Hunting and Gathering Season!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's May, and although this winter has been quite delightful, May still has me giddy for Hunting and Gathering, among other things.  You may know that when I say Hunting and Gathering, I mean, Crabbing and Clamming.  To put it in a Forrest Gump like quote:

"You know it's funny what a young man recollects? 'Cause I don't remember bein' born. I don't recall what I got for my first Christmas and I don't know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But I do remember the first time I went Crabbing and Clamming."

My Momma started calling Crabbing and Clamming, Hunting and Gathering, when I was in middle school, and the term stuck.  It reminds one of the primitive days when hunting and gathering was the way of life, or maybe it reminds you of The Hunger Games.  Regardless of the theme, the way we Crab and Clam or Hunt and Gather, truly is, minus a few sophisticated changes, primitive.

First of all, you need the gear to make the experience, and if you get the following, you shouldn't have to purchase gear annually, instead only mend your perennial gear.  Most nets rust per season and you'll find the rusted nets will break as you scoop up this years bounty. Accessing your gear at the start of the season warrants away frustrating or disappointed excitement.

To get started, I recommend the following:

Tent stakes for the crab line anchor.  You can get these at any hardware store, and probably Wal-mart.  I got mine here in Wrightsville Beach at Redix; Craft American Hardware on Wrightsville Avenue probably also has them too.  Mine are red, and a bright color is good to have in case you get lucky and the crab continue to bite as the tide is rising.  That way if they are under water, you can still find them. 

Triangle Crab Weights (Crab Drop/Throw Line):  You can find these also at Redix or Craft American Hardware.  These are the best for crabbing; just unhook and stick a chicken back or any dark meat chicken to it and go get the crabs. Below is exactly what you are looking for:
Crab net - you need a net with a long pole attached to it. 

Shoes that won't slip off your feet.  I love Rainbows too, but they won't work for crabbing; the mud will steal them from your feet - the mud is sticky!  Below are the Chacos I have.  I prefer the toe re-enforcement because of the nature of this adventure.  You can also have these resoled down the road, which is a great added bonus.
Note:  the mud isn't just sticky, it is dark and it will stain your clothes, so I recommend dark colors for your suit or whatever you wear crabbing and clamming.  It's easier to get out, and easier to hide.  I usually have a suit just for crabbing and clamming, and most seasons I have to get a new one. 

A good clam rake.  I prefer a 3 or 4 prong rake.  A hardware store is probably best to find this, Lowe's and Home Depot probably have them too, as they are used for gardening too.  If you get more than 4 prongs, I find that it deters your clam gathering.  If you are lucky enough, and usually it happens, you can find the clam bed with the rake and then set it down and dig with your hands and feet.  Be careful though, the sand/mud will always surprise you with sharp hidden oysters and other shells that can cut you. 

Manicure's and Pedicure's are not recommended for crabbing and clamming unless you don't mind ruining them.  I usually give up that for the summer season.  The salt water will manicure your fingernails and toenails well enough, as long as you go for a good swim after your hunt and gather.
  • You want to crab preferably an hour before dead low.  Once the ebb flow occurs, many times the crabs will stop biting.  If you wait out the ebb until it begins to rise again, crabs will bite again.  Clamming is purely dependent on open beds in the marsh.  As long as you can stand the rising tide, you can clam until you can no longer touch.  Tide tables are posted by inlets.  If you are in Wrightsville Beach, depending on the location you chose to explore, check out Masonboro Inlet, Mason's Inlet, or Rich's Inlet.
  • Don't put on sunscreen and then touch the bait.  It will stay on the bait and the crabs won't bite.  So lube up before you get going and wash your hands thoroughly.  I also recommend adding to your gear, Dawn soap.  You can wash your hands in the salt water after you put on your sunscreen and before you bait up your crab lines.  Rubbing your hands in sand also helps, but can be risky.
  • Keep the crabs and clams you hunt and gather in water and alive.  Crabs and clams must be cooked and prepared live or they are no longer good. 
  • If you can't cook the crabs right away, put them in a paper bag and leave them in the refrigerator or freezer.  They will remain dormant until you are ready to cook them and will still be good.
  • Clams needs to clean themselves after you finish gathering them.  Place them in a pillow case and tie the case at the top so it is closed.  Place a rope underneath the knot, tying as tight as possible, and drop into the salt water about 3-4 feet for as long as 24 hours.  The clams will filter the clean salt water through their bivalve and empty the muddy water in the process.
There are delicious recipes for crabs and clams and I will post some soon.  But, for now, it's time to prep for low tide.  Today it's around 2:15 p.m. at Mason's!

Happy Hunting!  Happy Gathering!  And, enjoy the North Carolina outdoors!


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