Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How To : Rigging a Hoop Trap for Blue Crabs

Featuring some hideous photos , but we won't worry about that as this is for instructional purposes. There are other ways to catch Blue Crabs , but this is a fairly easy way to improve your catch when compared to using a hand line , and cheaper than other types of traps or crab pots.

You can buy simple 2 hoop traps for around $2-3.00 , but they are not ready to use. You have to modify them to suit conditions where you will be fishing and add some rope to pull them up with. You will need the following :

  • Pliers and Wire cutters
  • Coat Hanger
  • Some type of light , flexible wire
  • Pyramid Sinker ( I used 6 ounces , go heavier if trapping from an ocean pier )
  • Zip Ties
  • Some type of rope ( I found some camo tree stand rope on clearance. Minimum of 20 feet)
  • A Pizza Box?
  • Chicken necks , drumsticks , or fish heads/other fish parts ( For bait )
  • Metal salad tongs , or gloves to handle the crabs ( They can really do some damage with those claws )   

These traps are designed to lay flat in the water , and then the outer hoop lifts up to make a basket that traps any crabs that crawled onto the net to get the bait. Keep this in mind when working with the coat hangers and wire because anything that can cause a snag could cause the trap not to open fully and let the crabs escape.

An open hoop trap.
Begin by cutting a piece of coat hanger long enough to go across the bottom hoop , and leave enough to wrap about 2 times around the hoop on each side. I like coat hangers for this , as thinner wire will bend under the weight of heavier sinkers. Next you'll want to start the bend , like this :

I had to have my wife help me with this part. I need to lift weights or something...
Attach it to one side of the hoop by bending it around at least two times , then trim it so that it doesn't snag on the netting. I always put the hanger on the bottom of the trap.

Before trimming

After you have the piece of coat hanger secured across the bottom of the trap , add the light , flexible wire to the "eye" of your pyramid sinker with a twist or two :

Next , you'll want to push the wire up through the center of the bottom ring of the trap , then run a zip tie through the eye of the sinker and around the coat hanger and light wire :

All that's left now is to attach your rope to the ring on top of the trap. I'm using 20 feet of camo rope I got on clearance , because I'll be using these from a dock in a shallow part of a bay. From an ocean pier , I would want a minimum of 40 feet because of the difference in height and the possibility of movement due to strong currents. I use the light wire to hold the roll of rope when packing them away , and this is also how you would bait the trap by wiring a raw chicken neck , drumstick , or fish parts to the bottom.

Oddly enough , an extra large pizza box works quite well to pack these in. The netting can be a real hassle if it gets tangled in fishing rods , and it definitely saves you the trouble of having to untangle a mess when you'd rather be fishing.

When you're on the water and ready to start catching a few crabs for dinner , it's a good idea to either wear gloves or use a pair of cheap metal salad tongs to handle and sort your crabs. I usually only keep males bigger than 5 inches across , but in some states it's OK to keep mature females. Just be sure to stay within limits and keep only legal crabs! You can find out more about crabbing and how to determine sex and age of Blue Crabs HERE!

I'll have more on catching and hopefully eating Blue Crabs in the coming weeks , after I've had a chance to try these babies out! Happy crabbing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Heartwarming Story About the Rebirth of a Pier

Back in February , I heard some news that broke my heart. The pier in Rodanthe , NC that so many of us have fished on over the years was in foreclosure. Things like this happen , but with circumstances being what they are on Hatteras Island , I was very unsure of what would become of my favorite set of planks in the world. The pier could have been held by the bank for a long period of time , and remained closed with no one taking care of it. It could have been bought by a developer and turned into ocean front rental properties. It could have also suffered the same fate as the Frisco Pier and become a casualty of the ravages of time and the sea. I grumbled and complained about it to anyone that would listen , raging about the unjustness of it all. With the beaches under attack from all directions and my favorite pier closed , where would I fish on the island? I was sickened by thoughts of what could happen. I began to wonder if my children would ever hear the scream of a bait clicker as a King Mackerel or a Bull Red grabbed a bait and headed out to sea.

Fortunately , things turned out far better than I could have ever hoped for. First , rumors began to circulate that it was being bought by fishermen. Then someone posted a link on one of the message boards I frequent , and things started looking up.The pier had new owners , and would be opened under new management in just a few weeks! It was the best news I had heard for quite some time.

Here's where this story becomes heartwarming , at least to me. I think it's a great testament to the way a lot of people feel about the pier in Rodanthe , and also to the great spot she was built on and the great fishing people have enjoyed from the planks throughout it's existence. The pier was indeed reopened by a group of gentlemen who have fished on the pier for years , according to some info I saw on Facebook. I can't claim to personally know the new owners , but I like to think I would probably recognize their faces , were I to see them on the pier. At the very least , I'd like to shake their hands and express my thanks to them for saving a great fishing pier from an uncertain fate. It means a lot to me that I will be able to continue making memories with my family on the planks we've grown to love.

For more information about the Rodanthe Pier check out their website at RodanthePierLLC.com and "Like" their new Facebook page. I highly recommend fishing here if you ever have the chance , you won't be disappointed!

Have a great week!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Spot on the New River and The Glow of a Coleman Lantern

Sponsored by Coleman and hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network, this is my submission for the Coleman Camping Heritage Essay Contest.

 I've been very fortunate in my life in that I've had a lot of great friends over the years. Of all these friends there are three that will always be at the top of my list. I've spent a great deal of time on the New River with Mr. K and his two sons and I cherish every memory we've made on the river's banks over the past 20 years.

When I first started tagging along with the K. family , they introduced me to a secret place on the river that very few people ever see , much less camp at. Because of it's remoteness , it's a pretty complex affair to go camping. You either have to hike about 2 miles in or take a boat close to a mile up river through some fairly rough water. When we were younger it was a frequent weekend outing , as we've all grown up and moved away it has become a yearly pilgrimage to catch up with what's happening in our lives and maintain our connections to each other and our spot on the New River. 

Over the years we've had a small fortune's worth of camping gear that has been in and out of this spot. Things get broken , lost or deemed unworthy of a second trip. There's only one thing that has made every trip , Mr. K's Coleman Lantern. More often than not , it made the trip on the floorboard of a pickup truck between someone's knees , followed by a ride in a john boat , again , between someone's knees. We've always been protective of that lantern , back then because we feared what would happen if we broke it , now because it has become an heirloom of sorts.

As I write this , I can almost hear the faint hiss of the lantern as it brings a warm glow to our campsite on a cool summer evening. I can see my best friend coming into the edge of the light from the lantern carrying a catfish , fooled into biting right before dusk. I can picture the four of us , sitting around the camp fire laughing and remembering trips from the past , or planning for our next trip , while the faithful old lantern drives away the inky blackness of night with it's inviting yellow glow.

Memory is a funny thing. Some memories are tinged with sadness or regret , even if they are good memories. I must admit that this is true for me when it comes to camping at our spot. I regret that I can't go as often as I would like to anymore. There's also a hint of sadness that I didn't realize at the time how important the memories we made on those lazy summer nights during our youth would be to me , as an adult. When the weather is just right here at home , I often long to be sitting by a fire watching the shadows made by moths as they lazily circle the lantern , accompanied by the beautiful music that can only be made by a gurgling river.

Time marches on , though. Both of Mr. K's sons have children now , as do I. We all look forward to making a new set of memories with our children , under the glow of that lantern. For me it has become a welcoming beacon at camp , something to guide the wary fisherman from the edge of the water to his temporary home. I can only hope that our children will remember camping as fondly as we do and that their memories will be tinted by the comforting glow of a lantern that has been with their fathers on every camping trip for the last 20 years.

Thank you , Coleman , for all of the great memories and for continuing to make functional , dependable , and iconic camping gear!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beware of Cheap Immitations

I am not a crook! But I am the victim of a (unintentional , I'm sure) public smear campaign from my good friends over at the OBN and Google. This one is going to be hard to live down...

Wow , guess I catch more fish than I thought!

I promise I'm not "Killing Our Oceans" like the ad says....

I haven't even been fishing in almost a month and certainly not enough to kill anyone's ocean. Doesn't take much to amuse me after a long dry spell like that either....

On the other hand , in my arrogance I clicked on the link to see what they were saying about me. I was disappointed. Turns out it's a conservation organization that's trying to do what conservation organizations do.

I take things like that with a very large dose of skepticism. Some of it is very alarmist and often based on outdated scientific studies done by people who truly don't understand the resource. Which leads down a bumpy road of regulations enacted by people who know even less about the resource , and that in turn can end up hurting the watermen who are being "protected". It's a sad cycle that I have watched nearly destroy the economy of Hatteras Island. There's light at the end of the tunnel for Hatteras I hope , but for many businesses it's already too late.

More on the state of access on Hatteras in the next day or two and also an announcement about my favorite pier. Right now I have a little unfinished business with the Pacific Ocean that I need to take care of....

Have a great week!