Fish & Feathers: If you're crabbing, make sure it's legal

<I>RON MALAST photo</I><BR>Jason of Bellingham and Betty of Ocean Park show off a pot load of Dungeness crab.

Reports indicate that several local Willipa Bay and Ilwaco commercial crab fishermen have been going out as recreational crabbers and have been ticketed for fishing over limits and selling their catch.

This major no-no has brought down the wrath of WDFW enforcement officers, who are checking out all crabbers as they return to the docks. Remember, you must have your harvest card filled out with your catch, and in the Columbia River the limit is 12 Dungeness, 5 1/2-inches or better. It can be very costly, to the tune of $50 to 75 dollars a piece, for illegal crab.

Whale-watching timeWhale watching sites along the Washington and Oregon coasts will be staffed with volunteers next week to help see gray whales, now making their migration to Mexico.

More than 20,000 gray whales, averaging about 30 tons each, are expected to make their annual move south from their Alaska summer feeding grounds to their winter mating and birthing grounds off Baja California, Mexico. Last year, volunteers helped nearly 13,000 visitors spot 848 whales off the coast during their migration. The highest whale count during the winter event since recordkeeping began 17 years ago was 3,152 in 1994-95.

The round-trip migration by the gray whales is the longest of any mammal, covering 8,500 to 11,000 miles.

A couple of excellent locations to spot whales from locally are the lookouts at either the North Head Lighthouse or the lookout at the Lewis and Clarke Museum atop Cape Disappointment.

Gray whales are the most common whale seen from shore off the West Coast of North America. They are warm blooded, breathe air and give birth to live young that suckle on milk from their mothers.

There are two types of whales: toothed and baleen. The gray whale is a baleen whale. Instead of true teeth, a row of 138-180 baleen plates grows along each side of their upper gum line. The baleen is made of material like the human fingernail, which the whales use to separate their food - tiny marine animals - from the seawater.

Nautical TermsBumboat - A boat selling supplies or provisions to ships. Derived from the Dutch boomboat, a broad beamed fishing boat. Or, possibly from bumbay, an old Suffolk word meaning quagmire. This word appeared in England in 1695 referring to scavenging boat regulations. These boat were employed to remove "filth" from ships and also to carry fruits and vegetables for sale on board.

Ditty bag - From the Saxon word dite, tiny type of canvas material. A small box or bag in which a sailor kept his valuables such as letters, small souvenirs, and sewing supplies.

Ron Malast is owner/operator of the charter boat Big Dipper through Pacific Salmon Charters out of Ilwaco.

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