Monday, April 2, 2012

Crabbing 101: Preparation

View from our take off point, Davis Creek

Continuing with the theme of commercial crabbing, today's post will focus on the preparation process, step by step, as seen through Chesapeake Bay Woman's brain, which serves as a sieve filter preventing her from grasping and retaining details; technical terms; and other items of importance, such as whether she turned off the stove. Or the kitchen faucet.

Or brushed her teeth.

It also causes her to focus on certain details that others don't care about might not pay attention to.

Let's begin.

The very first part of the crabbing operation is called (by me and likely nobody else on the planet) the Getting Ready part.

This involves lots of movement around the boat; lots of fiddling with gadgets; lots of checking on things.

It's extremely important to check on things before you leave the dock.

After everything has been checked, we are free to depart.

Menhaden are manhandled.

Step Two is the Bait Preparation Process, which involves manhandling frozen fish, specifically menhaden.

(I think. See above about inability to retain details. For purposes of this post since the name works well with manhandling, we're going with menhaden.)

To recap, Step Two = Manhandling menhaden.

After being pried from their icy boxes and dumped into the very important Black Bin, the fish are broken open or in half, which is way easier to do when they're frozen. Not that any of this is easy.

Trying to crack open an unfrozen fish by hand to me would be like trying to catch a greased pig. Very frustrating. And I'd give up after the second try. Also, there'd be blood and guts going everywhere and eeewww. Gross.

Of course, one might actually use a knife to open up unfrozen fish, but again this tutorial is written by CBW, who will run wide open down the road called Tangent rather than focusing on the obvious.

The Bait Preparation Process continues...   

as we head out the creek.

Before even thinking about fishing crab pots, you must have the essential gear.

In my assessment of the whole operation, these gloves are the most important items required to fish crab pots.  

(You also have to have hands, but that's implied when I say gloves.)

These gloves protect you from all sorts of dangers, including stinging nettles, sharp shells, and most of all  the very perturbed, very feisty crabs which come equipped with two very sharp claws.

The close ups involving the hands/gloves
are among my favorites.

Irrelevant side note relating to crab experiences outside of today's topic:  In 47 years I've never been pinched by a crab even though there has been plenty of opportunity. I have, however, displayed the feisty, claws-up personality of a crab on more than one occasion, especially when threatened by things such as a pre-sunrise alarm.

Guinea boots

Nothing says waterman more than a good pair of Guinea boots, which are practically their own fashion category here in Mathews.

Here we have your standard white boot.

Speaking of footwear, although it was reasonably calm the day we went out, at one point the boat unexpectedly lurched sideways, causing us all to lose our footing.  Johnny Pugh--up to his waist in crab pots, crabs on the loose, and bait--quickly regained his balance and without missing a beat said, "I'm not used to doing this in my high heels."

They have a great sense of humor, these guys.

Next, let's review some of the essential equipment.

There must be something into which the crabs go, and these baskets do the trick very nicely.

There's a cute wooden lid that's attached after they are overflowing with feisty, unhappy crabs. (Unhappy crabs. Redundant?)

Most of the time a few crabs escape. You must find them, catch them, and stuff them back in the basket.

Sometimes you have to do this even after you've attached the cute little lid and even when a new crab pot is coming aboard. It's a production line, this crabbing process, and scooping up loose crabs is a distraction I couldn't handle. Not that anyone ever asked me to.

Still, I empathize.

Your waterproof gear is extremely important when you're leaning over the side of a boat hauling in crab pots from the depths of cold, salty water.

Above, the captain realized after we'd already started fishing pots that he forgot to put his on before leaving the dock (part of the Getting Ready Routine).

Evidently a third person with a camera interfered with his routine which is perfectly understandable, especially when said third person snapped photographs every second of the trip.

Nonetheless, it's never too late to put on your essential waterproof gear.

Here he is, pre-waterproof gear.

After the gloves, the Automatic Crab Pot Puller Upper (above) is in CBW's opinion the second most important thing to have in any crab operation.  They used to pull the pots by hand.

Let me just say this about that.

If I had to break more than a couple of those frozen fish open and then had to haul just one or two pots into the boat, shake them out and toss them back over, I'd be whining about not having the endurance or strength even with the Automatic Crab Pot Puller Upper.

It's all very hard work no matter how easy these two made it seem.

A few good scrub brushes are also required, along with the stamina to use them after picking up and throwing back thousands lots of pots at a good clip.

This concludes our first lesson in fishing crab pots.

Stay tuned for the next segment which will review the Pot Pulling and Shaking process.


p.s. The 10K on Saturday was wonderful. I finished without walking, even if my time was terrible.

(The 88-year-old Gwynn's Island man came in at 1 hour 22 minutes. The 47-year old CBW came in at 1 hour 9 minutes. Although this ought to bring me solace, actually it doesn't.)

Chesapeake Bay Mother also successfully completed the event. Click here for her version of the day.


deborah said...

I so enjoyed reading this! and am anxious to read the next installment:)
So proud of you for your run - you did good!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate crabs all the more after learning what the actual fishing process involves. Watermen and fisherpeople are heroes of mine !

I am quite sure my 83 yr. old mom-in- law would run rings around me in any sort of marathon.

Can't wait to read your mom's post.

Ann Marie said...

I can't read anymore of this.. it is reminding me too much of this..

Which by the way 5th anniversary would have been yesterday so have been in a funk.

More of a funk now that I know that 88 year old BEAT ME. what is the point of me running again????

Deltaville Jamie said...

You're making me nostalgic. My great-uncle had an automatic crab pot puller upper. It was called Jamie. I've been pinched many times, mostly because I like to pick things up and chase screechy girls with them. Congrats on the run!

Daryl Edelstein said...

Wow .. awesome ..some one call Discovery, I think CWB should be covering all their fisherman stuff

Anonymous said...

Hey who cares if you brushed your teeth. Hey, they had scrub bushes on board the boat if it started bothering you....

--Betsy (who is still posting as anonymous until I figure out if I want to get a Google account)

BTW, I'm curious what percent of the population there does crabbing. What other kinds of work do people do there? We're thinking of moving to Gloucester Point (which is somewhat near Mathews, ok maybe not that near but on the same peninsula). Anyway, we'd be retirees there. I'm curious what our working neighbors do for a living.

Dghawk said...

Excellent tutorial! And wonderfully illustrated, no less. Can't wait part 2!

Country Girl said...

Loved this, CBW. And what Daryl said.

ps - I knew you could do it. You made your goal, which was to finish. Bravo you!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

deborah-Thank you. The next installment will be Wednesday. Stay tuned.

LLC-I have a whole new appreciation as well. Your mother-in-law sounds like another inspirational person. I can't imagine being in my 80s and running distances--or at all.

AM-I'm sorry about the anniversary. However, as we've discussed before, the fact that you even *started* a 10K (never mind finished it without walking) is an achievement much of the world's population cannot claim. Also, you only started running 3 or 4 weeks ago. The 88 year old has been running six miles every day for years. (He's also an inspiration.)

DJ-Automatic Crab Pot Puller Upper is one of those technical terms you'll only find here. Also, I've watched you pick up a fiddler crab at the same time I was high stepping to avoid them. You are indeed very brave

DE-I could stay on a boat covering their activities and be as happy as a clam. (I wonder why clams are declared to be happy over, say, an oyster? Who knows.) But thank you.

Betsy-Back in the '70s and '80s a person could make a grand living off the water and many did. Over time things have shifted and the occupation is becoming a rarity. Many people now commute to urban areas. A few lucky souls are employed by the county/state locally, and most others own their own businesses (septic tank cleaner outers, landscapers, construction workers, restauranteurs, home health care, cleaners, real estate, etc.). A few lawyers, a few doctors. Your bare essentials to make a community function are employed locally. The rest are either retired (in such a fashion that they don't need to work) or required to commute, often very long distances. Gloucester Point is a good launching off point, close to urban, close enough to rural.

DGH-Thank you. (Part II will come on Wednesday. Not enough time to write tonight.)

CG-Thank you, my friend.