Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas (Shell)fish Story.

Well, I went to the Cove today and went out on mussel point, on the seaward side. The waves coming in were large rollers, so I was a little apprehensive, but I found long ago that you can always get mussels at low tide. There was a minus 1.5 five at 5:00 P.M or something like that.

I started out on the rocks about 3:45 so the tide was still going out. I like to follow the tide out. That way you can always come back to shore. If you go out at low tide you can sometimes find yourself stranded out on the rocks with water coming up around you. I hate when that happens.

The mussels that you can get along the shore are small and picked over. The farther out that you go the larger they get. The big ones are on the last rock in front of the breakers. I worked my way out, picking a few of the larger small mussels, while building my confidence that I wasn’t going to get skunked. I watched my favorite rock for about ten minutes and no waves were breaking over it and it was pretty well drained off so I sneaked out and got my limit of the larger mussels.

My wife was mad at me for taking chances, but I assured her that it always looks worse from the shore, in fact I felt fairly safe or I wouldn’t have done it.

I usually take a rip hammer with me to pry the mussels of the rock but all I could find was a claw hammer. The claws are too curved, and don’t slide under the mussel that you want to pick. Always take a straight clawed rip hammer, or make your own tool like I used to do. You don’t feel so bad when you lose a cheap homemade mussel pick. I never lost one, so I don’t really know. I’ve lost a few Abalone irons back in my diving days. We use to make our own abalone irons out of old buggy springs, there was an abundance of springs on my Grandmothers ranch in Laytonville.

Anyway, I found the slight element of risk to not be unlike when my cousin and Oregon and I used to go diving for abalone. Time was usually the biggest factor in us going diving. Finding time was always a problem, so when we decided that we had the time we went, no matter what the weather. Oregon didn’t care about the tide but I did, I liked to dive at low tide, there is usually two of those a day so it worked out.

We would usually get up very early for the morning tide, then talk about how we “didn’t care how damn rough the ocean is, we are going to get our abalones.” We went diving in some pretty rough weather and sometimes we didn’t get our limits, but I don’t remember ever getting skunked.

One time in particular, Oregon, Bob, and I went diving off Dehaven Creek in Mendocino. We did the typical banter about getting our abalone, no matter what. When we got there, it was blowing a gale, but we decided that it wasn’t that rough. So we decided to go out. This was one of those times that it looked even worse after we got out there. The wind was so strong that we were being pushed back to shore from our diving tubes catching the wind. When the waves would break, they were breaking over us. We were taking turns diving one at a time because it was impossible for one guy to hold two tubes, let alone three. Finally one of the tubes got away from us and blew clear onto the beach. That was encouraging, so we let another tube go and started diving two at a time. The waves were breaking over us and we had to hold our breathes until the spray from the comb died down. When we came up from a dive we were allowing extra breath just in case we came up in a raft of foam that we couldn’t get our heads above. We soon found that the rip current was so strong that we couldn’t stay on our rock, but pick a new one down current every dive. It wasn’t long until we were pretty much exhausted, then we found that we had blown clear off the rocks, so we swam in.

When we got to shore we gathered up the two other tubes and put our share of abalone in each one before we brought them ashore, just in case the game warden was watching. In retrospect, that was pretty funny, I doubt that the game warden even suspected that somebody might be diving that day. He was probably home toasting his toes by the fire.

We talked about it later and decided that maybe we shouldn’t have done that, but we all had abalone dinner that night, which is a great consolation prize for not getting our complete limit. Now as a side note: I should tell you that there was a hell of a lot of abalones back in the 60s, if you could find a rock, you could find an abalone, so we were fairly sure that we could find a rock out there if we would just go out. Fun times!!!


Ernie Branscomb said...

Wow! It's slow day in the blogospere. when you can't even get a comment on a fish story. I must have been too lax lately, and lost my peeps.

Jennifer Savage said...

I enjoyed your story!

spyrock said...

great story ernie. thinking about risking my life in the ocean as well today. how many times i was in a rip in some waves counting on that one that would bring me closer to shore. a bit more scary to be in a live ocean like yours up there.

Anonymous said...


Ernie Branscomb said...

You are allowed to get 10 pounds, but I only got 9 because I didn't take a scale, and I didn't want to go over.

I brought them home in sea water. I poured a little of it in the bottom of my steaming pot, then dumped the mussels in after cleaning the shells. As soon as they opened good I drained them and set the pot on the table.

I fixed some drawn butter with lemon, and had some butter with garlic. Somebody told me to try Honey Mustard salad dressing on them, but I couldn't get past the butter sauces.

They were soon gone. I was left wanting more, so I checked the tide books, but alas... no more tides this year.

Anonymous said...

How did you know you had nine pounds without a scale? If you go for abalone without a measure device you are in violation of the law even if you know the ab's are all over 10"s.


P.S. As far as I'm concerned, you can have all the mussels in the ocean:-)

Ernie Branscomb said...

Well...Oregon, A five gallon bucket, just a little less than full, weighs twenty-five pounds. So a bucket one third full would weigh ten pounds. So that counts as a measure.

Plus I have been lifting freon drums onto scales my whole life, and you know how I am, everything is a game. That's why your dad always got mad at us while we were loading the ice cream freezer. Remember when he used to get mad at us and say "this isn't recreation, this is work. If you are having fun you're not working, you are playing."

Well I still play, I can't resist guessing the weight before I put something on the scale. I should have the bureau of weights and measures put a frickin' seal stamp on my forehead, I'm that good!

Then when all that fails, I have a $300.00 dollar electronic scale in the compartment on the side of my truck. I know that doesn't count because you are supposed to have it in possession. So... when did you get legal?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Besides, you use a measuring cup to "weigh" 8 ounces of water don't you?

That, and I am an honest person, and I am entitled to take my limit of fish. This is the first and last time this year that I've gone fishing, so at $60.00 dollars for a fishing license, I figger I'm entitled.

If the game warden had arrested me I would have never bought another fishing license, that would have taught them!

Ross Sherburn said...

Our son caught some fish out of Trinidad last month. We ate some last nite. I asked my Wife what kind of fish it was,she said "ocean" fish,you dummy!!!

Anonymous said...

Big difference between ocean fish and fresh water fish dummy:) Unless it is cold water trout. All the rest that get into fresh water from the ocean to spawn needs to be smoked. Heavy on the smoke and salt to boot..


P.S. Just raggin' on ya Ross...

Ross Sherburn said...

Oregon,you can "rag" on me all you want,I'm used to it..........