Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gettin' Crabby: Netarts OR

With crabbing, like most things in life, timing matters. And there is some truth to the saying that crabbing is best during the months that end in “er”. My first outing was in September, and was pretty successful (several mature crabs for the taking) while my second outing in June was a little disappointing (fewer mature crabs for the taking). Something to keep in mind.

My gang’s favorite place to crab is Netarts, a charming little seaside town on Oregon's north coast. We’re big fans of Big Spruce RV Park and Boat Rental, where you can rent a nifty aluminum boat and crab cages complete with bait (frozen raw chicken and raw fish). You also get a special crab “ruler” which helps you determine which crabs are large enough to keep.

Catch of the day

Crabbing was pleasingly straightforward in a physical sort of way. First, we fastened slimy frozen bait to the bottom of the cages, putted around the bay, hurled the cages overboard at staggered intervals, and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Then, we pulled the cages back in. And that’s when the real fun began.

Squirming, snapping crustaceans had clambered into the netted cages, and much squealing and swearing ensued as we measured the “keepers” – large males – and tossed back females and babies– all the while trying not to get pinched by agitated crabs hanging onto the cages for dear life. We found ourselves swinging between the thrill of the hunt and feeling bad for the little critters. At one point, I asked a fellow crew member (who happens to be a doctor) if crabs had feelings. She paused, then answered thoughtfully, “Well, I think it’s more like they have sensations”. Somehow, this made us all feel a better - as if we weren’t causing them “real" pain.

After our exhilarating expedition, we headed back to land with our haul, where the friendly and helpful folks at Big Spruce cleaned our crabs, explained the difference between Dungeness and Rock crabs, then sent us happily on our way with our catch.

Crabbing Tips:
• Go during an "er" month
• Call ahead and reserve your boat. Boats go fast during peak months. (Crabbing is contingent on the tides, so you just can’t show up whenever.)
• Wear quick dry clothing. You will get wet.
• Wear shoes with traction. (Keens are ideal). All that water and bait juice (eewwww!) makes for a slippery boat, and you’ll need a good grip when you haul in your catch.
• Bring a change of clothes – especially shoes.
• Bring an ice chest to transport your crabs to their final destination.

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