Tillamook crabs

I went crabbing yesterday on Netarts Bay with my brother-in-law Chris and my niece Kim. It was not my first time crabbing – Chris introduced me to the sport a few years back – but it was my most productive. We caught 9 good-sized Dungeness crabs. Chris cooked them and I now have two of them in my refrigerator. Good snackin’.

Crabbing is a popular sport in the Tillamook area. Netarts Bay, the next bay over from Tillamook Bay, is the favored spot, presumably because there are more crabs there. There were more than a dozen boats out yesterday, but it is a large bay and we didn’t feel crowded.

For those of you who have never crabbed, I will give you some basic instruction. First, you need some crab traps or rings. Rings seem to be favored, but it may be that they are simply more economical. It is actually two concentric rings – one about two feet in diameter and one about 18″ in diameter. Netting connects the two rings, smaller ring on the bottom. Three ropes are strung from the larger ring and are tied together, forming a handle for a very large net basket. A long rope is attached to the handle and a float (empty plastic 1-gallon jugs in our case) is tied to the other end. To use them, each trap is baited and is dropped into the water. After some period of time, the rings are hauled quickly to the surface and, with luck, some crabs will be in the net, feeding on the bait.

Usually a crabber drops 6 or more rings, then proceeds to raise each one in succession and drop it again. We had six rings and we were on the bay for about 2 hours to get 9 legal crabs (legal = males of a certain size).

Fish heads can be used as bait, but the newest innovation is mink carcass. Yes, it is as disgusting as it sounds. Apparently the advantage of mink is that seals don’t eat them. If fish heads are used and seals are around, they steal them from the traps.

The weather doesn’t have to be nice to crab, but it makes the experience more pleasurable. It is best to be out when the tide is slack. Slack tide yesterday was 10:40am and it was a beautiful day, so we were out from 9:30 to 11:30. It was a little chilly – the temperature was 38 degrees at 9:30am – but the sun was bright, the winds were calm and it felt warmer on the water. It was probably 50 degrees when we brought the boat in.

Kim steered the boat while Chris and I took turns setting and retrieving the rings. Kim is an avid environmentalist and was happy every time the ring came up empty. But she was a good sport and resisted the urge to Free Captain Krabs.

Crabbing isn’t free. The main expense is the bait. At $3.50 per mink carcass, it cost $21 in bait alone. Add it gasoline, launch fees, license fees and amortized ring prices and you are getting up there. Probably over $3 per crab.

One of our throw-backs was a pregnant female, about to unleash a million eggs into the waters of Netarts Bay. Apparently it is pretty rare to find a female in this condition. My sister Lois, who has crabbed many more times than I have, said she has never seen one.

Anyway, it was fun. Jett, my mom, my sister and my nephew Scott joined us for lunch at The Schooner Restaurant which is right at the boat launch. I had a very fine rockfish-and-chips lunch. My sister then took Jett and me on a tour of the area, highlighted by dessert at Roseanna’s Cafe in Oceanside. Roseanna’s desserts are legendary and she didn’t disappoint. If you are in the area, try her Marionberry cobbler. Delicious!

Netarts Bay, 9:30am

Happy Camp (really) on Netarts Bay

Pregnant crab

Chris at the helm

Chris and Kim

Lois and Kim at The Schooner

Mom at the Schooner

Scott at the Schooner

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