crab season

Crabbing is a big deal for boaters at Semiahmoo Marina. With crabbing season here (August 17th), now would be a good time to talk about what goes into this northwest tradition to ensure that you have a legal, safe, and enjoyable crabbing experience.

What’s the big deal
The big deal is that crabs are an incredibly sweet tasting delicacy, and fishing for them has been a tradition among sports and commercial boaters for generations. In fact, it’s such a big deal that it’s reported that the 2012-2013 West coast crab season netted between 35 and 55 million pounds of crab.

First, get legal
Every person fishing for crab in Washington State over the age of fifteen years of age, must possess a current fishing license. In addition, must get a crab endorsement on their license and carry and complete catch record cards to account for all Dungeness crab they catch.

How you get them

Mike Hall of Redden Marine Supply shows Semiahmoo Marina members how to measure crab at August Crab Seminar at the Marina (photo: Gary Paul Bryant)

Hunting down your limit of crab is a fairly straight forward process. Basically get a crab pot, fill it with yummy stuff crabs like to eat. Take a boat out to where crabs hang out, drop your crab pot on the end of a rope and wait for the little critters to crawl into your pot. Yank the pot out of the water and proceed to the kitchen.

Of course, it’s usually not that straight forward, getting to where crabs hang out, often requires a boat. You also don’t want to just sit around and wait for them to crawl into your crab pot, so you’ll attach a float to each and let them sit on the bottom, while you head back to the marina for coffee and other things. You’ll come back in a day or two retrieve the pot and its tasty contents.

You can be sure everyone who has ever gone crab fishing has tips and stories about where and how to do it, so be sure to ask any captain where you see crab pots stacked on a dock finger.

How you cook them
According to Wikipedia, about one-quarter of the crab’s weight is meat. The flesh has what is considered to be a delicate flavor and slightly sweet taste. Live crabs are cooked simply by dropping them into boiling salt water, waiting for a boil to return, and then allowing it to continue for 15 minutes, after which time the crabs are removed and placed into cold water to cool, and then cleaned.

Another method of preparing crab is called half backing. Half backing is done by flipping the crab upside down and chopping it in half (from head to “tail”), after which the guts and gills can be scooped or hosed out. Many consider half backing to be superior to cooking the entire crab because the meat is not contaminated by the flavor and or toxins of the guts. Furthermore half backed crabs boil faster or can be quickly steamed instead of boiled.

Two common tools for removing crab meat from the shell are a crab cracker and a shrimp fork. Sometimes, a cleaver, mallet, or small hammer is used for cracking Dungeness crab, but the use of these devices is not recommended, as the integrity of the meat may be compromised due to the impact.

Tips from Experienced Crabbers
When you’re about to drop your pots be sure to check for tide conditions. You don’t want to set your pot with too short a line at load tide only to have your crab pot drift out to sea with the high tide. Which brings us to tip number two; Don’t get a float so large that it will lift and sail your crab pot out to sea. Make sure your pot line is weighted so it doesn’t float at slack tide and cause a problem for other boaters. Enjoy the season! – Gary Bryant

License info:

Washington Crabbing Information:

A couple of  “How To” Crabbing Videos, enjoy!



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