Once we were finished effecting repairs resulting from our tire blowout in Nebraska, we headed for western Colorado to meet up with our friends Robin and Larry from Texas. We were to meet them at Mineral Creek, a national forest campground near Silverton. We had met them for the first time at this same campground two years ago and hit it off so well that they came to visit us briefly while transiting from Montana to Texas earlier this year when we were camp hosting at Flaming Gorge, Utah. We had vowed to meet up again in the fall at Mineral Creek. I guess it was a form of reunion, although delayed by more than two weeks due to the blowout. Being the folks that they are, they waited the two weeks for us to catch up.
When we finally got there, we got to meet and share fun times with THEIR friends Linus and Kaye from Michigan. We all share a love for this area of Colorado and we REALLY enjoy jeeping together, which we did over several days. What a great time.
This is a photo of Linus and Kaye heading up the trail.
And this one is of Larry stopping to put on something warmer as we head up to Yankee boy Basin where it was trying to snow.
This is just another spectacular Jeep trail. Elevation about 10,000 feet;
After 10 wonderful days spent between Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton in Colorado, we said goodbye to Robin and Larry, our friends from South Texas, and pointed our rig toward Oregon.
But not before taking a photo of our beloved area surrounding Ridgway, Colorado, a place we keep returning to. You can see why.
Linus and Kaye had other commitments and had to leave several days beforehand. We had a wonderful time with them, sharing meals, playing “Sequence” and taking Jeep trips. Having said goodbye to Linus and Kaye earlier, it was now time to say our goodbyes to Robin and Larry. They were headed home, and we were headed…………somewhere.
Our original plan had called for us to arrive in Winchester Bay, Oregon in mid-September AFTER camping in Colorado. But after having our tire blowout in Nebraska, our plans fell apart, or were at least delayed. So, as we waved goodbye to Robin and Larry, we had to decide if it might not be too late for the crabbing season at Winchester Bay in Oregon. After a couple of phone calls, we were told that September and October were great months for crabbing, and that October was better than September.With that information in hand, we made a decision to make a beeline for the Oregon Coast. Covering 1200 miles in 5 days, we arrived at the marina in Winchester Bay on Sunday, October 15th.
Our camp at the Winchester Bay Marina.
Crabbing is addictive. And, although on a lesser scale cost-wise, it can be similar to boating wherein a boat is just a hole in the ocean in which you pour money. Although we had spent time in Winchester Bay last year, our time was spent meeting folks and learning the basics of how to crab. But we did not actually do any crabbing. Having watched others, and having been gifted with several pounds of freshly caught Dungeness Crab, we were hooked, so to speak. We promised ourselves that we would return, and here we were a year later.
There are many different ways to crab. From a boat, or from the shore or dock. With a pole, or with some form of trap on a line or rope. We had none of these things when we arrived. I had been intrigued by the idea of using a fishing pole and a “book” type of trap. Unfortunately, all our fishing poles are for trout fishing and neither the poles or the fishing line were strong enough for crabbing. So, our first order of business was to purchase a suitable heavier duty pole and reel and line. After inquiries, we were told that a “salmon” pole and reel will do, along with line of 15-20 pound test. Nearly $50 later, we had ourselves a Abu Garcia “salmon” rod and reel filled with 17 lb. test fishing line.
The crab trap that is usually used with a fishing pole is referred to as a “book” trap, basically a rectangular wire frame with netting. You hook it to your fishing line and, after baiting it, you cast it out or straight down. As it settles on the bottom where the crab are (crab don’t swim), the trap lays flat, as if an open book. But when you reel it in, the trap closes, as if closing a book, hopefully with one or more crabs trapped inside the closed “book”. We had no “book”-type crab traps. So we bought one at Walmart. Little did we know that, within 24 hours, we would buy two more.
So, now we had our gear. All that remained was to get a license. Yes, you need a license. A shellfish license to be exact. We also needed bait. It turns out that crab love chicken legs. So, we bought a package of drumsticks. And then we bought a bottle of “crab fuel”, a pink concoction that supposedly is an attractant. You pour this liquid into a zip lock bag with your chicken and let it marinate. Hhmmm…good.
With gear, license and marinated bait in hand, we made our first cast from a dock just below our campsite at the marina. Almost immediately, we had fish, er crab, in our trap. We didn’t know that we did, but after about 5 or 10 minutes, it’s always nice to check. So, we reeled our trap in and, what do you know, we had two crabs in our closed ‘book”. This brings us to the next problem.
In Oregon, you can only take male crabs. And even at that, the males have to be of a certain minimum size…at least 5.75 inches as measured across the widest part of the shell using a plastic gauge for the purpose. Of the two crabs we caught, the largest was a female…over 5.75 inches. The other, a male, was too small. Both had to be thrown back. This went on for a couple of hours. We would catch crab, but none were legal.
Finally, we caught a “legal” male. But not before having lost our Walmart crab trap. It seemed that a $.25 cent clamp had failed, allowing the trap to separate from the fishing line and fall into the water. Gone. Having just landed our first “keeper”, we could not get to our local marina tackle shop (read expensive) quick enough to purchase another book trap. But, on the basis of wanting to be prepared in case we lose another, we bought two…along with a few stronger swivel clamps.
To give you an idea as to this guys size, he is in a 5-gallon Costco soap bucket.
So, back to crabbing. Lots of crabs caught, one or two at a time due to the relative small size of the trap. All illegal. It was at this point that we began to wonder what all the females were going to do to reproduce if the mature males were the only ones being caught. We decided that the State of Oregon surely had thought of that.
Most of those on the dock with us were using more traditional crab traps which are 24” x 24” cages about 12” tall.. These traps can accommodate many more crab than a book trap. It did not take long for us to decide that we probably should have one of these. And $45 later, we DID have one, along with 50 feet of rope and a very nice bait cage to go INSIDE of the crab trap (cage).
We noticed that those that had these larger more traditional traps were soaking them for several hours, and even over night. Then we read online that these traps are supposed to be checked fairly frequently. Unfortunately, we did not read this until AFTER having soaked the trap overnight, which helped to explain why, the next morning, our trap was empty and our bait was almost entirely gone except the leg bones. We wondered how this could happen. Was someone sneaking out to the dock in the dark of night to steal our crab? Although stranger things have happened, we got our answer when with subsequent catches in our trap, the crab were a bit undersized to be legal, but they were still good eaters. In fact, the size of the holes in the cage are such that smaller crabs can escape, essentially coming and going as they please AFTER eating all of our bait. Such is the reason that you are warned to pull your pots frequently to check for crabs, and also to preserve your bait. Duh!!
Although we started off slow, our success started to ramp up. Unfortunately, a fierce storm hit the Oregon coast, a storm that was almost non-stop for about 72 hours. Constant rain and near hurricane force winds can interfere with a crabber’s best intentions. Oh well, we came to crab. So, we dug out our rain gear and perservered, setting and checking traps in between the worst portions of the storm.
Interestingly, our biggest catches came during the storm. As this is written, we have 15 crabs in the freezer and we’re not done. We are happy campers.
And the sunsets here are not bad either…
Stay tuned, as we wrap up our time crabbing in Winchester Bay, Oregon.