Sometimes a weekend works out perfectly, last weekend was that weekend for us. I had Friday off so we decided to spend some time at the beach fishing for pink salmon as they make their odd year return to Puget Sound.
The first beach we hit, Point No Point in Hansville, is one of our favorites and a popular place to shore fish. We lined up along with all the other anglers and cast our lines. We were skunked, but so was everyone but one grandpa who proudly walked along the beach holding a pink, son and grand-daughter in tow. While we missed out on the salmon we caught our share of bullheads.
Since you can’t have enough of a good thing we decided to try again on Saturday at Point Wilson. Last year we saw a guy fishing here in September with two beautiful salmon in his cooler so we were hopeful. Unfortunately, just more bullheads though you couldn’t find a better place to enjoy the day.
At one point a full grown bald-eagle flew about 10 feet over my head and eyed my daughter during it’s entire flight – sort of scary. I think it was about hoping to snatch some live bait the old-timers were flinging. It’s sitting on the chimney in the photo above surveying the Sound.
After a full day in the sun we had promised our daughter dinner at her favorite restaurant. After dinner, as usual, we walked down the pier to walk off some of the pizza. Along the way we saw a guy crabbing and being my mother’s son I started asking questions. He explained what he was doing and where he got some of his gear. We decided then and there Sunday we would go crabbing!
So Sunday, Danielson crap trap, lead core rope and some stinking fish in hand we headed to Point White Pier on Bainbridge. Bear in mind, we had no idea what we were doing as we walked down the pier with hopes of crab for dinner. Fortunately, we found some mentors!
The first guy we met was about to leave so he offered his corner of the pier to us. He also gave some rotting turkey legs. Apparently if it stinks and is gross crabs love it, which begs the question if they love this disgusting stuff why would I want to eat them? Oh yeah, they are delicious!
So we loaded up the pot with our homemade bait bag made from left-over hardware cloth from building the coop, tied the rope to the railing and heaved it over the side and into the Sound. Then we waited.
After 15 minutes we pulled it up with baited breath. Just as the trap broke the surface we saw our crabs … and a starfish! We had crabs! The little guys, Red rock crabs, have extremely strong pincers, I had to use a pillars to extract them from the trap. After measuring and sexing them, into the Homer bucket they went. The starfish was pretty cool, it was trying to devour the turkey legs, but after some investigation by the kids back home it went. Wow, fun!
After an hour or two we had 7 crabs to take home, not bad for never having done it before – look at all those crabs legs. The next morning I had a crab omelette with eggs from our chickens, that’s local eating!
The following are notes mainly for myself but might prove useful to someone else.
When throwing the trap into the water hold onto the rope until you feel it hit the bottom. Since the trap we used has little doors that open in but not out it’s important to have it land top-side up. Once the trap hits the bottom pull it up a bit and then let it settle back down, this ensures it’s sitting just as you want it and the crabs don’t.
Also, the trap is pretty good but can be a bit flimsy so make sure to zip-tie it together. Fortunately I had the good mind to add some zip-ties to the tackle box and used them all – we did lose one crab on a trip up because the trap came apart a little bit.
Fifteen minutes is not a magic number but it was all the more patience I could muster.
We got some really good advice on cleaning the crabs from another guy on the pier. A third guy told me he throws the Red rock crabs back (but keeps the Dungeness) because he doesn’t think they offer enough meat for the amount of work to clean them. If I cleaned them as I had planned on doing, by taking them home whole and boiling them, I might have agreed but this method was fast, easy and the meat was outstanding.
Take a live crab out of the bucket being sure to grab their rear legs so they can’t break your finger off and set it on the cooler lid facing away from you. Since I’m right handed I held the left pincer down with my left hand and let the crab’s natural desire to grab something (listen to me, like I’m an expert) grab the cooler handle with the right pincer. Then reaching over the top of the crab I put my fingers under the shell on the left hand side and pulled the top off (it takes a bit of pulling) – instant death though the pincers are still grabbing about for a couple seconds.
Then crack the legs off altogether by snapping them from the main body, first left then right side. Whip the innards into the Sound and then rinse the legs in the Sound as well. Clean off any other undesirables and toss the legs into the cooler filled with just enough salt water to keep the legs covered. Repeat.
What’s really nice about this is when you bring the crabs home they are already cleaned and you don’t have to make a mess in your house. Be sure to bring some water home since you’ll need it.
The other advice the guy provided was to use the salt water to steam the legs for 11 minutes. We did a trial run with both salt and tap water – no comparison, the salt water meat was much sweeter and firmer, it was the best crab I have ever eaten! I’m going to try grilling the legs next time in addition to steaming, can’t wait!