by Jim Hooper / Special to the Triplicate

Catching crab from a kayak is a love-hate relationship. It also happens to be exciting, fulfilling, addicting, satisfying, and scary at times, but it always has a tasty ending .

It is easy to be too excited when pulling up a crab trap so heavy that without good balance one is in danger of being a spectacle for others’ amusement. The hate comes from the very real prospect of getting cold and wet and possibly becoming part of the local food chain. The love comes from foraging a local food source.

All too often in the age in which we live there is a disconnect from where we get our sustenance. As we progress, we depend less and less on what we individually do for our own everyday food needs. Growing our own food (or at least part of it), foraging (as in looking for mushrooms), fishing, and hunting allow us to appreciate it by supplying our own sustenance that we all too often take for granted. In a sense it ties us to our past.

Each passing season avails us opportunities to experience what those who came before us took advantage of not for sporting purposes but rather for survival. Many of us who are willing, able, and fortunate enough to live on the coast have an opportunity to set traps, pots or rings for Dungeness crab. The very portal to the past is able to be practiced, understood and relished.

It really doesn’t matter how the crab are caught as long as it’s legal. Whether fishing off piers, docks or rocks, they are all adrenaline-producing places to catch crab. Recreational motorboats or oar-propelled boats both work. A kayak is simply a platform in which all of one’s senses are engaged with all facets of the process. All parts of your body will be called upon to work in unison to balance, orient and be aware of what the seemingly small waves are doing. Sitting in basically a recycled milk jug and level with the water is an interesting perspective.

At times you can be lifting 40 pounds of crab over the side of a kayak that only weighs 70 pounds. Good balance and being in the moment is important.

Also important is basic survival gear. Wearing a PFD is imperative. Putting in and checking crab traps is always more enjoyable when going with a friend. Sharing good experiences with those of like mind also makes it entertaining and safer.

The thrill though is all the same when pulling up the trap and seeing it rise to the surface of the water. Constantly there are thoughts racing through my mind: How many crabs are there? What is the ratio of males to females? How many legal ones are there? Then, the question becomes more subjective; Why didn’t the last trap have as many crab? What bait should I use in the next one? Why is this one empty?

In my younger days working on the back deck of a commercial boat, the questions were similar and yet the thrill was the same as each crab pot was hoisted aboard. Only then I was also doing a mental calculation about how much each pot full of crab was worth to me.

Wherever I am at, I feel it is important to sense deeply the moment. I try to remember that I will never be in that experience again. Similar maybe, but not the same experience. Something will have changed.

We live in a beautiful area rich with a long history of natural resources. Nothing comes without a cost. It is important that we revere and appreciate these natural resources in honoring the memory of the past in our home. Yes, we who live in Del Norte County have everything here from awesome to spectacular, some of which we can eat.

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