Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crabfest 2013

What an amazing weekend! Howling wind, Coast Guard rescues, crashes into rocks and my first attempt at crabbing from a kayak!

Headwaters and NorCal Kayak Anglers hosted Crabfest 2013 at Doran Beach in Bodega Bay this past weekend and with over 100 attendees and some awesome prizes it was an event to remember.

We arrived Friday afternoon at Porto Bodega and set up camp. The weather that afternoon and evening was  beautiful and the sunset spectacular. Porto Bodega is about 2 miles from Doran Beach and was a very nice campground with full hookups. Friday evening we settled into our home away from home and started working on our traps for the following day. This was our first attempt at crabbing from kayaks and we were excited to give it a try.

We had ordered SMI crab pot kits from Johns Sporting Goods online because the kit had everything we needed to get started. The kit came with the trap, 100 ft. of leaded rope, the harness, bait bag, float and crab measure. We started putting our traps together and strategizing for Saturday.
Family Friend Tim getting ready.

One possible set-up.

Saturday morning we loaded up and headed to Doran Beach where Dan from Headwaters was putting on a rescue clinic. When we arrived the wind was blowing at least 15 mph and whitecaps dotted the bay. We listened in on Dan's rescue tips and watched as a practice rescue was performed. Little did we know that there would be many rescues or tows over the next couple of days. After the clinic I decided to launch and get a feel for what the conditions were like out on the water. I didn't paddle very far because the wind had really picked up and I knew heading back to shore would be a workout. My friends and I decided to forgo setting any traps because of the conditions and just watched what others were doing. Later that afternoon a couple of people were blown way offshore and were having trouble getting back so the Coast Guard was called and they rescued one kayaker as another was towed in by fellow kayakers. Everyone was safe and it was a great reminder and lesson that the ocean needs to be respected. Always know your limits and if conditions are questionable, I like to err on the side of caution even if it means missing an opportunity I've been looking forward to.

Conditions weren't getting any better and the Coast Guard wanted everyone off the water so we headed back to camp. My friends and I decided to try setting some traps inside the harbor where we thought it would be safer. We paddled out around 4:30 and discovered rather quickly that the wind was just as bad so we set some pots quickly in only 5 ft. of water near low tide and hurried back to the launch. As we were heading back, the moon was just starting to rise over the hills.

Sunday we were up before sunrise to get back to Doran Beach to register for the event in time. We arrived just after 7:30 and quickly registered and got our gear set up. The wind was blowing again but not quite as bad as Saturday. I only had one trap with me as I had set the other one inside the harbor the night before. I launched through the small surf and dropped my trap maybe 100 yards from shore. I was concerned the wind would be getting worse as the day went on and I didn't want to go too far out.  After a couple of hours I went and picked my pot up and I had two good size rock crabs as keepers. I wanted to try again so I went a little further out and dropped it again.

The official crab tournament ended at 12:30 and the pot luck began at 12:15. Lots of crabbers donated their catch and I threw my rock crab in for the feast. Dan's Mom, Terri, did an awesome job cooking the crab for everyone and there were lot's of people helping throughout the day. It was really neat to see so many people serving others and sharing in the days festivities. When the food disappeared Headwaters started the raffle. There were a ton of great prizes that companies donated for the event. Top prize was an Eddyline Caribbean 12! Other prizes included the new GoPro Hero 3, Bending Branches angler paddle, Promar trap and too much more to list!

The wind picked up again in the early afternoon and there were a couple more kayaker's in need of help against the wind and another towed in by a power boat because of a broken rudder. The kind power boater dropped him close to shore but unfortunately also a little too close to the rocks where he ended up with more damage to his boat because of the wind. He received help from a couple of volunteers who towed him off the rocks and back to shore. With the wind howling again, we decided to leave our pots in the water overnight and hope for less wind the following morning.

We still had pots that needed to be picked up inside the harbor. I was zapped, so Tim went out and picked up our pots while Mary and I watched him to make sure he made it back safely. I had one Dungeness in the pot but it was too small so back to the sea it went. The day was great, even if it was a bit windy.

We slept in a little Monday and headed back to Doran to pick up our remaining pots. We arrived about 8:30 and there was a stiff breeze but no whitecaps. We picked up the pot that was the furthest from shore first and grabbed mine on the way in. I  had five Red crab in my pot but only one keeper. After picking up the rest of Tim's pots we were left with three Red crab and one Dungeness. Tim and Mary were kind enough to let me take them home and cook them up. Believe it or not, I had never tried crab until yesterday. My Grandparents used to get cases of King crab and cook them up and I guess as a kid I felt bad watching them throw live crabs into the boiling water. I'm over it now and had fun cooking them up and tasting crab for the first time. I have to say that I preferred the Red crab to the Dungeness even though there was a lot less meat on them.

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend with family and friends and I highly recommend trying to crab from a kayak! I look forward to doing it again soon. I also recommend fishing from kayaks and if you'd like to give it a try, I have several fishing kayaks available for rent. Check out deltakayakadventures.com!

I'll post some video of the event soon!

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