(Interestingly, the reason for this assessment is that Dungeness populations have exploded in the last four years, during which Central Coast crab crops averaged 14 million pounds per season. The average for the last decade was 4 million pounds, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It's normal for crab populations to rise and fall in 7- to 10-year cycles, but this recent rise is extreme by traditional standards.)
Anyway. Before you get started, here is a list of everything you will need:
2. Bait boxes. If you want the crabs to wander into your trap, you're going to need a bait box. (You know. The box you put your bait in.) They come in all shapes, sizes and prices. But based on experience, I recommendthese:
The other nice thing about these over other traps is that they're super easy to refill. The box unscrews from the lid, so you don't have to cut or maneuver around the zip tie (see below).
Or, if you want to be super cheap about it, just use a leftover plastic container. Drill some holes in it so the bait can lure the crabs in. And zip tie it through one of the holes you make.
You need one bait box per trap.
The bait goes in the bait box.
4.Zip ties. Use them to attach your bait box to your trap. And attach them to the floor, not the roof, of the trap. When the bait is on the roof (based on what I've seen in the GoPro footage), the crabs get confused and can't find the door that opens into the trap, since the door is on the bottom, not the top, of the trap.
5. Float set. You can spring for the high-end float set or this cheaper (functionally identical, but slightly less visible) one. Again, you can also be ultra-cheap and make your own out of rope and empty milk jugs or old pool noodles. If you make your own, though, make sure that you pick a rope that is at least 50 feet long, and one that floats. (It'll be easier to find if it's floating.) One like this one.
6. Crab gauge. You need to have one, and you need to use it. This isn't the exact one I have, but it should work.
7. Bungees. Okay, you don't NEED these. But if your kayak flips, you will lose everything that isn't bungeed down. They're $3. It's worth it.
a) It's a sit-on-top, which gives you extra maneuverability when you're assembling/dropping/pulling up traps and dealing with your equipment
b) It's extra long, which means you'll have more space to store your gear
c) If you need to, you can store your crabs in the hull without getting pinched.
Before committing to a new kayak, you may want to check craigslist (or another local classified) for a cheaper alternative.
If you go this route, you're also going to need paddles. I recommend the Shoreline Marine Paddle Rounder 96" -- it's affordable, durable and comfy.
10. Kevlar neoprene gloves. Technically, these are optional, but I recommend them. They'll keep your hands warm while you're out on the water. But more importantly, they will protect your hands in the unlikely event that you get pinched.
I've caught maybe sixty crabs in the last few years, and have only seen someone get pinched once. Luckily, he was wearing kevlar gloves -- it still hurt immensely, and the pressure still broke his skin. I'm not sure what would have happened had he been gloveless... but I'm glad I didn't have to find out.
So that's the list of things you need to get started. Which, I guess, is the hard part. As you're preparing to launch, your setup is going to look something like this:
So now, load up your gear onto the kayak, strap it down in case you flip, and launch your kayak. Pick a protected area with small waves. I crab out of Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, CA, but you should do a Google search or ask at a local bait shop to find a good place near you.
I don't usually assemble my traps till I'm ready to drop them -- they're more compact that way. From the surface, there isn't really a good way to know if you've put your traps in a good spot or not. Generally, if I find rock crabs in a trap, I move the trap. Rock crabs live in rocks, and Dungeness crabs live in sand, so you want to drop your trap in a sandy spot. Of course, you can keep and eat the rock crabs, too (you can basically keep as many as you want, and it doesn't count against your Dungeness legal limit), but their legs are pretty skinny, so all you'll really get to eat is their claws.
Speaking of legal limits, the California limit for Dungeness crabs is 10 per license. Oregon's is 12 male crabs. Washington's is generally 5-6. Make sure to look up local fishing regulations for season openings, as it varies be state and region.
If you catch a lot of crabs in one area, try to triangulate your position (use your compass to get a bearing on three different, permanent points that are more than 60 degrees apart -- this won't work if you're currently or will later be in fog) or get the GPS coordinates so you can find the spot again. And move your other traps closer to that spot.
And, to reiterate what I said before, never drop a trap if the line is tangled, knotted or coiled. The float set is not buoyant enough to keep the trap from sinking. You'll just lose your whole setup. So lower, rather than drop, them.
Getting crabs out of your traps can be annoying. They like to pinch onto the bars of the cage and hold on. Try not to rip their limbs off -- that's just mean. They can't pinch you if you grab them by their back legs, so grab them there, gauge them, and either release or put them in your crab bag.
As I also previously mentioned, crabs live the longest in a dark, damp, cool place. If you're going to store them in a cooler, make sure it's not airtight, or they will suffocate.