I hope y’all had as amazing and wonderful of a Fourth of July as we did! The marina was bustling, BBQ was everywhere, folks were catching fish all over the place and, of course, the fireworks.
We’ve had a great stretch of weather as of late and the ocean has been giving up her bounty. Rockfish are coming in good numbers, although they have been pretty picky at times. You can see them all down there on your electronics but sometimes they’re just not biting.
Lingcod can be had if you hunt for them but we’re not seeing great numbers lately. Crabbing remains so-so and you have to really be on top of them to score big.
Nearshore halibut remains very good and the fin-clipped coho season has been stellar. We are seeing about 30 to 40 percent of all the ocean coho caught locally being fin-clipped, which of course means lots of fish in the ice chest. This time of year these fish put on about a pound a week, so while they are small right now they are indeed bulking up.
As I write this week’s article and report I am also running around loading up camping gear to head back out to the woods with my little ones because, quite frankly, its crawfish season and that is definitely one of our favorite summer pastimes.
Chasing crawfish is one of the outdoor activities that I’ve done since my youth. I’ve chased, dove for, trapped and caught crawfish all over this continent and I can honestly say that the state of Oregon has some of the best crawfishin’ anywhere. Our coastal rivers and streams are teeming with them and there are few things as fun as a group of friends or family sitting on a riverbank chasing mudbugs with a stick and a net.
The predominant species here in Oregon is the signal crayfish and these tasty fellows are commonly referred to as crayfish, crawfish, or as you just saw, mud bugs. The signal crayfish gets its name from the small white patch on the hinge of its large front claws, as it is somewhat representative of the flags signalmen used to use.
The signal crawfish is colored from a mottled brown to a bright red, with the red variation being the most common. Most of these tiny, tasty little freshwater lobsters (they aren’t really lobsters, though my eight year old, an experienced “crawfisher” insists that they are) are not used to much local predation besides raccoons and birds so when you enter their habitat they really don’t pay much attention and are readily harvested.
One of my favorite methods of harvesting crawfish is chumming the water with a tasty fish carcass — tasty for them, not us — and waiting for them to come to the buffet while I sit patiently with my dip-net. Another great method is simply baiting a trap and letting it sit overnight.
Our limit on crawfish is 100 per person, per day and no license of any sort is required, so it’s good cheap entertainment for the whole family.
The signal crawfish grows to about 3.5 to 4 inches in length with the odd monster coming in up to 5 inches. In the fall, the females are usually laden with eggs — 200 to 400 of them — which she carries on the underside of her tail until the early spring when they hatch.
The young will remain attached until around May, when they wander off and start life on their own. They reach sexual maturity by age two or three and live for several years, with some living over a decade or longer. The signal crawfish is one of the fastest growing crawfish species and will forage and feed on any protein they can get their claws on, as well as some types of algae.
Jumping in a creek, stream or river and chasing crawfish is as close to a fountain of youth as I have ever experienced and I recommend it for anyone.
I hope to see you out there.