By Bill Monroe
When the rod tip wiggles do you get the tickles?
But alas! No drug-from-the-tug since Chinook fishing closed and coho crashed?
All that boat and nowhere to launch?
Not out for trout or look for Chinook. Who gives a hoot for an old fall boot?
Tickle, tug and drug are still all there if you go … (wait for it)
For delectable, Dungy munchies, Dungeness crabs to be technically correct.
And right there in your own boat, where just a week or three ago you were tugging on sweet red and orange meat packed into silvery flesh.
But get a tickle-then-tug out of a crab?
Sure, but not by pulling a heavy old pot, full (or not) of crabs and WEEDS! Tons of SEEDY GREEDY WEEDS drying like epoxy on your boat’s deck, gunnels and hull.
A rod and reel enhance this feel.
It’s fun, keeps you on the water longer and, especially, is a crowd-pleaser for youngsters, including us grown-up versions.
Best of all, you don’t need to buy heavy round pots or box-store wire cages.
(Don’t use fish parts for bait in wire cages where sea lions live, by the way. They’re origami artists when it comes to re-configuring wire-only crab kennels to get their fish fix.)
Castable crab traps or snares on rod and reel are the answer.
Castables are ingeniously designed around a rectangular frame, onto which is woven heavy cloth webbing. A single wire post in the center also has an attached bait skewer and, at the top, heavy mono filament spreading to each side of the flattened trap. At the other end, the pair of mono filament lines pass through a loop at the top of the post to a single swivel, to which the main line hooks. Pull on that swivel and both sides fold up like a giant clam, trapping whatever had been working on the bait.
This image is from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/AirFly-Foldable-Castable-Crab-Rectangle/dp/B08CZH5VTT), but either check local sporting goods outlets or search crab traps online using the word “castable.”
If you’re a sturgeon angler, you’ve already got most of what you need. My personal preference is an Ugly Stick with a Penn level-wind, but any stout outfit will work. Just be sure it can be protected from saltwater corrosion.
No leader is necessary; I just attach a snap directly to my braided line and use that to hook up the trap.
A snare – several species are available – is basically designed around a bait box. A series of attached heavy monofilament line loops are much like a fur trapper’s snares, pulled tight when the line is reeled in.
Snares are cheaper, but I far prefer castable traps. Admittedly, however, those without a boat forced to crab from the shore or a pier might find they can cast the snares farther than the folding versions.
Plus, I’ve never had as much luck with them as I do with folding castables. Crabs can come and go to a snare bait box and it’s far trickier to either detect the “bite” or assume something is ready to snare.
Folding traps, on the other hand, mostly expose bait over the flattened folds of cloth mesh and can instantly telegraph a feeding crab to the rod tip above.
The ‘bite’ is much like that of a trout. Keep the line just tight enough to avoid raising the folds and you can watch the rod tip as it tickles you about possible crab-cakes-to-be.
It’s up to you when to set-the-hook, but don’t jerk and don’t hesitate. As my son tends to holler in my bad ear when I’m fighting a salmon in his boat: “REEL! REEL! REEL!”
It will only take a few sets to give you an idea of a) whether you have something worth eating, and b) how many you’ll be able to feed.
The harder it is to REEL-REEL-REEL, the more likely you’ve trapped numerous male dinner guests.
I don’t recall catching more than a few, at most, in a snare, but have pulled in half-dozen or more legal-sized crabs in a folding trap – sometimes including determined wannabes hanging on to the outside, hoping for leftovers.
All of the sorting and weed-cleaning is easily done over the side of the boat (you ARE wearing PFDs, right?)
Bait is worth a separate column for pot crabbers, but it’s relatively simple for a castable.
Crabs love them, sea lions don’t and they’re the perfect size for a folding castable.
Chicken Backs and wings are cheaper, but more challenging to attach.
I’ve also had good success in regular crab pots with pheasant and duck carcasses leftover from bird hunting.
The late Jim Erickson once told me the hands-down best crab bait was a cormorant, but they’re a federally protected bird and, fortunately, only Jim’s closest friends (including me) believed he spoke from experience.
Crabbing is usually best on an incoming tide and, with castables, either a soft tide or out of the heaviest currents.
Be mindful of pot-crabbers and anchor away from buoys and unseen sunken lines. I usually carry a second anchor for the stern to steady the fishing lines and keep them from moving the traps around.
You may have to either move with the tide (as crabs do) or anchor in a few spots to find the right water.
Give it a jiggle. Let the crabs wiggle. You may giggle.
Sportcraft Landing: Boaters and anglers who use Sportcraft Landing and Abernethy Crossing in Oregon City are invited to a presentation and reception at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, in the nearby Riverside banquet room of Rivershore Bar and Grill.
Sponsors want to emphasize to Oregon City decision makers the importance of the landing and also seek to create a “Friends” group to bolster support for the landing and its marina in the hopes of keeping it off the list of diminishing access to the lower Willamette River.