Friday, February 13, 2009

Oregon Crabbing Adventures - SPECIAL TO THE FAT PRIDE TIMES

Our featured post for February is from Barnabus, our Oregon Coast Drifter reader: I am crabbing in the Siuslaw River in Florence Oregon. Locals without boats like me are pretty much restricted to crabbing from allowed docks and marinas. This is fun, though. Mid summer you can find people crabbing 24/7 at some locations, as they follow the tide for the best possible results. You have to work with the tide to be successful at crabbing in coastal rivers. The currents can get to be very bad and will take your traps for a ride rather than let them sit and gather the catch, and the crabs will have a difficult time moving around as well. You want to time it around the high tide. I find that going about 6 hours previous to high tide will allow several hours of good solid crabbing. As the high tide mark nears, the incoming surf relents and lets the river pour out again, bringing the swift currents that last clear past low slack tide. I have seen currents so fast that heavy traps are hoisted to the surface and will skim the water. At that point all you can do is hit a bay or go home and wait it out. I'm not sure how far inland you can expect to find crab, but the marina here in town is like 2.5 miles in and there are plenty of dungeness there. Bait today will be some really large turkey legs and a turkey neck and giblets from our holiday meal. Our local stores stock chunks of innards and nasties that they know will sell as crab bait. I find that most locals use animal scraps other than fish. The bait sold mostly to tourists is frozen shad, or fillet-less carcass of whatever the catch of the day may be. It is great bait indeed, and novel for the family crabbing on vacation, but not great for shallow waters where the majority of dock-crabbers will fish from. This is because the local seals will be very insistent on stealing fish, even un-doing bait box clasps to get to it. It is amazing, and predictable. They will not touch any other animal parts, only fish/seafoods. I am excited to now have 3 rigs, 2 are traps and one is a "pot". Traps are enclosed thus the crabs have a much more difficult time getting out, but can also take longer to let them in as well. The pots are open top nets with a wide top ring and smaller bottom ring with mesh netting making up the shape, like a big wide net bucket that lays flat on the bottom, then takes form when you pull it up, scooping the crabs into the bottom of the pot. A good bait box is necessary even when using animal scraps for bait, as you will want the bait in a protective enclosure such as a heavy plastic mesh bag or small steel cage. This way the crabs will not eat up your bait when they are in the trap. Hungry crabs can devour an entire turkey leg faster than you might think, so it is best to not let them have much real contact with the bait, or you might find yourself needing more nasties. Pots will catch crabs much quicker, but crab can easily escape or climb over the edge if you pull the pot up too slowly or let the line slack at all while bringing it in. This combination of 1 pot and 2 traps works well, as you can throw the traps in for a long soak, and use the pots by pulling them up every 5-10 minutes so you can see where the best spots are. Crabs will mass together on the bottom, you can pull up a rig with 20 crabs or more inside, then pull it up again empty 10 minutes later. They do move around a lot, but finding a large mass of crabs will ensure good results. When you seem to find a good spot with your pot, toss the traps there for a spell. Keepers are those measuring at least 5 and 3/4 inches across(again in Oregon) just after the points. You will need to have a measuring guage, and be aware that no matter how remote your location may seem, you are likely under surveillance. Rangers will roll up and surprise you, they know what they are doing. They will want to see your shell-fish license and take down information about your activities. They will measure any crabs you have kept. I see the rangers checking people out at least 2 out of 10 times I go crabbing, and also see them keeping an eye on fishermen from a distance when I am out and about doing other things. This time I went at night, at the south jetty crabbing dock. High tide was scheduled for 5:04 am at the entrance of the river. I set traps in the water at midnight. Current was rolling in strong for the entire 4 hours that I was there, fighting against the river current flowing out. This stirred things up nicely and I caught 2 keepers within 2 hours. Killing and cleaning crab is always gruesome. I always am conscious of providing a demise as humane as possible. The best way I have found to deal with the crabs is to soak them in fresh water for at least 20 minutes. This will slow them down some. Then I turn them upside down on our wood deck and place a large cleaver down the center of their body, then swiftly tamp it down with the blunt side of a hatchet, cutting the crab in half with one motion. Then remove the main body shell, guts, and gills, leaving the white clusters of meat intact with the leg and claw sections. While I am doing that, I start a stock pot or dutch oven of water with a few tablespoons of rock salt. Bring it to a nice rolling boil and throw in the crab clusters. Stir and submerge them once in awhile for 20 minutes over medium-high heat. By now I am usually so tired I could sleep for a day, crabbing is very hard work, hauling rigs, pulling them up over and over, being in the elements, etc. So I usually plate up the cooked crab and wrap it thoroughly with plastic and refridgerate it until after a good sleep. Then the cleaning process... shelling crab for the most return on your investment of hard work is a science in itself. Most people would assume that the meat is in the legs and claws, but with dungeness crab the payoff is the honeycombed clusters of body meat where the leg and claw sections all join together. You will want to take your time to carefully remove all of the meat, breaking each section with precision as you go, it really does take practice. I use a leg tip as a tool to dig the meat chunks from other portions. This catch was 2 crabs, enough for roughly 10 oz of shelled meat. There was one crab larger than the other, but it had not grown fully into its shell so there was less meat. The other was smaller, but much more solid and was packed full of juicy chunks. It all amounted to a decent bowl full of fresh caught crab meat, for 5-6 hours effort and the cost of a few turkey legs. Basically, crabbing is a hobby or getaway, it is not a fast and easy way to a delicious meal for sure. This time I served the fresh crab over penne pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. This was after a tossed salad with cut iceberg lettuce and sliced vine tomatos, lightly salted and peppered, then topped with fresh squeezed lime juice and very thin slices of pacific rose apple. The entree was accompanied by cheesy baked wheat rolls. Add a tall glass of frosty Mickey's malt liquor and Ba'ammmm!! Genuine fresh NW cuisine.

6 comments:

etathed said...

Wow, amazing write up. And an amazing meal. Top notch right there.

Barnabus said...

I could go on and on about crabs. But the only thing I will add is that they are very smart critters. Seriously. They can escape traps, and are very stubborn about being handled. Even in a cage trap, you show them an open door and they will BOOK.

Bobandy said...

You ever seen a blue lobster?

Senet said...

Barnabus, amazing descriptions and accompanying photos. I love your choice of Mickey's Malt, economical yet refreshing. Wonderful post by the FP blog staff!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE catching crab too! My favorite spot is the Nehalem Bay, and I seem to do good using traps with a bait box. I like using a can of cheap tuna (in oil) with 3 small holes poked in the top so the oil can slowly seep out. I have used Turkey with great success also. But.....this stuff just ROCKS and is based on cow hide http://crabbait.net let us know what you think if you decide to order this.

Thanks!

Mike

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