San Juan Islands, 7 S. Dungeness Crab – Week 2

A long day of crabbing!

Week two of the 2012 Dungeness Crab season and we are talking about pots, traps and all the different crab fishing equipment there is available!

Crab pots and crab traps:

Sherrie & I took care of some yard work on Saturday morning and then decided to hop on the boat and take a short cruise. Now there is a surprise! We left at around 2:30 PM with fairly strong tides against us, so it took about 3 hours to reach our planned destination. Upon arriving, we deployed 4 crab pots, otherwise known as crab traps.

Frankly, there are about as many different crab traps as there are people with imagination. Many many years ago, while I was living in Monterey, CA, we’d sometimes crab off of a dock and sometimes off of a jetty. For dock crabbing, we’d use traditional gear – pots and traps. For jetty fishing, we’d use very small traps that attached to the end of a fishing line. We’d cast them out, give it 10 or 15 minutes of soaking time and reel it back in, hoping that we’d come close enough to get some attention. We actually did fairly well.

We had a great day!

I would have to categorize crap pots and crab traps into 3 separate categories: Open; Closed; and Snares. Each of of these have many variations and sub categories.

Super Small Crab Traps & Crab Snares

Danielson crab traps are in the super small or snare category, you basically have a small bait holder with several monofilament loops attached that are designed to entangle the legs and claws of the crab as they seek the bait. Close attention is required as they will not hold the crab for long. When you pull them in, you want a long-handled net close at hand. The biggest advantages are that they do not take up much space and can usually be cast out with a fishing rod. They are also relatively inexpensive, running from $10.00 to $15.00 or less.

Open Crab Traps and Pots

Open crap traps and pots most commonly take on one or two configurations, either the ring type or the star type. Prices will vary from a few dollars, to many dollars. Similar to crab snares, they do not actually trap the crab, they rely on attractant and attention. The crab is free to come and go as he pleases so you have to check them often. The advantage over a snare, is that the pot is larger and the crab is less likely to get away during the retrieval process. You bait up your trap, put it on the bottom, and check it often.

Closed Crab Traps

When looking for closed crab traps, things get a bit more serious and usually more expensive. The advantage is that once a legal sized crab gets in, he usually is there to stay wether the trap has been there a few hours or overnight. Prices can range from $20.00 or $30.00 (plus line, buoy, bait canister, etc…) – to several hundred dollars. For most of us, size, collapsibility, portability, durability and cost are primary considerations in selecting our crabbing gear.

Square crab traps are usually collapsable though sometimes fixed. For most of us, the collapsable variety is probably preferred. Because of moving parts, they are not always as durable nor as heavy, but you should still be able to get several years of service out of them. Prices can range from $20.00 to $100.00 or more. During an active crabbing season, most of us will leave the pots assembled. I do it because the assembled pot provides a convenient storage area for the line and buoy, which actually take up more room than the pot itself when collapsed. When storage is important, they are easy to break down.

Ring style pots have 2 basic styles, collapsible and fixed. The collapsible pots are usually lighter, possibly less durable, and probably more prone to failure than the fixed pots. They are also lighter and much more storable and portable.

A commercial grade fixed ring pot is usually made of vinyl coated re-bar with either poly or stainless mesh on the top, bottom, and sides. Stainless will likely cost a bunch more but will also last longer. They come in various sizes but you pay in weight! I have used a couple of commercial sized pots and they perform well, but I dread pulling them up because of the weight involved. I don’t normally use them on our boat. They are best used if you have a mechanical crab pot puller aboard.

Collapsable ring pot have made great strides in recent years, with many innovators in the market. We have a nice Stainless/mesh unit that we found at West Marine that does well and stores very compactly. It was a bit expensive at $130.00, but is something we can keep aboard at all times without taking up valuable deck or locker space. There are of course other offerings out there but, not having used them, I cannot attest to their quality or value.


DIY Free Crab Trap

Of course, sometimes you are out there and just don’t have a crab pot or crab trap on board. What do you do then? Well, in ideal conditions, you can wade or paddle along the shallows and reach down to get your crab. I’ve done that a lot. Other times, you can drop a fishing lure or hook with bait, let it sit on the bottom for awhile, and reel it in with a net ready. We’ve crabbed with a mesh net with bait in it, panty hose with bait, socks with bait, rags with bait, etc. Having a net handy to dip under your offerings is critical in these circumstances because while the crab will likely hold on as long as he is in the water and being pulled, he is almost guaranteed to let go as soon as the tension is released or he is brought out of the water.

Good hunting and have fun!

Ken


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Maritime Safety – Best Practices
Mating on Cypress Island
Winter Cruising Essentials
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