Moving back to Washington just in time for summer has proven to be a solid decision. These past few weeks of 75 degree days have been just what I’d been craving during our time in Indonesia. We’ve taken advantage of the pleasant temperatures with lots of dining al fresco and strolls on the beach. But our best outdoor activity thus far has been our days we’ve spent crabbing. My husband Joel grew up coming to the beaches in northwestern Washington so he’s an old hand at this crabbing thing. But the experience was new to me and I learned a lot after a couple of trips out. Here’s what I’ve picked up so far.
1. Get yourself a crabbin’ license! Everyone should have a neighborhood store as good as Huntington’s Grocery. That’s where we headed to fork over $22.20 for our crab license. With our license in hand we can legally take home five appropriately sized crabs per day.
2. Pick a gorgeous day. We went out on a couple of different occasions and by far the most agreeable excursion was the one without rain.
3. Pack the right tools. Obviously you’ll need a boat, bait and crab pots, but there was another tool that was new to this crabbin’ newbie. For a crab to be a keeper it has to be a male at least 6.25 inches wide and this crab gauge is perfectly sized for making the measuring process quick and painless. It also has a diagram (blurry but usable) showing how to determine the sex of the crab (it has to do with the width of the abdomen flap).
4. Lock up your doggies! This little lady is not typically an enthusiastic swimmer, but will make an exception when she sees her mama trying to speed off in a boat. It was adorable and I applaud her bravery.
5. Bait your traps and toss ’em in. We used turkey legs as our bait, but chicken, fish, clams and squid are all decent alternatives. Once your traps are out it’s time to head in and enjoy a beer while you wait. On our first run we left the traps out for about four hours, the second time we left them overnight.
6. Remember where you put your crab pots! This one is important. We had one pot marked with a red flag that was easy to spot, however the we spent quite a while trying to locate our second pot whose flag had been ripped off. Once it was located and our spoils were assessed, the search was deemed worthwhile.
7. Pull those pots, baby! Crab season coincides with seaweed season so the traps and line can get really bogged down with sea tangle. Our best luck was had with our pots that sat out only a couple of hours. When we returned to our pots the second time, after they’d been out unattended all night, we discovered we’d been crab burgled! Apparently there have been sightings around the bay of folks emptying pots that don’t belong to them. We think this is what happened to our overnight pots as the pot was empty but so was the bait trap. To this I say, Not cool, crab thieves, very not cool!
8. Watch your fingers! When you’re not getting burgled, you’re hopefully returning to pots filled with full grown males. When removing them from your trap you always want to handle the back end of the crabs, away from the pinchers. Some crabs are more ornery than others so watch out for the grabby buggers.
9. Measure your males. Team work is the best plan here- one person holding the crab, one person doing the measuring.
10. Bring home the bacon (or in this case the crustacean). Keep your crabs cool and moist on the way home. We stored ours in a bucket with water, however I later read that the crabs can die this way due to lack of oxygen. We returned to shore quickly after our catch so these guys survived our short trip successfully.
11. Brag a little. Getting an attractive photo of yourself with your bounty is very important for your social media bragging status.
12. Cook ’em outside. Unless of course you enjoy the lingering scent of dead crab wafting through your home for days. We boiled ours in a large propane fueled stockpot in the driveway. The cleaning and killing which needs to be done before cooking I left up to the boys. Looking back on it I probably should have observed that process (as I’m interested in the whole farm/sea to table aspect), but later I found this brochure which contains lots of helpful tips including how best to clean and kill your crabs.
13. Grab a friend and get crackin’! With three pairs of able hands, we were able to get through our five crabs in about 40 minutes. Another good time to crack open a beer to make your work more pleasant.
14. Enjoy Crab Louie dinner! The finale of every crab adventure is the best part; that’s when you eat the crab. We chose to prepare a delicious Crab Louie Salad, AKA the king of all salads. By some accounts Crab Louie originated in Washington. The recipe varies as you can include different veggies in your salad. I included the one below (courtesy of Rachel Ray at foodnetwork.com) because it includes avocado which I believe to be a necessary addition.
- 1 pint mayonnaise
- 1/2 pint tomato ketchup
- 1/2 cup sweet relish
- 1/2 cup chopped black olives
- 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Crab Louie Salad:
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
- 8 to 12 ounces fresh picked Dungeness crabmeat
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced lengthwise thinly
- 3 tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 pound asparagus spears, cooked.
To make dressing, mix together mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, olives, and eggs.
Make a bed of iceberg lettuce on a large plate. Top with crab, avocado, tomatoes, and asparagus. Drizzle with Louie dressing.
Thanks for reading and happy crabbing to you and yours!