By Andy Martin

Although it's still a couple weeks away, plan now to get in on the best crabbing action of the year.

The Dungeness crab season opens Nov. 24, and runs through July 30. That first week of the season often produces the best crabbing of the year.

andquot;It's always the first part of the season that is the best,andquot; says Chris Hegnes of Englund Marine in Crescent City.

The commercial crab season doesn't open until Dec. 1. That means sport crabbers get a week head start at crabs that haven't seen a trap in several months.

andquot;Quite a few guys fish the harbor if they have smaller boats and can't get out into the ocean,andquot; Hegnes says. andquot;If the ocean is good, the guys will fish from Mussell Rock south.andquot;

The best crabbing for sport boaters often takes place in 30 to 60 feet of water. Boaters with electric blocks will sometimes set their gear in 120 feet of water.

Dungeness can also be taken from the pier, although red rock crab are common there.

Squid is the top-selling bait at Englund Marine, but chicken or turkey legs also work well, as do fish carcasses, if you can get them. Some crabbers will make the drive to Brookings and get bottom fish carcasses from the fish cleaning station there.

A few will also launch their boats in Brookings, motor down to Cone Rock, just across the California border, and crab there, where there is often little competition.

Henges suggests crabbers soak their pots for four to six hours. If using rings, check them every 10 to 15 minutes.

andquot;If you are setting your gear at low tide, you want to leave about 20 feet of slack,andquot; Henges says. andquot;If you are fishing 30 feet of water, you want to have 50 feet of rope.andquot;

Hegnes also suggests crabbers add weight to their ropes. Having several ropes floating near the surface is not only dangerous for your boat, but other boats as well, Hegnes says, as it can tangle in your motor.

Sport crabbers can keep 10 Dungeness crab a day at least 5 3/4 inches across the back.

Salmon fishing

With three weeks of dry weather, salmon fishing has slowed on the Smith, but some fish are being caught in the lower section of the river. Salmon fishing also picked up at Social Security Bar on the Chetco River over the weekend.

There is a chance of rain Thursday, which may boost fishing for the weekend.

Duck hunting

While the nice weather the past week has been perfect for walking on the beach or exploring Redwood National and State Parks, it's made duck hunting difficult at Lake Earl Wildlife Area.

andquot;It's been a little slow,andquot; says Robert Coyan of the wildlife area. andquot;Opening day there were quite a few birds flying but now there are not a whole lots of birds. There have been a few pintail and I've heard there are a lot of canvasback.andquot;

Like the salmon fishing on the Smith, expect the next storm to boost hunting at Lake Earl.

andquot;Normally if there is cold, bad weather, there will be birds coming in,andquot; Coyan says.

As freezing weather arrives in Washington and northern Oregon, more birds will move into California, stopping over at Lake Earl.

andquot;This year I'm sure there are probably going to be pretty good amounts of birds coming through,andquot; Coyan says. andquot;This year we have a pretty good amount of water in the lake. The habitat is good right now.andquot;

Contact the wildlife area at (707) 464-2523 for the latest conditions.

Outdoor writer Andy Martin is a former editor of Fishing andamp; Hunting News and runs a halibut charter boat in the Gulf of Alaska during the summer and guides on America's Wild Rivers Coast in the winter. He can be reached at