Crab Fishing: Day in the life of a Fisherman
Photo 1: Before commercial crab season starts on December 1, the captains and their crew spend months preparing their gear and boats for the rigorous season ahead. This is a common scene in a fisherman’s yard anytime during the fall. Buoys are painted with the particular colors that identify a captain’s gear, bait jars are prepared, rope is measured, cut, and neatly coiled, crab pots are mended and weighted, and any repairs the boat may need are seen to.
Photo 2: In the weeks leading up to opening day a parade of trucks can be seen bringing hundreds of crab pots down to the pier. Time after time boats line up under the hoist and are loaded with empty crab pots. A few days before the season open fishermen are permitted to set their pots, however they may not pull their first pot until 12:00am December 1. Often this means hovering at the first pot in a line at 11:59pm on November 30, counting the seconds.
Photo 3: Crab pots are set in string, the number of pots in each can vary. As the boat approaches a crab pot, the driver slows and the block man uses a pole with a hook at the end to snatch the buoy and run the rope through the crab block. The block pulls the weighty pot from the depths of the ocean at a steady rate until it breaks the surface. Once crab are removed from the pot their sex is checked and females are thrown back. After the crew is sure the boat carries only male crab, the crab are measured with a crab gauge to be sure that they are of legal size (which here is six and one-quarter inches) and thrown into the hold of the boat.
Photo 4: Once a boat returns to Trinidad Harbor the crew must unload the crab from the hold of the boat into crab boxes so that they can be lifted by the hoist onto the dock. Some people use their hands to accomplish this task, others have developed a method involving a shovel.
Photo 5: Once the crab have made it from the hold to the crab boxes the boat returns to the dock, hopefully stacked high with boxes of crab to send up.
Photo 6: Those on the deck of the boat receive the hooks of the hoist and send the boxes of crab (full if it was a good catch) up to the dock one at a time. While the boxes are making their way to the dock, the driver has the particularly tricky job of keeping the boat as steady and in the same place as possible. This can be especially difficult in Winter’s often rough conditions.
Photo 7: As the box makes it’s way to the dock the dock crew, weigh master, and buyers all prepare themselves. The dock crew runs the hoist, helps with landing crab, runs forklifts to help load the crab into truck, and generally serves to help the operation run as smoothly as possible.
Photo 8: Though this image has a certain serenity to it, it is important to keep in mind the hectic atmosphere during the peak season. At the beginning of the season the dock is bustling. Captains and their crew are frequently out on the ocean for 20 hours at a time laboring in every imaginable type of weather. If the season is good even large storms won’t necessarily give the crew a day off.
Photo 9: At the end of a long hard days work, there is yet more work. Once the boat is unloaded and the crew is on the dock, the captain brings his boat out to his mooring, chains it up, and battens down the hatches. Then the rowing begins.
Photo 10: After rowing into the dock with the kind of impressive speed that only comes with years of experience, the row boat along with its captain are raised up by the hoist, swung over onto the dock, and finally set on solid ground, at least until tomorrow.