Gold dredging - dredging for gold
You have gold fever – Now what can you do?
Ok, once you have learned to pan good, and use a sluice to get even better gold, your probably looking at how a dredge can get you even more gold.
Well, it will. Or at least they can... You can still get skunked. It isn't as much the equipment, as it is the operator. You can dredge all day and not find a spec of gold when you clean up, or you can really find a lot of gold.
Usually, it is in between these two ends of the spectrum. Seems like it likes the lower end more though, until you learn how to really find gold, and learn that testing and testing will make all the difference.
To decide what dredge you want to get, look at the rules for your area and see how big you can go. Then, think about your physical abilities, or lack there of... You'd better be honest with yourself on this one, or you could get a dredge that you can't get in and out of the water.
They make dredges from 1.5 inch hoses on up to 8 and 12 inches.
Around here, we have a maximum nozzle size of 3 inches. A lot of us have 4 inch dredges with a ring welded on the end to make it a 3 inch opening. This really helps to keep us from getting rock jams in our hose, and that saves you a ton of time, and frustration. There is nothing worse than having to un-jam a hose every 10 minutes. You'll loose more time fixing it, than you will dredging.
If you go out alone, or like hitting the more remote areas, you might want to get something smaller like a 2 or 2.5 inch dredge. These are small, and light weight. The 2.5 inch dredge will move a whole lot more material than a 2 inch. The 1.5 inch dredges to me seem like a waste of time... I am sure there are some people that love them though.
A 3 inch dredge used to be about as big as you wanted to do alone. Now days with the smaller 4 inch dredges, you can have a 4 for the weight of a 3. I chose the Keene 4 inch mini over the Proline 4 inch based on how it would fit in my trailer easier... I loved my Proline 3 inch.
In hind sight, I think I would have preferred the Proline 4 inch, and just rebuilt my trailer box. I never had an issue with my proline. I have had a number of them with my Keene.
Prolines are easier to set up and go, whereas a Keene dredge has more to deal with. Their 3 stage boxes claim to catch more fine gold. They don't have it on the mini, so I don't know. All I know is that I tried to use one without any instruction once, and hated it with a passion...
It took me a year or two, but I have my 4 inch mini getting great gold, no mater what the size. I took out the carpet, and I put in different black mat, and miners moss all the way down, and now it does a super job. I even put a piece of miners moss over the first black mat, because the water would wash it almost clean. I can capture the smallest of fine gold now. Even at full power.
My KAC1 air compressor is one that Keene designed and built for 2 divers. It is lighter than the 263 gahst, and is low pressure, like the T-80. Well, let's just say that after 4 or 5 of them being replaced,,, it is finally working good too. But it was extremely upsetting to miss so much time for returns when it should have been fully tested in real life before it hit the market. Most people don't have a week or two to wait for a replacement compressor. I had the summer off last year, and dredged all I could. I missed the first 10 days... sitting at the camper waiting for it to return.
Keenes support was great, but putting that compressor out onto the open market before it was truely working good, really put me in a bind more than once, and could have caused death on one occasion... for 2 of us.
Ok, to compare which dredge to use, think of it like this. How many rocks do you want to have to toss out of your way. How much material do you need to move.
Even a 1.5 inch will process more than you can do with a pan or sluice, but not really a ton more. It would be great for cleaning cracks in a small or shallow stream, or along a rivers edge.
A 2.5 inch will move about twice as much as a 2 inch dredge. This means you throw less rocks, and move more material with the dredge, and you should get more gold this way.
The 3 inch dredge moves about twice as much as a 2.5 and you don't have to throw as many rocks.
The 4 inch moves more than twice as much as a 3 inch, and you suck up all those 3 inch rocks and keep going, only tossing by hand the larger ones. It digs a deeper hole faster too, so make sure to have air on your 3 or 4 inch dredge. Your arm can only reach so far...
It sounds like it is less work with a larger dredge, but it isn't. Getting it into the water is harder. Using it takes more energy, and gets you to the much bigger rocks faster than the smaller dredges, and those take a lot more to effort to move.
Then you have to put it all back up when your done.
That is not even to mention about the cost. The larger dredges cost a whole lot more than the smaller ones. However, if you buy a used one due to your budget, you can get a larger dredge at a good price if you watch craigslist, and gold prospecting forums, and ebay.
Is it worth it to use a bigger dredge? This is a question only you can answer. If your capable, then I think it would be. It is to me.
I don't know your situation, so you need to think about all the above, before jumping in and making the choice, so you can get the right one for you physically, and financially.