Screeching, Squirming and Screaming: Crabbing and Fishing in Oregon, Part II
Last week I started photo-journaling my first fishing experience. I left off in the waiting period, which is pretty much what this type of non-casting fishing is all about.
While drifting around in one set of coordinates without any luck, our fisherman Dave got on his cell phone. Yes, I said cell phone. Here we are, on the Columbia River, caressing through the misty Oregon air and Dave chats it up with another fisherman, finding salmon in another set of coordinates.
We brought in our reels and Dave (above) drove us to a new area. (PS-You can totally hire Dave to help you find fish.) Forty-five seconds later Greg, our event organizer, started screaming. A salmon hooked onto Nick’s line. Greg screamed for everyone to reel in their lines, for fear Nick’s catch would tangle other lines. Within another 45 seconds, a 12-inch salmon wriggled in the hands of Nick and Dave. Cameras snapped and the salmon soon returned to the water, for it wasn’t a native fish and it wasn’t the right time of year and salmon politics are awfully complicated.
The excitement hung in the air for another few minutes as we eagerly awaited another catch in our new sexy coordinates.
The sun started to break through and we could finally see our surroundings. To me, it looked a bit like LOST. Expansive, uninhabited land. Although I’m sure if you’ve been to Hawaii, which I have not, you could probably tell the difference between Oregon and a beachy island in the Pacific. I thought it looked glorious, nonetheless.
The lines kept quiet after that first tug. We broke out our packed lunches. Dave returned to the phone. It was close to noon and we had to get back to Portland—and we still had to pick up our crabs.
Before we dropped the crates of bait, we thew out these markers so upon our return we could find our catch. But what I didn’t know at the time, was that Dave also marked the GPS coordinates of our crates. I had no idea that fishing now relied so heavily on technology.
What happened to following the stars, breathing different airs, heeding intuition? I guess it’s better to be right than to live up to my idealized version of romance on the sea. Is this cheating? Is this an unfair advantage to the fisherwo/man?
Although, I was thankful for every second that the GPS saved us for I had to pee, as my mom would say, like a race horse, as the trip neared the end.
We took turns pulling the crates up, which turned out to be hard work, pulling and pulling a rope, forcing crabs (and picked-at bait) up through the surface of the water and onto the boat.
But it didn’t stop there. After flipping the crabs out of the crate, each one had to be inspected for size and gender. Upon a first glance, some could be thrown back for appearing obviously under the appropriate width.
Others had to be measured.
But look! Eek! As you hold a crab it starts to curl around you. While the gloves protected any clamping injuries, I still could barely conjure up the nerve to grab one of these little fellows.
See above video.
Male (females are thrown back) and appropriately-sized crabs were tossed into an iced cooler. Upon our return to land, an inspector checked the catches. Keeping “illegal” crabs or fish carries a large fine, hovering around $1,000.
Conveniently, a shop that cleans and steams crabs set up shot right at the docking station. That process took about 45 minutes so Greg drove the group (Liz, Nick, Danielle) to nearby Fort Stevens State Park.
On that beach is the Peter Iredale shipwreck, which if placed on a city block could pass as a public art display and find praise for enriching urban life. We stayed on this windy beach for, like most beach trips, not enough time. But we had to get back for our crabs.
Upon our return, our crabs turned bright red. They were getting sprayed. Cooling off at this point, I think.
Learning my way around crabs from the Maryland variety, I know how to tell the difference between male and female crabs: The “Washington Monument” shape appears on males and the “Capitol building” appears on females.
With the all-male band of crabs resting on ice, we drove to Portland, where talented chefs turned our catch into composed dishes.
And then we ate them. But I’ll tell you, the crabs didn’t taste any sweeter dying by my hand.
All elements of this trip were hosted and arranged by Travel Oregon.