I am a Puget Sound native. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been born here. In my little corner of the world, we have both fresh and salt water, which means fish and shellfish nirvana. Last weekend, Mr. Stuck and I decided to go crabbing. This would be our second trip out so far this season; the first time, we caught a flounder, a sea star, jellyfish, and several tiny crabs, but nothing we could bring home. We were hoping that we’d fare better this time out, because we were hankering for fresh crab.
The weather was perfect as we set out on Saturday. The sun was shining, the sky was completely cloudless, and the water was calm. We decided to launch our boat at a marina about 30 miles from home, which was the closest site to where we wanted to drop our pots. We had planned on an earlier departure, but it worked out fine anyway. Some friends were at the marina, so we talked to them for a few minutes, and then set out.
I love being out on the boat. Mr. Stuck can tell you I’m not much of an outdoorsy gal, but I do love to be on the water. I love crabbing and shrimping! So, for those of you who have never been crabbing, I thought I’d give you a small glimpse. If your only exposure to crabbing is Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, take heart — even a non-fisherman, like me, can catch crab! (Besides, they’re in Alaska looking for King Crab. That’s a whole different ball game.)
Crab pots are basically small cages with bait inside. (On Deadliest Catch, they’re big, 700-lb cages.) There are openings big enough for a crab to get in but too small for them to get out. We were looking for Dungeness crab, which is native to the west coast of North America. We could also harvest Red Rock crab, but they are smaller and have less meat, so we normally release them.
Dungeness crab are prized for their sweet meat, and adults measure about 7-8 inches across the carapace, or shell. They eat clams, small fish, and other small crustaceans, but what they really like, and what we use in our pots, is raw chicken.
There are many rules and regulations for harvesting fish and shellfish in our waters; and there are times when harvests are prohibited due to marine biotoxins, which can kill you if you eat tainted shellfish. You must be licensed and carry a catch record, which you must fill out with each day’s harvest. Daily limit is five keepers, which must be male and a minimum of 6.25 inches across the shell; any females or undersized crab must be released. Also, because crabs molt (shed their shells) as they grow, you must check to see if the crabs’ shells are soft. If they are, those crabs must be released.
We cruised at a casual pace until we reached our site, and we saw many other pots in the area. Each pot must have its own buoy line and buoy, and each buoy must be marked with your name and address. Two pots are allowed per person, so we were able to drop four pots. Mr. Stuck has rigged our buoys for ease of identification and pickup, so they are always easy for us to spot among everyone else’s. He filled the bait bags inside the pots with the raw chicken parts, and dropped the pots, one by one, in somewhat of a row.
After setting the pots, we motored to a place where we could throw a couple of lines in the water and see if the salmon were interested. (They weren’t.) Then we settled in for lunch, which consisted of salads from Subway and a big container of chunks of sweet, juicy watermelon. Yum!
There is no better place for a picnic lunch than in a boat on a sunny day, in my opinion. We rocked gently with the wakes of other boats lapping the hull, watched the pilot whales (dolphins) surface, and heard the beckoning calls of the gulls flapping overhead. On a typical outing we might see cormorants, Great Blue Herons, seals, ospreys, and eagles, as well. As we relaxed and fished, we saw a barge and tug;
the Clipper, a high-speed catamaran ferry that travels from Seattle, WA to Victoria, British Columbia;
and, off in the distance, a container (cargo) ship. We saw a cruise ship, too, but it was even farther away than the cargo ship had been.
Soon it was time to check the pots. They’d only been soaking for a couple of hours, but we were anxious to see if we’d had any luck. Mr. Stuck said the first pot felt heavy, and it was. He emptied the contents onto the boat deck for sorting.
Three keepers in the first pot and six in the next! Mr. Stuck re-baited and set the pots in the same spot. The other two pots had fewer, smaller crab, and none were keepers. He re-baited those and set them closer to where the first two were. The pots would soak overnight and we’d check them the next day. I really enjoyed the scenic ride back; we tied up in guest moorage and went home with our catch.
The sunset was glorious over the calm water.
Sunday was just as nice as Saturday had been. A Great Blue Heron greeted us at the marina.
Once again, we got a later start than we had planned, but we got out on the water with no problems. We motored out to where the pots were, passing many lovely waterfront homes on the way. There is one in particular that I love to look at; it sits out on a point, with lovely, low bank waterfront and a sandy beach. A little way down the beach is their outdoor fireplace/barbecue; it makes me think of moonlit beach parties on warm summer nights.
Sunday’s catch was just as good as Saturday’s, too; we limited right away, and the other crabs in the pots were females or too small to keep. One of the females had skeins of eggs, which I had not seen before.
It was another beautiful evening as we came into the marina; the moon was full and on the rise.
Because we’d had such great luck this weekend, we decided to share the wealth. Recently, my sister had made some fresh berry jam, and we thought perhaps she’d like to barter. I had called her up and made the offer the night before, and she was agreeable to it.
I think it was a win-win situation; we came home with wonderful jam, and she went home with fresh crab.
I love my home.