pop up.
Best time of year for crabbing.
Crabbing is best from July through December and the quality of the crab and their numbers get progressively better as this season progresses.
Because of the crabs’ aversion to freshwater, crabbers find that crabbing in river mouths and estuaries during winter and spring months (January through June) is not nearly as productive as crabbing in the same locations from July to December. The rains and associated high runoff push the Dungeness to the extreme lower reaches of the bays or completely out to into the ocean.
During the late summer, fall, and early winter months the crabs don’t smell the freshwater and they make their way back into the coastal bays. July typically marks the beginning of recreational crabbing season here in Oregon. In July we have an abundance of crab but the condition of the crabs varies from year to year and location to location.
Dungeness spawn during spring and early summer months, at this time the females shell will be very soft, but the males shell will be hard. Hard shelled crab are also know as “full crab” because they are full of meat. Hard Dungeness are preferred over soft crab and in some locations it is unlawful to harvest soft shelled Dungeness.
So in July you can sometimes find the right combination of conditions where there are a good number of crabs inshore because the salinity/temperature levels are right and the males are still hard shelled. Some years this is the case and you can catch good numbers of full males that have yet to molt and lose their shell. During other years the spawn happens early, the majority of the males have molted by July, and have put all of their body mass (meat) into making their new shell and aren’t worth keeping.
As summer progresses into fall and early winter, the crabbing just gets better and better. The peak month is generally December before the inshore water temperature gets too cold and the freshwater arrives from heavy rains or snow melt.
How to catch Dungeness Crab
There are almost as many ways to capture a crab as there are ways to catch a mouse! Every year we see new revisions of the tried and true crab trap or pot and new explanations on why this new type works better than its predecessors.
Ultimately there are three different approaches to catching Dungeness Crabs; pots or traps, rings, and snares. We are going to go into detail about each of these methods.
Crab Pots also know as crab traps come in a variety of shapes and sizes, are a typically made out of a steel support structure covered with woven stainless wire, or made of a heavy wire cage/grid.
We are going to break these crab pots into two types; the traditional steel with stainless mesh variety, and the econo wire cage variety.
Traditional Style Crab Pot
This style of pot is heavy duty and durable. These in my opinion are the best all around pot to use, however they are expensive.
Traditional pots fish well for extended periods of time soaking unattended.
Crabs are well trapped and can’t get out easily. The crab entrance on this style of crab pot are centered on the sides of the pot, with a ramped wire rectangular tunnel leading to the door. When the crab follows the short tunnel and enters the door he then drops off of the tunnel down to the floor of the trap. Since the door of the trap is raised up off of the bottom, it keeps the new crabs from easily blocking the door open and allowing the existing crabs to escape.
This style is the heaviest because of the steel structure, but their weight varies depending on the amount of steel used. Most come with added steel re-bar weights so they don’t drift away during heavy tidal or current flows. Get the heaviest pots you can handle, you don’t want them moving around once you drop them.
Durability. If you buy quality pots and take care of them, they are going to last you a long time.
If they get partially buried in the sand they won’t easily deform or break when you use the boat or heavy engine driven pot puller to pull them loose of the sand.
This style is large and holds the most crab of any option available.
If you get the really big ones (we’re talking commercial size) and someone tries to pull your pot to steal your crab… they are only going to try (maybe unsuccessfully) once because these babies are heavy and they are really heavy when they have 50 keepers plus all of the throw backs in them! Thieves don’t want to work hard.
These pots are the most expensive option. Quality doesn’t come cheap and spending $80 to $130 per pot is typical depending on the size and construction.
Traditional crab pots have raised doors, so it requires the crab to do a little bit of climbing and searching to find the entrance, so these traps don’t fill as fast as the cage variety or rings.
Heavy and take up a large amount of space in the boat and wherever they are being stored.
Hard to lift into the boat because they are heavy to begin with, and they are much heavier when filled with crab.
Plastic Coated Wire Cage Style Crab Pot
These aren’t pots that are intended to be left soaking, or unattended for extended periods of time. This style works best when it’s checked frequently and not left overnight. A lot of folks think crabbing is a set it and forget it type of sport, but with pots like these you don’t have that luxury. If you want to drop the pot and come back whenever you want, but not risk having your crabs get away or your pot getting washed away, you really need the heavy traditional variety.
Because of their design, if you are checking and re-baiting this style of pot every 45-60 minutes, they will hands down out fish all of the other options out there. They fish really fast. Crab can get in these pots quickly and if you pull the pot before the bait is gone and before problems can start occurring, then you can limit really fast!
Cheaper than traditional style pots.
Lighter in weight and can often be collapsed for easier storage.
This style of pot fishes fast! These pots fill with crab quickly. This is because each of their 4 doors (traditional pots only have two doors) being level with the river/bay bottom the crab doesn’t have any climbing to do to find their way inside.
Doors are level with the river/bay bottom which means that if the door is blocked open by an entering crab, stick etc, then the other crabs can and do get out once there is no bait left for them to eat. (They can eat all of the bait really fast, often in less than 45 minutes depending on how you rigged your bait.)
This is something that most crabbers using this style of pot don’t realize … having four doors means that one of the doors will always be facing into the current/tide and can be easily opened by the flowing water pressure especially if the door gets coated with drifting seaweed. More seaweed = more water resistance = open door. When this happens your dinner escapes! Traditional pots with only two doors and the doors being raised aren’t as susceptible to this problem.
These pots rust easily and don’t have the life expectancy of a traditional pot. With low to moderate recreational use you can expect to get three to five years from this style.
Cage style pots lack the heavy rebar weights and support structure which makes them light weight. Light weight pots are easily pushed around by tides and currents. These should be used in very light current or be weighted with rebar or bricks to keep them anchored in place.
I often hear of “stolen pots” when in reality the crabber just lost their un-weighted pots to the tide because they were washed away.
These pots aren’t typically as large as the traditional variety which means they don’t hold as many crab.
These pots may be cheaper but when you’re losing the pots or not catching as many crabs, their low price starts to go up.
There are two types of crab rings. The typical basket style where you have an inner ring covered in mesh with the mesh extending to an outer ring. Ropes attach to the outer ring, when these ropes connected to the main line get pulled the outer ring lifts and the whole unit becomes a basket which holds the crab as this is pulled to the surface. Crabs can and do crawl out as these are being lifted to the surface.
Crabs aren’t trapped in this device, they are able to come and go as they please, and they go quickly when the bait is gone.
The second type of crab ring is somewhat of a combination ring/pot device. It has a steel support structure with a wire mesh top and bottom but with raisable/lowerable sides made of nylon mesh. When this ring hits the bottom the sides fall down and the crab can enter, but when the crabber pulls on the line to raise the ring to the surface, the sides lift and the crabs are trapped during their journey to the surface.
Crab rings are not made to be left unattended. This is for active crabbing only. You want to have good bait and you only let the ring soak for 5 to 15 minutes before checking it.
Obviously with this setup if you aren’t checking it frequently the crabs are going to leave when the bait is gone.
Crab rings because of their light weight, are easy to pull and are typically used from docks where they can be lowered or thrown out away from the dock.
Crab Snares (Crab Angling)
Crab snares are generally made to be cast out with a rod and reel. The most commonly seen of these devices is the “Noose” variety which has a stainless steel ring, or small bait box, with heavy plastic (heavy weed eater line) slip nooses extending from it. Bait is placed in the middle of the ring/box, the crab eat upon this bait, and when the crab angler reels in they hope the slip nooses tighten around one or more crabs.
There are assorted other varieties as well. All in all this is really a device that is great for kids that want to have fun catching crab but not an adequate tool for folks that are serious about obtaining a limit. However if crabbing access is limited to locations such as beaches, jetties, or break waters this may be the only realistic solution.
What’s the best crab bait? Ask 100 people and you’re probably going to get 100 different answers. Everyone has their own little secret method it seems.
Commercial crabbers use a lot of sardines; they buy these in large frozen blocks and chunk or chop these blocks into manageable sizes and bait their pots. They also use a lot of the same stuff that recreational crabbers use.
This is the list of bait that I use in the order that I would use it, if obtaining it, and cost weren’t an issue.
Raw Albacore Tuna (not the canned variety), American Shad.
Sardines (not the canned variety), Salmon carcasses.
Canned cat food, canned tuna, canned mackerel. Poke holes in the can and wire it to the pot/ring or dump the contents of the can into a bait jar.
Raw Chicken, Turkey legs. Don’t forget you can get salmonella poisoning from raw poultry. Don’t let the kids bait the crab pots and then eat a sandwich. Wash your hands after baiting. One advantage of poultry is that sea lions and seals won’t eat it, so if you’re having a problem with these critters chicken/turkey is a good bet. It’s also a very durable long lasting bait.
There are places where you can buy mink. I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the furry little animal they make coats out of. I mean really … what did you think happened to the rest of the animal after they took its skin off? Yes, they sell it to crabbers on the Oregon coast and probably other places as well. Is it great bait? No … but the crabs eat it, the seals won’t, and it’s often readily available at the same place you rent your crab rings. What do you tell the kids? I don’t know, but whatever you do don’t tell them it’s a Weiner Dog … I’ve seen the fall out from this one and I’m here to tell you, it’s ugly!
Filleted out bottom fish that they sell you when you rent your crab rings. Guys this is a losing deal. These bottom fish are filleted by folks who make it their whole mission in life to not leave an ounce of meat on that carcass. It isn’t great crab bait. The crabs pick clean in short order whatever morsel of flesh was left on those bones, and bare bones don’t make good crab bait. Now what do you do? You have to head back to the crab ring rental guy to buy more bait. If this sounds like a good deal to you then I want to sell you a really cheap printer and some expensive ink cartridges. Bring cheap canned tuna and turkey legs instead.
How to bait your crab pots
(This is mainly for pots, but if modified could apply to rings as well.)
This is a really simple deal but a lot of folks don’t understand it until it’s explained to them. Crabs like to eat. Use a lot of bait in your pots and you are going to send out a lot of scent attracting a lot of crabs who in turn are going to start eating your big pile of bait which in turn is going to make noise and release smell and attract more crabs!
Use a lot of bait, really load that pot up!
There are a few different ways to place your bait in the pot. Bait boxes and bags are the most preffered methods because they enclose the bait keeping the crab from getting at it easily.
Bait bags also known as Chewy Bags allow you to hang a lot of bait in the pot. These are also nice when you want to prep at home and fill the bags there instead of doing in on the water.
This is a great crabbing secret … give them something they can get too and eat, and give them something really good that they can’t get to (or can’t easily get) in the pot. The first bait gets them in there eating and attracting more crab, the second bait keeps attracting more crab after all of the main bait has been eaten. Lot’s of folks like to use Razor Clams for this bonus bait.
If you’re soaking your pots for a long period of time then use a bait cage or a chewy bag for your main bait and use a bait can/jar for your bonus bait.
If you’re actively fishing your pots, i.e. pulling them every couple of hours then I wouldn’t worry about the bonus bait; but I would heavily bait my pots with twice as much bait as I think I need, and then load it up again every time I pulled them. This needs to be your motto when baiting crab pots … “If a lot of bait is good then a ton is better!” Load those pots with a lot of high quality bait, and don’t skimp on bait, you came a long way and are spending a lot of time and money to catch crab, so do it right.
Rigging the crab pot, line, and floats.
Correctly rigging your crab pot’s line, floats and bait holders is essential to catching limits of crab and keeping from losing your pots. I typically use 75’ of crab line and I crab in 40’ of water or less with a double float setup. When rigging your pots you really need to have a scope of 2:1 or even 3:1. At least two to three times the depth of water you may find yourself crabbing in. Why so much? This extra line compensates for the current and tide pulling against the rope and allows the rope to angle back and keeps your floats from getting sucked under water. Using the correct type of rope is critical. Too often I see crab buoys floating with 100 feet of yellow polypropylene rope trailing behind them. This yellow rope floats on the surface and will entangle your boat prop and the prop of other boaters and is a serious boating hazard. In some states it is illegal to use floating rope such as this. Crabbers try to use this rope because it’s cheap, but that isn’t an acceptable reason considering the danger you are putting someone else in because you want to save a few bucks. If you insist on using this rope, don’t be surprised if you come back to your pots to find that one or more has been run over by a boat and the line has been chopped off by their captain when he had to cut it loose from his prop. It happens all the time. The correct rope for rigging your crab pot is not available at the local hardware store, you can only get it at sporting good or maritime supply stores. A common name brand for crab rope is “Blue Steel Crab Line” also generically referred to as lead line. This rope is bluish grey or greenish grey in color, is moderately stiff (keeps the knots and tangles down), and most importantly it sinks rapidly.
If you can’t order lead line and you don’t have access to a store that sells it, buying nylon rope from the hardware store will work. Make sure it is nylon, it’s soft and white and it will sink. The yellow rope and the multi color braided ropes you see are made from polypropylene, this material floats, this material is designed to be used as docking rope or for other applications, but definitely not for crab line and certainly not as a boats anchor rope.
Attaching the crab line to the traditional (heavy steel construction) round pot
If you bought your crab line in a pre-measured length with a loop already created in one end, you’re one step ahead of the game. If your crab line doesn’t have a loop in one end, go ahead and create one by doubling the line over and tying a double overhand knot.
Next take this loop and go twice around the top edge of the pot where one of the side supports attaches. I like to tie onto the pot on one of the sides, not on the door side but not directly opposite of the door either. If the outside middle of the door was 12 o’clock I like to tie in at 9:00 or 3:00. Now pass the top end of the line through the loop and draw the loop up tight.
We tie onto these pots in one location rather then having four ropes coming together at a central point and then attaching this to the main line. The reason we use this single point method for tying onto the pot is because when you soak crab pots for an extended period of time they can settle into the bottom and get partially buried. If you were tied onto the pot in four locations the pulling force would be evenly distributed across the pot and it would be very difficult to get it broken free from the bottom. Tying onto one side of the pot allows that side to be lifted and released from the bottom with the rest of the pot then pulling out. The other method tries to force the whole pot out at once.
Attaching the crab line to the cage style (plastic coated wire) pot
Attach two ropes in a rectangle pattern at four points on the top of the pot. Make sure you allow enough room for the lid to open. The ropes should cross in the middle of the pot, at this intersection tie in your main line.
Crab pot floats
In some states like Washington it is the law that you use a red and white crab float and your name, address and phone number must be written on it. In other states this is not required; however it is still very important to be able to explicitly identify your floats.
I have found over the years that using two floats is a great way to identify your pots and also helps keep your floats above water. Most crabbers only use one float and if there is a strong tide or current this one float can easily be pulled under water.
Rig your floats with the nose (pointy end) down, (toward the pot) so the flat end is facing up. This makes them more streamlined and creates less drag on the line which could dislodge your your pots and allow them to be swept away. Tie the first buoy in place nose down about 7 or 8 feet down the line from the top end; secure it in place on the line with a large knot in front of and behind the buoy. After the bottom buoy is in place secure the top buoy in place allowing a gap between the buoys of four to five feet. This gap allows the bottom buoy to take the brunt of the being sucked under wave/tide action while still keeping the top buoy floating. The double float setup with this gap also provides a great place for you to grab the line when you are retrieving your pots.
Pulling your pots
This is assuming your crabbing from a boat. When it’s time to pull your first pot, make sure you approach it from the down current side, this way you can slowly approach your crab pot and not overrun it because the current is pushing you along.
I like to pull the pots over the side rather than over the bow, there is more room to work inside the boat and less likely that someone is going to fall over board.
An extendable boat hook is great for hooking your floats so you can bringing the line and floats into the boat so the pot can be pulled up.
Remember crab pots can damage the gel coat and paint on any boat so if you care about this make sure you tell your helpers to not hit the boat with the pot and to not rest the pot on the side of the boat. This isn’t something people don’t realize until it’s often too late. Alternatively you can place a large rug or rubber mat over the rail and side of the boat to protect it.
Measuring your crab
You’re only allowed to keep male Dungeness crab, check your local regulations for size, seasons and limits.
You need a couple crab gauges also called calipers, preferably the variety that are aluminum or stainless. Stay away from the plastic variety because they break easily and you are left with nothing to measure the crab.
Dungeness Crab are measured across the top of their backs in front of the horns that stick out from their shell. Remember it either is or it isn’t a keeper, there is no maybe or close enough. The shell has to be touching on both sides of the gauge. Hold the gauge level across the crabs back, pushed up against the horns, if there is any gap at all then it is an undersize crab.
Storing your crab after catching it.
5 gallon buckets work great because they are light, they stack well, and they can be used throughout the trip for a variety of chores.
This is the most important thing to remember after you throw your crabs in a bucket. Crabs need oxygen. 15 crabs in a bucket full of water can deplete that water’s oxygen level fairly fast, especially if it is warm out. You need to make sure you’re changing the water out on a regular basis or your catch is going to die. When crabs die they start to spoil, and they spoil even faster in warmer temperatures. Spoiled crab and seafood will make you sick like you wouldn’t believe!
If your catch looks lethargic go ahead and give them some new water. Even if they don’t look lethargic don’t be afraid to freshen up their water.
Cleaning your catch
There are two approaches to cleaning Dungeness crab. Cook them whole and then clean them, or clean them and then cook them.
If you cook them whole, you don’t have to worry about killing them to clean them. The downside to this method is that whole crabs take up more room in the pot then do cleaned crab. You will either need a bigger pot or be happy with cooking fewer at a time.
If you clean them first, you will need to kill them. One easy way is to hit them between the eyes with a hatchet or heavy knife. Another approach is to put them into the boiling water for a few seconds and then pull them out with tongs and then clean them.
Crab are cleaned by removing the top of the shell from the main part of their body. Grip the shell from the rear, just under its edge, and pull it up and forward until it comes completely off. It takes a little effort but it shouldn’t be very difficult to remove.
Now flip the crab over and pulling from the rear forward, remove the long pointy part of the shell that is used to tell if it is a male or female.
Using running water clean all of the yellow guts and anything else that doesn’t look like meat out from the inside of the shell.
Cook them now or if they’re already cooked put them in a bag on ice.
Dungeness crab are cooked by boiling them, get the water boiling as soon as you can. If you’re using a large crab cooker with a lot of water in it, it’s going to take up to a half an hour to get the water up to a boil. Get this water boiling while you are cleaning the crab or call home or back to the dock and have someone start the water boiling so it is ready when you get there.
There are several varieties of packaged “Crab Boil” available that you can add to your boiling water to season and flavor your crab. Personally I just prefer to add several large handfuls of rock salt to the water and call it good. Many people are afraid of over salting the water but I’ve personally never found a level of salt that was too much but I’ve definitely seen too little.
Bring the water to a boil, drop the crabs in the pot and then boil the crab for 16 – 20 minutes. Since inserting the crab dramatically lowers the boiling water’s temperature, the 16 to 20 minutes begins after the water is boiling again.
After cooking the crab, ice them down by putting them in a plastic bag covered above and below with ice, many people just put the crab directly on ice but when the ice melts the freshwater washes much of the flavor out of your crab. Use lots of ice! This is seafood and it needs to get cold as soon as possible and needs to be kept cold.
Important Conservation Notes
Folks it’s important that if you’re going to go crabbing that you are aware of the long term impact that a lost crab pot can have on the environment.
Please use adequate gear for the location you’re crabbing so that it doesn’t get swept away or pulled under and lost; only to have it kill crabs, and fish for months or even years to come.
Lost pots are called ghost pots and they take several years to rust away and probably even longer for the ropes to disintegrate. In the meantime they present a hazard to wildlife, boaters, and fishermen who can get the rope caught in their boat prop or snag it with their fishing gear.
Please use long enough rope (sinking crab rope), multiple floats on each line, and weight the pot heavily so it stays where you drop it. If you have never crabbed before don’t just assume it’s going to be ok, make sure you follow these rules or you’re going to lose your gear and have a frustrating experience.
The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!
Lake Merwin Reservoir is part of the Lewis River drainage and can be accessed via Hwy 503 that runs through Woodland, WA. Lake Merwin has two access points for boaters, Speelyai Bay and Cresap Bay. Speelyai Bay is the first boat launch that you come to as you drive up Highway 503. Driving directions to Speelyai Bay can be found here: https://www.totalfisherman.com/lake_merwin_map.htm Catching Kokanee on Lake Merwin is a lot of fun and the average size Kokanee is 13″ to 15″ which makes them substantially larger then those found in Yale Reservoir (the next reservoir up Hwy 503).
Having a fish finder is critical to catching limits of Kokanee. A good fish finder allows you to locate the depth that the schools of Kokanee are running. Once you know the depth, then the best way to target Kokanee when trolling is via a downrigger. If you don’t have a downrigger you can also catch Kokanee using two – four ounce banana/kidney sinkers. If you’re going the sinker route, make sure you measure your line out via “pulls”. A pull is the distance of line you can pull from the reel to the first eye on the rod. I usually find the Kokanee from 17′ to 40′ down, but they can definitely be shallower and deeper. The standard setup for Lake Merwin Kokanee is a very limber 6.5′ to 8′ trout rod with preferrably a small level wind reel spooled with 30 pound braided line such as Sufix or Tuff Line. 30 pound braid is very thin in diameter and anything less makes it very difficult to deal with because it is too thin and limp. Level wind reels help keep twist out of the main line.
1. Tie your main line to a two to four ounce banana sinker (you want the sinkers that have bead chain swivels attached to them). 2. Next clip a Mack’s Lure Co. Trolling Snubber to the sinker. This trolling snubber is made from elastic tubing and stretches allowing your gear to give when the fish is fighting and keeps the hook from pulling out of the Kokanee’s soft mouth.
3. You now need to attach the critical fish attracting piece of hardware to your gear. The “pop gear” also known as “willow spins” “Ford Fenders” etc are a series of spinning metal or mylar blades attached so they can rotate around a two to three foot thin gauge cable. I personally prefer the willow shaped blades that are silver or half silver and half brass.
4. Next comes your leader. I like to run Sufix or Seaguar fluorocarbon in the 6# to 8# line class, and hook it to a wedding ring spinner rig. I like the green or red beads for the spinners. Sometimes the fish definitely show a preference for bead color so don’t be afraid to mix it up with other colors as well. I have found the brass or silver colored blades to work the best. I have had poor success with the butterfly wing shaped plastic blades.
One of the tricks that I have found to be super useful is to replace the standard single hook that the wedding ring spinners come with, andreplace themwith a hand tied double hook rig. This rig is similar to those used for trolling herring for salmon, but instead of large hooks, I use size 6 Red Gamakatsu Octopus hooks. I tie these as a a solid tie rig with the bend of the top hook touching the eye of the bottom hook, these are tied so there is no gap between the hooks. 5. The last and most important piece is the bait! I have tried several kinds but this is the one that works best … “Green Giant White Shoepeg Corn”.
Don’t try regular yellow corn, trust me on this one. White Shoepeg Corn is what the Kokanee want! I also think it’s really important to take the corn and drain the liquid off the night before, dump it into a plastic container or bag, and give it several drops of pure Anise Oil (don’t get the cheap baking Anise in your grocery store, it’s cut with alcohol and doesn’t work nearly as well) a bottle of pure Anise Oil will last you years of fishing.
Kokanne really like the smell of Anise Oil! Put one or two pieces of corn on each hook and you will be set! The corn can be frozen and kept for the next trip as well. Kokanee can be found throughout the lake. It is a big lake and finding them can be difficult for beginners, don’t be afraid to go to where you see other anglers fishing. You will know quickly if they are into the fish because you will see them being caught. If Kokanee aren’t being caught, don’t be afraid to try the area in front of Campers Hideaway, which is across the lake and to the left when you come out of Speelyai Bay (Camper’s Hideaway is the private campground on the opposite side of the lake from Speelyai Bay, they also have a small dock which will help you to identify it’s location). Another good location is when you come out of Speelyai Bay and turn right, fish the middle of the lake or closer to the North side of the lake where the waterfall dumps in. These have all been tried and true locations. If you’re not seeing fish on the fish finder and you aren’t getting bit on near the surface then don’t be afraid to experiment and try other locations in the lake. Lastly, make sure you troll slooooowwwww! .8 to 1.2 mph (GPS gives you the speed) and zig zag back and forth in your troll. Kokanee will often bite in the turn. A slow back and forth troll is deadly on Lake Mewin Kokanee!
The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!
I always tell customers that I’m not just their fishing guide when I’m on the water; I let them know that it’s OK to call or email me when they have fishing or boating questions. I’ve answered a few “relationship” questions too!
So if you have a question that you’ve been wondering about, email me here and let me know. I will get back to you with the answer and it will also be posted here so that other folks can benefit.
Here are some questions that I have received over the last year:
Can i use regular fluorocarbon line as a leader?
Yes, regular fluorocarbon line can be used as leader. Fluorocarbon line is obviously intended to be used as your main line, this is why you will notice that it’s very limp compared to fluorocarbon leader material. The resins used to make the leader and the line are often different, so you will see differences in stiffness (leader is stiffer) and abrasion resistance (leader is generally more abrasion resistant).
Secret sturgeon bait? What is the best bait for Columbia river sturgeon? What is the best sturgeon bait?
I don’t know of any “secret” sturgeon bait, but I’m sure there are some guys out there that have some. Guys the secret to catching sturgeon isn’t by having a gimmick like secret bait, it’s by knowing the fundamentals, spending a lot of time on the water, having a variety of baits and keeping the bait fresh. I will put my smelt, sand shrimp (ghost shrimp, mud shrimp), and anchovies, up against anyone’s “secret bait”. The best sturgeon bait on the Columbia and Willamette River outside of the estuary (lower 25 miles) is smelt, with sand shrimp coming in second. In the estuary the best baits are going to be fresh anchovies and sand shrimp. You want to have both with you because in some locations and on certain days the sturgeon show a preference for one over the other. If trash fish such as sculpins, Pike Minnows, a few crabs, etc were a big problem I would use squid, smelt, or anchovies wrapped with mesh and stretchy string. I don’t like using squid for bait and I also don’t like wrapping my bait with mesh. I prefer to go to a location where there are biting sturgeon and no trash fish, but on rare occasions this isn’t an option.
Can you give me some Columbia River salmon fishing tips?
Keep your bait fresh, don’t try to make your herring, prawns etc last too long. When in doubt change it out! 45 minutes or less is a about right for herring. 45-60 minutes for prawns but you want to inject them with scent half way through. Use lead for trolling on a short 12″ dropper, and forget about divers. Use a three hook rig for trolling bait (check your regulations). Anchor fishing with wobblers; tune your wobblers to get the desired action. Don’t just assume that the action they come out of the package with is the only action they are capable of. Bend them to change the action. Slather lots of scent on them too. Run line counter reels so you can duplicate success, and so you can add measurable variation to your spread of rods. Get a really good digital combo gps/fish finder. Wait for the fish to take it! The rod should be doubled over hard and line coming off the reel before you grab it. Way too many anglers grab the rod too fast and either don’t hook the fish or lose him on the way to the boat. Stop fighting the fish so hard. Just keep the line tight and let them run against a moderate drag. Pump up and reel down to get him in. When he pulls give to him. Remember … they aren’t always hooked well! When they are well hooked they won’t come off and you don’t need to horse them, when they aren’t well hooked you will appreciate having not pressured them too much.
What are some Longview, Washington fishing locations?
Longview, Washington is where the Cowlitz River enters the Columbia. Below this confluence is a great location to anchor for fall Chinook salmon. To access this water, a boater can launch from Rainier, Oregon; Gearhart Gardens on the Cowlitz (very shallow water); from the town of Kalama, Washington and run downstream to Longview; or from Willow Grove Boat Launch which is several miles downstream. Steelhead are also caught in good numbers from within the mouth of the Cowlitz River as well as off of local Columbia River beaches. The beaches at Willow Grove, County Line Park, and Kalama Bar are all productive bank steelhead locations. Sturgeon can be caught in this area as well.
More to come!
The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!
One of the biggest and most important achievements to transition from being a fisherman to becoming a fishing guide and captain is to obtain your Coast Guard License, i.e. Merchant Mariner Credentials. If you’re taking paying customers on a motorized boat on “federally navigable waterways” you will need a Merchant Mariner License.
For the Coast Guard’s Thirteenth District Navigable Waterways List (WA, OR, ID, MT)
The minimum MMC (Merchant Mariner Credential) that a guide must have to operate a power vessel for hire, is an OUPV or Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel, also known as a “Six Pack License” because you’re allowed to operate a boat and take six paying passengers.
There are three areas of operation that are available for the OUPV license. Inland, Near Coastal & Great Lakes. For all of these licenses 90 days of the 360 days of documented experience needs to be in the last three years. The Coast Guard measures a day as eight hours of on the water time.
Inland: All inland waters of the U.S. To qualify for an Inland route the applicant needs to document 360 days of qualifying sea service experience in the operation of vessels.
Near Coastal: Includes all inland waters of the US and all near coastal ocean waters within 100 miles of shore. To qualify for a Near Coastal route the applicant needs to document 360 days of qualifying sea service experience in the operation of vessels; 90 days of the qualifying experience must have been on ocean waters.
Great Lakes: 360 days deck service including 90 days service on Great Lakes.
If the answer is no, “you don’t plan on taking customers in a power boat on navigable waters”, then you don’t need to worry about the testing process required by the U.S. Coast Guard. You only need to satisfy your state’s requirements, which depending on where you plan on guiding may also include requirements from agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management.
Required and not required.
Different states have different requirements, some like Oregon are very good at making sure guides/charters have insurance, CPR/First Aid, and maintain their Coast Guard Licensing. Other states such as Washington say that the guide should have these things but don’t actually check or enforce such requirements.
In any event it is important for the guide to be clearly qualified for the duties of being a fishing guide. A great deal is riding on the guides ability to keep the customers safe, so whether required by the state or not, every guide should at a minimum be CPR/First Aid qualified, Coast Guard licensed and carry one million dollars or more of insurance for their business.
Another part of the minimum qualifications for being a guide is to not only being able to catch fish, but also being able to patiently instruct their clients on how to catch fish. Just because a person can catch fish doesn’t mean they are capable of being a guide and a good teacher. Being a good guide requires patience, the ability to explain things multiple ways, insight, and being excited about fishing. These are all things that a guide should have in the beginning and throughout their career.
Before entering the guide business, the prospective guide should have a good grasp on how they plan on growing their business as well as for how they plan on retaining the customers they acquire.
How are you planning on growing your business? You should have all of the steps laid out for growing your business before you go into business, it should be a part of your business plan. Remember having a successful and growing business is important to keeping you on the water all the time.
Most fishermen have mastered the mechanics of fishing, but it’s being on the water the majority of the time that really gives the guide his edge above most anglers. If your business is lacking in one area or another and it’s keeping you from being on the water, you’re going to see a decline in your abilities, it’s a downward spiral.
There’s a reason that guides who are on the water all the time, seem to catch the most fish, and have the most customers. It’s because they are on the water all the time, seeing what the fish are doing, and taking care of their customers! As a new guide you need to find a way to get there and stay there. If you can find a way to be on the water all the time, with customers in your boat, everything else in this business becomes very easy.
A full time guide’s perspective.
Being a fishing guide is one of those careers that qualifies as a “lifestyle job”. I believe most people would prefer a lifestyle where they get paid to do something that they truly love or is considered a hobby, but most don’t get the opportunity or just can’t make it happen. Getting paid to do this and being successful at it is something very special, and I definitely don’t take it for granted.
I think some would see this job as being somewhat glamorous or prestigious, which is maybe why we see some new fishing guides with what seems to be a little bit of arrogance or a chip on their shoulder. Remember the title says guide not god. You’re still just another guy with a rod in his hand running a boat. Fellow fishermen, guides, and your customers expect you to be friendlier, professional, courteous, and to give back more than you take, especially when you’re starting out. First impressions are lasting impressions.
Some of my fellow fishing guides have been guiding as long as I’ve been alive! I used to be one of the “young guides” out on the river but now there are quite a few that are younger than me. What I’ve noticed in the … going on 11 years … that I’ve been guiding, is that the folks that have lasted in this industry are the ones that have a great attitude and are friendly to everyone.
Staying power, the ability to weather the ups and downs of fish runs, the economy, and everything else, seems to be handled easily by these individuals. The guides that are high strung, arrogant, cocky, talk about how great they are, have no time for anyone else, drive their boat like an ass, tell their customers how great they are but how bad everyone else is … you get the point. These guys always struggle and just can’t make a career out of this, they come and go.
Remember, modesty goes a long way; nice guys get noticed and truly do finish first in this profession.
As much as you want everything to happen over night, i.e. tons of customers, reputation, sponsorships, etc none of this happens immediately. You need to put in your time, if it’s worth getting it’s worth working for and maybe having to wait for.
It used to be that anglers just had one decision to make when buying fishing line and that was determining how strong their line needed to be. “Hmmm do I need 6 pound or 8 pound?” Nowadays it’s a little tougher, there are lines that promise to do everything but clean and cook the fish! Tougher, smoother, more visible, invisible, stiffer, thinner, abrasion resistant, and the list goes on and on. Let’s forget about all of the features that are available across the myriad of brands and focus on one easy decision, why should I use fluorocarbon instead of traditional monofilament line? Monofilament is actually the term that can be generically applied to all single strand fishing lines, the more accurate term when we are talking about “good old mono” is nylon. Both nylon and fluorocarbon are essentially plastic lines that are made by extruding hot resin through tiny holes, taking what was once a hot soup of plastic and making it into a long thin filament of line. What makes the two products unique is the resin. It’s the stuff that’s in the soup that makes or breaks the line!
Dupont introduced the world to nylon in 1938 and in 1939 they created the world’s first nylon fishing line. However it wasn’t until 1959 when Dupont introduced the Stren brand that nylon fishing line rose above braided Dacron to become the standard line in use by most fishermen here in the U.S. Seaguar was the first fluorocarbon line ever made, and it has been around since 1971 when it was invented by Japan’s Kureha line company. Seaguar eventually found its way to the United States in 1992.
Fluorocarbon is being used by more and more fishermen because:
It’s known for its exceptional abrasion resistance.
Its ability to almost disappear under water.
It’s very dense which makes it sink well. Fluorocarbon will not float. Pay attention dry fly fishermen!
Normal heat, cold, and water have little effect on the strength of the line.
Doesn’t absorb water like nylon.
Since it has low stretch it provides better sensitivity.
Fluorocarbon is chemical resistant. Nylon isn’t, so be careful with that bug spray and sunscreen when using nylon!
Several years ago, fluorocarbon lines had an issue with knot strength but this is no longer the case. More manufacturers coming on line with more advanced equipment and resins have resulted in a very high tech product with exceptional knot strength. Ultraviolet rays from the sun, the heat of a hot car and cold winter fishing have an insignificant affect on fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon will last longer on the spool than nylon. You still have to re-spool when the line is looking bad or frayed, but with fluorocarbon you will have to do this less often. When buying fluorocarbon lines and leaders it is important to know that even though you are buying the same brand name, you may not be getting the same line in each package. This is a good thing because leader and main line perform different functions and need different characteristics. The manufacturer may not be using the same resin or process to make both its leaders and lines. Leaders are often designed to be stiffer and with less stretch whereas that same manufacturer’s line may be flexible with little memory and since it is intended for use as main line it will have more stretch.
We personally use braided main line, but use Maxima fluorocarbon leader material when fishing for salmon, steelhead and trout. I have found this material to be incredibly strong, and because it is so abrasion resistant it allows me to step down to a lighter leader such as 25 pound for spring Chinook and 40 pound for fall Chinook. When I was using nylon leader, I would use 30 pound in the spring and 50 or even 60 pound in the fall. We use the heavier lines in the fall because the salmon have harder, sharper teeth that will just slice through soft nylon lines. Since switching to fluorocarbon I have not had a single Chinook bite through the line. If there were any draw backs to using fluorocarbon line it would have to be that it is so darned expensive. This is the next generation of fishing line and the fluorocarbon manufacturing process uses the latest technology and in general it’s just more expensive to produce than nylon. 100% fluorocarbon can cost several times more than nylon, but it also catches more fish and lasts at least twice as long. Maxima fluorocarbon is the only brand that we currently use. There are some cheap fluoro resins available in other lines as well as fluoro-coated nylon lines, but nothing beats using the real thing when you fish for a living or if you live for fishing!
The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!