On our recent (July 2020) annual vacation to Orcas Island, we fished for crab as we always do, setting our 3 pots just in front of the cabins at West Beach Resort. There were monster tides during the early week, and in the first day we lost 2 of the 3 pots. Gone, can’t find them. It’s not unusual to lose a pot from time to time. Sometimes it’s an evil thing; someone who needs a pot appropriates one. Most of the time it’s just Mother Nature absconding with your gear, mostly by just submerging the floating part of your tackle in a swift tide and then weighing it down with kelp or snagging it on an undersea rock, where you can’t see or reach the floats to retrieve the pot. This is what our pots look like.
I like the rectangular wire-mesh pots because I’m old and lazy and don’t want to have to haul up an extra 20 lbs. of steel just to get at the goodies inside. The crab I catch tastes just as good. In any event, after loading the little cage inside with chicken parts (get the expired stuff from the supermarket if you can), the fisherman holds the floating part of the tackle and throws the rest overboard in a suitable spot. We like to fish about 70′ deep, ergo the 100′ long line. A few hours, or the next day, return and retrieve the pot. Crab fishermen use various configurations of the floats and colors to mark their pots so they can find them in the midst of all the others (we presume you have chosen a good spot to fish).
We choose to fish offshore of our cabin because it’s close, and we have done well there in the past.
But the particular undersea geography of the bay is both what makes it great for crab fishing, and not so great for crab-pot-keeping. The inner part of the bay is a nice large, shallow “dish” that has lots of fish and crabs, mostly small. The really delicious large male “keeper” crabs hang out on the perimeter, and that part is at the outer edge of the bay, where the large granite shelf that is the dish rapidly slopes out to the channel, reaching many hundreds of feet in depth over a small distance of less than 100 yards. So, place your pots with care, folks, or Davy Jones gets an early Christmas gift! A little bit of tidal flow, coupled with an overly-ambitious placement and you get what we got. Nada.
With only one pot left, we resorted to setting it a little farther east, in the next bay over closer to Camp Orkila, the world-renown YMCA camp. The water there has the same dish topography, but you don’t have to set close to an abyss to fish. We did well, very well in fact, feeding everyone that wanted crab, and a few neighbors to boot. We may, in fact, continue to fish there in the future.
We brought our lone pot home after vacation, and I set about buying the parts to replace at least one of them. You might notice, on close inspection, that one of the floats in my “terminal tackle” has my name, address, and phone number on it. This is a requirement in Washington, and it pays off. Out of the blue yesterday I got a phone call from an unknown number, which I ignored as I usually do (spam, aaargh!). But, just before I blocked the number, a text came in from the same phone.
25 years of fishing for crab, more than a couple of pots “lost”, and this is the first time someone else found one! (Caveat: Wendy and I actually found one of our lost pots 3 weeks after losing it, a case of a line dragged under and kelp-buried, that resurfaced). It turns out there must have been enough flotation on it that when it got pulled into the deep off of West Beach, the tide just took it away.
The journey this pot took was pretty amazing. From where it was set, it ended up 15 miles away. But, taking 3 weeks to get there, and drifting with the big tides of July and August, it could have easily traveled 2 to 3 times that far in it’s journey.
It’s kind of amazing to me that it never got hung up on anything traveling through all the channels it had to traverse.
We’re happy to have a great story, and we’re happy for the wayward pot to find a new owner! And we’re going to add some additional “terminal tackle” just as additional insurance for our future fishing! We bought a couple of bright fluorescent orange flotation balls that will get clipped to the smaller floats. We’ll keep you posted.
Tippy has his own ideas.