We are back in Anacortes after our summer adventures up north in the Broughton Islands and Desolation Sound. While we are starting to look forward to our fall and winter adventures on the Road House, who can resist the lure of crabbing, the balmy weather and clear blue skies. The San Juan Islands were beckoning…come play, come crab…so what were we to do??
Well, we just gave in, loaded up the crab bait, some fresh produce and off we went to one of our favorite anchorages and crabbing spots.
Getting the anchor set is a team effort… we don our geeky headsets, I drive the boat to the perfect anchorage spot, Wally runs the windlass anchoring device on the bow of the boat, we chatter back and forth on our geeky headsets about the depth (don’t forget he can hear everything you didn’t mean to say out loud) and how much anchor chain we want to lay down, I back the boat down on the anchor chain, Wally tells me to back down again, we both feel the anchor grab hold, the boat snaps back, sometimes I back down again and then we REALLY feel the anchor grab and the boat snap back.
After that maneuver, we feel good about the world and our place in it. Engines are turned off, Sucia gets let out of her travel bag, Bentley gets a trip to the pee mat on the back of the boat and then…only then, we can get geared up for CRABBING!!!!
As predators and scavengers, Dungeness crabs feed upon a broad range of prey including small mollusks, crustaceans, clams, and fishes. We often use fish heads or carcasses for crab bait if we have them from previous fishing expeditions. Even though crabs are bottom feeders, best I can tell, they love chicken too. Who’da thunk…its not like they have a Chik Fil A down there to just swim through.
Lately, we have been digging clams to supplement the crab bait bag. The bigger the better when it comes to clams for bait and it is actually fun to go dig them up in nearby muddy bays.
Once all the traps are baited, we like to put our crab traps out in deep water…about 70 feet as this seems to yield the mother lode, like in the photo below! But often times the traps are also productive in shallower areas around 35 feet. Once the traps are down, we mark the location on the GPS and then the hard part comes….Waiting!!! We usually wait at least four hours before we run out in the whaler again and check the traps. Sometimes you have to sip a glass of wine or a cold beer while you patiently wait.
Bentley loves crabbing too…the best part for him is getting to ride on the bow of the whaler out to pull the traps. When the traps come into the boat, he is fascinated by the crabbies but seems to know that they are best left to his man to sort out.
Sorting and measuring the crabs is actually a bit crazy… believe it or not they are not very friendly nor are they happy to be pulled away from the feast in the bait bag. Sometimes, they actually get really pissed and take a run at you with their claws raised. The trick is to pick them up from the back… not the front side where they can easily bloody up your fingers with those huge claws. As you can see from the pictures below, the gender can be identified quite easily by turning them over and looking at the underside of the shell.
Back at the boat, we set up the crab cooking station, then Wally gets busy cleaning and cooking the boys. For those you who might be squeamish, I will spare you the details of how the crabs are humanely dispatched but I will tell you that we don’t boil them whole and alive like the ones you see in the grocery store sitting nicely on a bed of ice. Why you may ask? Well, number one…how uncool to throw the dudes in a pot of boiling water alive, bad karma for sure. Number two…boiling them whole literally cooks the crab meat in water, reduces the flavor and makes for a wet soggy mess later when you want to eat the crabbies.
We prefer to steam our humane dispatched crabs for about 20 minutes, let them cool slightly and boy oh boy, let the feasting begin!!! There is nothing more delicious than warm, freshly steamed crabs!
MMMM, seafood paella for dinner and the view isn’t bad either!!! I know you will find this hard to believe but I have a whole rotation of recipes that feature crab. White wine is quite often going to accompany a meal involving crab …shocking too right!!!
After a hard day of crabbing, we are often treated to an amazing sunset. Sigh, now do you see why the lure of crabbing is so hard to resist???