Suzen and I are bouncing between Portland and Seattle and many points in between. We spent today in Westport, Washington, a maritime village located on the southern tip of the entrance to Grays Harbor. Fortunately, the “Harbor” houses only fishing boats and never became a center of commerce, like Seattle, that houses today’s huge cargo ships. Grays Harbor is filled with fishing boats. And, of course, fish and seals and sea lions and pelicans and …
Today the family went crabbing off the docks at Westport. In five hours, we got 16 “keepers” or crabs legally big enough to take home. My daughter Kelly has the most patient boyfriend in the world. Mark makes his living doing two things: offering custom fly fishing experiences on the Yakima River in eastern Washington and selling the most lovely fishing flies you can imagine.
There will be more about Mark later in the week. Today, we followed him to Westport. Our catch ended up tonight in pots back in Seattle. At the top, there are pictures of my grandsons Reid and Daniel completing their day’s work. They were about to boil the crabs they’d caught themselves earlier in the day. Big crabs. Legally sized crabs. Mark was a stickler for only taking Dungeness that met the standard of his ruler.
At first, tossing back a 5 ½ inch crab upset the boys. When would they ever get a 6-inch keeper? “Patience,” Marked announced. And patience paid off. That and moving the crab pots up and down the docks to find the “hot spots” and the tide first came in and then went out.
Making sure the crabs are legal is just the beginning. You have to get them home alive. You can’t put them on ice. You can’t cook them if they have died. You have to keep them oxygenated for that three hour drive home. Mark’s expertise got us home with two big buckets fill with Dungeness and Red Rocks.
Even if you are not eating the crab that night, you need to cook them. Then put them on ice for the next day.
How to cook them? It’s pretty basic. Buy a can of Old Bay seasoning and follow the directions. No, you don’t need the Old Bay, but that flavor combination of spices is one you’ve become accustomed to. Cooking crabs is easy: you boil water, add salt and spices, dump in the crabs and wait fifteen minutes.
I love my crab. Yes, I hope to die more peacefully myself, but hours spent watching The Discovery Channel and National Geographic have desensitized me. I eat them now with a special gratitude. They are strong, frisky creatures, as you discover lifting one out of the crab pot. And fighters, as one of my fingers can attest.
The pictures below show some of the crabbing steps, from baiting the crab rings, to watching them every 10 minutes, to removing the critters you have enticed into your net. Crabbing is a family experience that will linger long in everyone’s memory. It a few hours of getting wet, screaming, laughing, measuring once, measuring twice, and dodging those wondrous claws.