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Crab searching, whale-watching, tidepooling ... good reasons for a winter jaunt to Bodega Bay.

Masts appear on the Bodega Bay skyline these days like bristles on a porcupine. A topnotch new fishing facility has encouraged an influx of commercial fishing boats to the port.

To meet the boom, new shops and restaurants have sprung up around town. Add great beach parks to these, and you have good reasons for a winter day's jaunt to this tidy fishing village, just a 1-1/2-hour drive north from San Francisco.

Now through February, fishermen will be hauling in Dungeness crab, and at a couple of great fish market-restaurants you can buy fresh catch-also including albacore, rockfish, halibut, and lingcod. Watch the boats being unloaded in the late afternoon.

More than 200 boats port here-because of the new Spud Point Marina, but also as a result of restrictive salmon-fishing regulations farther north. Last year was one of the best for commercial fishing at Bodega Bay since the 1940s; boats brought in 10 million pounds of fish.

A safe spot for youngsters to cast a fishing line is off Spud Point's long breakwater at the south edge of the marina; it's off Westshore Road.

Which way to the beach?

At the end of Westshore Road, Bodega Head State Park is a good place for watching migrating gray whales now through March. From noon to 4 each weekend from mid-December to midApril, docents or rangers are on hand with binoculars and information about the whales. From here, scramble down to a rocky cove (watch for waves) or hike 2 miles north over the bluffs to Salmon Creek Beach.

Or drive to Salmon Creek Beach, one of the Sonoma Coast state beaches, with 5 miles of trails to hike, including an open swath of sandy beach, and 98 sites in Bodega Dunes Campground ($10 per night). In windy weather, you can find sheltered hiking through high beach grass in the dunes. Fishermen go for rockfish, perch, and smelt.

From the spit of Doran Beach County Park just south of town, you can fish, camp, and watch for shorebirds. Or picnic and watch the fishing boats as they chug past the breakwater. Park entry is $3; camping is $10 per night.

Don't-miss spots in town

Sea Ridge Winery offers sales and tasting from noon to 5 daily At Lucy's Pastry Shop, 1580 Eastshore Road (open 8 to 5), try a terrific sticky bun, fruit bar, or Mississippi mud pie. Check out some of the small galleries and shops. For a map and listing of shops, parks, restaurants, golf links, sportfishing vessels, and lodging, write to the Bodega Bay Chamber of Commerce, 555 Coast Highway, Box 146, Bodega Bay 94923. Or call (707) 8753422 between 9 and 5 daily.

December weather can swing from coastlashing storms to sunny, crisp days; to check, call Sonoma Coast State Beaches at 865-2391. Note that, on the nicest days, weekend traffic can jam Bodega Bay, as State 1 remains a narrow two lanes in town.
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Date:Dec 1, 1988
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