SHELLFISH TRAPS AND POTS
We’ll start close to home. Let’s look at options for Dungeness crab here on the Pacific and Alaska coasts. Unlike many other sport Dungeness crab pots, the Neptune line of sport Dungeness crab pots are rectangular or square. The pots that Willapa Marine Products, makes are rectangular in shape with triggers on the ends, or, offset on opposite sides of the pot. There is an old belief that a Dungeness crab pot has to have a round shape to be effective. The thinking is,… that if the crab walks along a square or rectangular pot side, and comes across the pot’s corner, the crab will just keep walking straight, and not turn the corner. Capt. Neptune’s experimental rectangular and square pots certainly have put this old adage to rest. No problem with Dungeness crab turning a corner! They follow their nose! Just like king and tanner crab in Alaska find the tunnel entrances on large square pots. Just like lobster find the entrance hoops on rectangular shaped lobster pots. Spiny lobster in the Caribbean, New Zealand, and Australia find the entrance on rectangular pots with entrances on the top of the pot! Shellfish of all sorts follow their noses to the bait. They really don’t care what shape your pot is!
Commercial Dungeness crab pots have traditionally been built in a round shape using welded mild steel frames. The welded wire frame is hand wrapped with strips of rubber to help prevent corrosion and to separate the mild steel frame from the stainless steel wire mesh that is hand knitted over the pot’s frame . This separation of the mild steel frame from the SS mesh is very important. Usually, each pot would have two knitted SS tunnel ramps leading to a SS tunnel eye that has SS triggers that flip up to allow the crab to enter. If this stainless steel comes in contact with mild steel, it can create an electrical charge that might zap Mr. Crab as he tries to enter through the SS triggers on the pots. Fishermen will often add zincs to their mild steel pot frames to help neutralize any electrical charge that might develop. It is very important in these traditionally built pots to make sure your pot is not ‘hot’.
What if this traditional pot design was altered to remove any chance of electrical interference? How about using the all plastic Neptune Dungie Triggers to isolate the entrance from any charge in the pot? How about using some of the high tech woven netting materials like Spectra web to replace the SS mesh? A new Dungeness pot design might seem farfetched in this tradition bound fishery. Probably is….in the short haul. In the long haul the Dungeness fishery has changed in numerous areas, always looking for ways to catch more. We think our Neptune Dungie Triggers continue that trend. Whether being used to modify existing pots, or on new gear, Neptune Triggers offer a way to catch crab a new fashioned way.
Neptune Marine has worked with Dungeness Gear Works in Everett WA for 20 plus years. They are known for their high quality crab and fish pots. Despite their name, they are not known for making Dungeness crab pots. They are the largest builder of king, tanner and fish pots in the US. We sell them Crab and Cod Triggers for their various designs. Capt. Neptune asked Lance to come up with a 3 entrance Dungeness crab pot to show our various trigger options on a “show and tell pot” used for the Neptune road show. What you see below is the 3 triggered Neptune pot with the same nylon mesh used on king and tanner crab pots. Other high tech meshes such as Spectra might be an option as well as nylon or polyester netting.
KING CRAB SPECIES
There are numerous species of king crab found around the world. While Alaskan king crab is most well known, other populations of similar crab are also found in waters of Russia, Norway, Chile, and New Zealand. In Alaska there are 3 primary species including the Red king crab, Blue king crab, and Golden king crab. Neptune crab triggers work well on the Blue and Golden king crab. These species are aggressive crab that live rough terrain and go through Neptune triggers very easily. The Red king crab usually lives in flat terrain and is not as aggressive and mobile as the Blue and Golden king crab. While Neptune crab triggers would work on Red king crab, they are not required as the existing pot designs work well in containing the crab.
In the Golden King Crab fishery, the entire fleet has used our crab triggers for the past 25 years. These crab are the escape artists of the deep, or at least, they used to be. In the late 1980’s , fishermen targeting these crab in 400-600 fathom depths of the Aleutian Islands had a difficult time keeping them in their pots. This changed when some fishermen tried some of our newly introduced Cod Triggers in their king crab pots. Secrets are hard to keep on the waterfront and before too long the entire fleet started to modify existing pots with our cod triggers. In effect, turning our Cod Triggers into Crab Triggers. The entire fleet targeting these crab use our Crab Triggers. The most popular sizes is the 9 X 36 or MX9 model.
TANNER CRAB SPECIES
There are two main types of Tanner crab found in Alaska. The larger fishery in Alaska is for Opilio Tanner crab. A smaller fishery exists for Bairdi Tanner crab. The Bairdi is the larger of the two Tanner crabs. Neptune Marine’s origins can be traced back to the original Tanner crab trigger developed for the Alaska Bairdi fishery in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This trigger was the first of our designs that was patented. It utilized a single row of fingers mounted on the top of entry tunnel eye. The fishermen would sometimes call this trigger model the Eyelash Trigger since it’s upward curved fingers mimics the look of an eyelash. A modern version of our Eyelash Trigger is still well suited for a nesting pot design that features collapsible tunnel ramps and a purse string bottom.
There is also a large Opilio fishery in Eastern Canadian waters. They use nesting conical pots with plastic funnels Neptune fingers could be attached to these existing funnels to help prevent escape of crab. Escape of crab can occur during hauling or if the pot is turned on its side. The nesting pot shown below would work well for tanner crab as well as other crab species. Picture on the left shows the Eyelash trigger in place and ready to fish. The photo on the right shows the triggers tucked and ready to nest. Note that this pot has a side door for unloading that is flipped on top in these pictures. The purse string bottom would be loosened when the pots are stacked.
This is a wide ranging species found in all the Southern oceans, the North Atlantic, the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the East Coast of the US and numerous international seamounts. The one exception being the Northern Pacific. Chaceon crab are generally a deep water species. It was previously known as the Geryon species. There are close to 20 varieties of Chaceon crab found around the world. Some are red in color (found in the North Atlantic), some are white or Golden in color (found off the coast of Florida) , some are orange in color (found in the Indian Ocean), and some are bi-color. The most notable from a commercial standpoint are as follows:
Red Chaceon Crab – chaceon quinquidens – Fished off the NE coast of the USA by a limited number of vessels. This fishery has developed into a model fishery where fishermen and regulators have worked together on conservation and harvest methods to create a sustainable fishery. Most fishermen use trap modeled after the NE lobster pot, or the E. Canadian snow crab pot. No Neptune triggers in this fishery ……yet. The Capt. would like to offer samples out for any boat who wants to try our triggers out in this fishery. Not much to loose….lots to gain.
Golden Chaceon Crab – chaceon fenneri -Currently Neptune modified crab pots are the standard in the Golden crab fishery off the E. coast of Florida. This evolution started in the early 1990’s when one of the pioneers of the fishery, Dick Nielsen, started to rig his pots with Neptune triggers. All the boats in the fishery now use some sort of Neptune modified pots. Most often the fishermen will attach fingers to the common lobster funnel using pop rivets. Good success has also been reported with wire mesh pots that use Neptune standard triggers.
Chaceon Affinis – Another variety of Red chaceon crab. It is found on the seamounts off the NE Canadian and US coasts as well as the waters off Ireland to the Faroe Islands. These crab are some of the larger ones in the Chaceon family.
Capt. Neptune in aware of a number of other Chaceon fisheries, or those in waiting. The Capt. is always interested in talking with interested parties that think a Chaceon crab fishery might be in their uture fishing plans.
BLUE CRAB, JONAH CRAB, MUD CRAB, STONE CRAB, ROCK CRAB
You name ‘em, Neptune Crab Triggers will catch ‘em all! It all comes down to the question of whether the cost of the trigger will increase your catch. It’s often the case, that the cost of the trigger is usually paid for the first time the pot is pulled. From then on, Neptune doesn’t get a cut. Such a deal! A better fishing pot pays for itself many times over even if it costs a bit more at the start.
The worldwide lobster fishery can be broken into two general groups of lobsters. One is the clawed variety such as the American lobster or the European lobster. The other group are those lobsters without claws, commonly called spiny lobster.
American and European Lobster– I wish Capt. Neptune could report success with these critters. So far, we have not come up with a trigger design that works. Still, we love working with lobstermen to see if there is some design idea we missed. More from the Capt. in a later post. There still might be hope!
Totally different behavior from this variety of lobster compared to the American lobster. Spiny lobsters are much more social than their clawed cousins. It’s common for spiny fishermen to ‘bait’ their traps with small lobsters from a previous trap haul to encourage the bigger lobster into the trap.
The other difference between these two groups of lobster is that the spiny variety will go through Neptune Triggers . Whether they are top or side entrance applications, spiny lobster have no problem going through will go through Neptune’s fingers, if the trigger is designed correctly.
For top entry traps, you need a trigger entrance that will allow for a 3” gap between the opposing finger tips. Gotta let Mr. Lobster in the pot!. The 9” end piece is used to created a wider ‘mouth’ to the trigger allowing the 3” gap with minimal resistance to the lobster. A common model would be the MFL 105W. It would measure (I.D.) 9” X 13”.
For side entry traps, you want to have the finger tips just about touching. A common model is the MFL 105 with and ID of 7” X 13”.
Neptune Triggers have started to get more converts in the New Zealand spiny fishery. We sell exclusively through Wellington and Napier Provedoring in NZ. See International contacts for contact information.
While the Kiwi lobstermen have shown their innovative nature, their Aussie counterparts haven’t had the chance to use Neptune triggers in the country’s largest fishery in West Australia. At the request of our WA agents, we sent over trigger samples so they could be tested on the existing top entry pots. The Neptune triggers were used to replace the traditional rigid plastic funnels. The Neptune triggers must have worked….maybe worked too well. The Fisheries Ministry banned the use of our Neptune Triggers in the lobster fishery. In a response to Capt. Neptune’s objections, the Minister said, in effect, ‘ that in our trap limited fishery, more effective gear, such as our Neptune Triggers, would disrupt their management system since the Neptune modified traps would be catching more than the tradition funnel entrances’. This happened in 1993. Disappointing for Neptune,.. but good to know our triggers were acknowledged as being very effective by the Minister himself!
With the introduction of the ITQ system in the WA lobster fishery, Aussie lobstermen might be able to have greater leeway in designing a more efficient trap. In an ITQ system, it would be much cheaper to haul less gear that is more efficient. The Capt. is ready to work with Aussie lobstermen, and fishery managers to see if the future might be different from the past in regards to use of Neptune lobster triggers.