Screeching, Squirming and Screaming: Crabbing and Fishing in Oregon, Part I

I screeched and squirmed and well, fine, flat out screamed really, really loudly. Like reeeeal fucking loud. But it was okay. It was just the six of us on the Columbia River, with only a few seals popping up through the chilly water.

And maybe some cranes. Pelicans? Well, I’m not sure. This fishing excursion marked my first time in Oregon and I didn’t properly prepare for bird sightings. Or really, for fishing and crabbing in general. For it was my first time at this too. The only other time I’ve played with a fishing reel was on my friends’ balcony, for they lower the keys down from their 6th floor apartment to incoming guests. It’s pretty fun, but Tim doesn’t let me near the reel all that often. I’m not gentle on the line.

The six of us drove from Portland to Astoria (check out this gorgeous, sea lion and Goonie-filled town on FB), drank lovely beer at Fort George Brewery + Public House and went to bed early.

I just had to: here’s one glamour shot of Astoria.

Don’t let the lighting fool you. I snapped this when we returned from fishing, around noon, but the picture is here to move the plot along. Imagine this is all misty.

Kind of like this, actually. We’re just taking off and I’m sitting right behind these crates of bait. It’s cold out and my rain jacket doubled as a blanket.

Lots of bait, by the way. On our way out we dropped six crates to catch crab.

Pretend I’m Wayne. This is your extreme close-up of the bloody, fish head bait, situated just a foot in front of me. Did I mention I’ve never fished before?

Clockwise starting with the chicken: (1) Yes, I said chicken. Apparently crabs like whole, raw chickens. (2) Then there’s me, dropping in a crate. Heavier than it looks. (3) Crabs also like little whole fish too, I guess. (4) And then there’s this fish head, dripping blood. Now imagine the boat going forward, with the crate in front of me. Fish blood flying on to my jacket. Yea. Right. Okay.

After we threw the bait out to sea we motored down the river to catch salmon. Our reels locked into holders. We set our dials (?) to the specific depth and waited. And sat there.  And waited.

In my mind, I imagined this part to be more active. There’d be live bait I’d have to wrangle onto a hook. I would fling the reel behind me and cast it far out on the water.

In reality, I did very little to engage the salmon. Instead of live bait, tiny florescent squares attached to the end of the line. Casting didn’t happen either, as the handles slid easily into the holder. I didn’t even have to touch the rod at all. It felt like cheating, if you ask me.

It’s lovely out on the Columbia. The water remained calm. The mist sat there thick and blinded us to whatever else floated by. We could only see a few feet in front of us. I’m not used to feeling this alone in the world. I live in the city with three loud bus lines circling my apartment 20 hours a day. When the motor stopped, the scene played silently. It was just the six of us: Liz, Nick, Danielle, Greg, our event organizer, and Dave, our fisherman.

And so we wait. We wait for salmon.

Be patient for part two later this next week.

Read More: Part II

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  • 80 Proof September 28, 2011  

    I want part 2 now!

    And part 2 better include the video of you trying to pick up a crab.

  • erica September 28, 2011  

    wait… you said the Colorado River in the first paragraph.

  • ML September 28, 2011  

    When I was little, my dad taught me how to put $5 on a fishing line….which we would then put on the sidewalk, hide and pull the line as tourists tried to pick up the money.

    So, sort of the same thing as crabs, I think.

  • MaryAlice September 28, 2011  

    Lovely photo of those Brown Pelicans.

  • 80 P's Mom September 29, 2011  

    I too am waiting with baited breath!

  • BS September 29, 2011  

    and pun of the week goes to…80P mom!

  • gansie September 29, 2011  

    wow. loving the excitement (and puns.)
    this would have gone up tomorrow but i (un)fortunately have a friday fuck up tomorrow. more crabbing must wait until monday morning.

  • BS September 29, 2011  

    you’re really gonna leave us hanging on the line like that?

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