Finally, after weeks of snafus that kept us from getting out on the water, we went fishing and crabbing and oyster harvesting on Saturday.
It was dark and quite chilly when we left the house early Saturday morning. The boat was more crowded with stuff than usual because we took an extra cooler for our sandwiches and beer so that the BIG cooler could bring home our haul of fish, crabs, and oysters! And, of course, we were also carrying the crab pot and our muck boots this time, too.
We arrived at the landing at high tide. And, what a high tide it was, too! I’ve never seen the water that high and I had to put on my boots just to get to the dock!
We had talked to another fisherman when we were buying live bait shrimp a few minutes earlier at Crosby’s and he was launching his boat at the same time we were. He had said he tore up the red drum last week near the abandoned clam farm and was going back to the same spot to try his luck there again.
Brian and I headed to our favorite fishing spot, probably a couple of miles away by water. The air was cold and I wished I had my ear muffs and gloves. On the way, we found a place we thought would be good for crabbing. The water there was about 20 feet deep, so Brian rigged the trap with enough rope that the pot could sit on the bottom. We put a couple of chicken necks in the food trap and dropped the cage overboard. The plan would be to come back to this spot when we were done fishing for the day and pull up a pot full of crabs.
We began fishing in earnest. And, we were catching quite a few fish. I caught my first one before Brian had even tossed his line in the water for the first time! It was a small croaker (named thus because it makes a croaking sound just like a frog). Not big enough to keep. And that’s how the morning went. We caught lots of fish, black bass, whiting, croakers, spotted bass, but few big enough to keep. But, it was still fun. We decided to try our luck up near a place called the Long Dock, near Bowen’s Restaurant.
The tide was on its way out and in about another two hours, the oyster beds would be exposed and I would just hop out of the boat and collect a bushel or two.
On our way to the new spot, we passed our crab pot and decided to pull it up to see if there were any crabs in it yet. No crabs yet, but Brian adjusted the rope to about 16 feet, since the water level was now that much lower there. (See, with crabbing, you worry that if your line is too long, the excess might float enough that a passing boat’s propeller might cut it and your pot would be lost forever on the bottom of the sea.)
When we got to Long Dock, we hung a left into a smaller channel and caught a bunch of whiting there. Some were big enough to keep. And, after a little lunch, we noticed quite a few exposed oyster beds around us. Yep, it was almost two o’clock and low tide. And, we were at one of the state oyster beds, a place where we are allowed to harvest oysters! We beached the boat against an oyster bed and I donned my boot and rubber gloves and grabbed a hammer. I had seen a video on how it is done and I was prepared. I got out of the boat and pulled a cluster of oysters out of the mud. As I began to hammer away at some of the smaller oysters (these will fall back into the mud and continue growing, leaving just the bigger ones to keep) I began to sink, and sink, and sink further into the mud. Uh oh. I finally stopped sinking right at the top of my boots. And, so difficult to pull my feet out of that mud as it kept sucking my boots down under. What a muddy muddy business this is! And, if you fall you can really get yourself cut up on the oysters, too. And, so, I decided that oystering is not for me and that I will gladly pay for someone else to pick mine for me.
Now, what I haven’t mentioned so far is that one day last week, Sam Dog had a hold of one of my muck boots (I keep them near our back door to slip on for some of my outdoor projects) and he must have torn a little hole in the bottom of it because my right foot got wet and muddy.
So, it was the end of the fishing excursion and we were on our way back to our crab pot to pull it out of the water. On our way there, we passed a boat, carrying two bushels of oysters (the maximum for a recreational fisherman) on its way back to the landing. He was going to have some mighty fine eating tonight.
I got the camera out to snap a picture of our crab pot just as Brian pulled it out of the water. Up it came and when it broke the surface, we were surely disappointed as there was not even one crab in it!
You can crab year round in South Carolina, but I’m sure there are seasons where crabbing is better than at other times. I’m guessing that most of the crabs have migrated back to the ocean for winter. I will now probably have to wait for spring to try again.
But, that’s okay. I have lots and lots of trips to make to the beach and a lifetime of crabbing ahead of me.