The trap is set

I’m trying crabbing for the first time today, the first day of dungeness crab season in this Marine Area. I just got back from setting my trap.

It was a rough ride out in the zodiac. The swells were coming right at me, and the flat bottom is better for calmer water. After setting the trap I decided to come into Birch Bay. I didn’t realise it was that shallow that far out! I noticed the bottom and just throttled back when my skeg hit bottom and the engine stalled. I lifted the prop and tried to back out, but the onshore wind was pushing pretty hard on my lightweigh boat. I got out into shin-deep water and pushed it out to deeper water. The trip back was not as rough as the trip out, but I still had to go fairly slow. Now I was running with the waves, and jumping quite a bit. Once I got near Semiahmoo it was smoother. Except I caught a pair of large wakes from an outbound boat, and nearly lost it at speed. Fortunately, I fell into the zodiac instead of out of it!

I think I’ll head back out around 17:00 to collect my trap and see if anything is in it.

The other mildly interesting thing was that a fishing trawler, the Mars sunk at the dock.

Birch bay? As in Bellingham?

I’m in Colorado right now–the only marine life here apart from a troubled aquarium is embedded in 3 million year old rocks.

Folks here have trouble believing my stories of setting up camp on a beach near Tofino, paddling 300 yards into the bay in a canoe to drop a crab pot, paddling out another 300 or so and yanking out a 20# salmon (just a guppy!), picking up the crab pot & tossing all but the 5 or 6 biggest Dungies (9-Lives Savory Stew–that’s the killer bait!) and then getting to work on supper…all this within 3 hours of parking the car.

I don’t even bother them with tales of plucking spawning sockeye out of the creek behind our house and smoking them over alder that grows like weeds in the back yard.

Blackberries don’t even grow here. Well, some folks think they do, but the bushes are never 6 feet high, and the berries maybe get as big as raspberries.

Man, I miss Pac NW.

Everytime I make it home (Vancouver Island) I beg my dad to take me out on the boat for some crabbing and salmon fishing. Sadly, he just sold the boat! I’m devastated!

No crabs here, although there are crayfish in the Columbia River. For some reason I’m hesitant to eat anything downriver from the Hanford reactor. :wink:
Hope you had a good haul!

Well, there’s always prairie dog stew. :slight_smile:

Hey, let’s not forget Rocky Mountain Oysters!

Our neighbors shared their crab catch with us a couple weeks ago. They gave us 5 beauties. Yummy!
Hope yours is as good, Johnny L.A.

And the tally is…!

An undersize female with a missing claw, and a damned sun star.

Just don’t tell Admiral Ackbar.


I just love your story about the crabs and salmon. The guy who was docking next to me said, “Easy pickings, huh?” Seems he gave away two limits to other boaters out there since he caught so many. Bastardo! He said crabbing Birch Bay was a waste of time, and that I should have gone about 200 yards south of the red bouy around the Semiahmoo Spit.

Well, at least I’m maintaining my perfect fishing record. :frowning:

I want to go home!!!

When I was in my teens, a bunch of us used to go to Birch Bay or Point Roberts and spend the day crabbing (no boat or crab pot, just a net). We’d wade out when the tide was low and sneak up on the delicious crustaceans. Once we had enough, we’d just go back to the beach, cook and eat them right there. Just with melted butter and maybe some watery American beer. What could be better? Only thing I can think of would be some of my mother’s home smoked salmon and enough geoducks for chowder.

I have to get out of Ontario!

I had no idea that so many people knew of Birch Bay.

So I get to work today. My boss has been telling me for months that I need to go crabbing and to bring him some, in spite of the season not opening in this area until yesterday. (It opened earlier south of here.) Everyone was talking yesterday about all the crab I’d get. Since I was unable to catch any (except for the one not-legal one, which I released), I was the butt of jokes all day long.

Net??!! Wanker! When I was a yoot, We’d pick them off the beach at Thousand Steps in Ocean Park with our bare hands!

Ouch ouch ouch!

Yeah - we used to do that too - until a friend spent a little too much time admiring a singularly large specimen which he held in his hand. The crab did not take kindly to this and expressed his displeasure by neatly nipping off the tip of my friend’s thumb. Flying crab. Much blood and cursing.

I’ll stick to a net or a crab pot thank you!

Anyone ever poach your pot?

Beach? What we wouldn’t have given to harvest sea life on the BEACH! Why, when the local yokels would bring out the clam shovels and start digging while the tide came in, we waded out into the water and picked the little bivalves up when they surfaced…and we were thankful!

I’m getting ready to go out again. This time I’ll try Semiahmoo. Part of me says that it’s a fool’s errand since people have been crabbing there for nearly a week, and the population may be rather depleted by now. On the other hand, it can’t get any worse than my last trip; and I won’t get pounded by swells in my flat-bottom boat. And it’s a shorter distance from the launch ramp.

I’m going to go to the market and buy a tin of 9 Lives Savory Stew. I’ll secure it to the bottom of the trap with zip ties, and either pierce the tin or partially remove the top.

There was no Savory Stew. Instead I’m trying Friskies Ocean Whitefish and Tuna, and Liver and Chicken (both with gravy).

I tied the inflatable to the public dock and left it there, since there was a line-up at the ramp. Lots of people setting pots and fishing, plus there’s the annual wooden boat thing going on. There are several wooden, steam-powered boats tied up at the other public dock. As I was making the long trek back to the Jeep, I saw a party leaving the docks with four 5-gallon buckets of nice dungeness crabs. When I got to the trailer parking area, a guy I saw on the water said they’d caught 24 in the trap they’d left overnight. Since I’m trapping at Semiahmoo and I’m using the cat food, I’m hoping I can catch six legal-sized ones.

There’s one more weekend before the commercial guys can go out.

And the tally is…!

Five females (illegal) and two legal-sized males. Plus a red rock crab that I threw back because it was just a leeeetle too small.

Beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Tell me, did they shread the cat food cans? I always marvelled at that.

I peeled the top back about half-way, and folded it. They didn’t need to shred the tins.

After setting the trap and docking the boat, it started sprinkling a little bit. It soon developed into a steady rain. I came home and tried to call a friend (she wasn’t home), read a bit, and then decided to take a nap and stretched out on the floor, falling asleep sometime between track-and-field and sailing on CBC’s coverage of the Olympics. Then the phone rang and it was my friend. We talked for nearly two hours, and then it was time to check the trap.

It was still raining on the short drive to Blaine, but it slackened quickly. By the time I was at the harbour, it stopped. I put a bucket, a cooler, and some other stuff into the zodiac, drove back to the trailer parking, and then walked the quarter-mile to the boat. There were several inches of rain water in it, of course. No way to drain it while it sat in the water. No worries; it’s an inflatable, and extremely buoyant I started the motor and headed out. Once I cleared the harbour I poured on the power. The bow came up steeply… and stayed there. The extra weight of the water, now sloshed astern, was causing a balance problem. It was then that I remembered that there is space under the deck, and that I had a lot more water than I originally believed. The boat did come to plane though, and I was off.

I’d marked the location of the trap in my mind by lining up on a house on the shore and either the red buoy or the red marker at the mouth of the harbour. I went straight to my buoy. Except it wasn’t my buoy. Oh, there’s another one a short distance off. Nope. That’s not my name either. I cruised around for nearly an hour, checking every single red-and-white buoy to no avail. And it started raining again. Fortunately I’d brought along my Gore-Tex jacket and was wearing swimming trunks.

I was becoming very discouraged. Did my trap somehow drift away, the buoy being blown by the wind? Did someone steal my trap? I’d set up a sort of “grid pattern”; which is to say that I motored inshore and offshore, checking again the buoys I knew well weren’t mine, an worked my way back toward the harbour entrance. Then it occured to me: could I have thrown my pot much closer to the red markers than I thought? I came upon a “field” of crab buoys and checked my bearings. Hm. There’s the red marker buoy. There’s the house on the shore. It looked right. After a couple of false leads, I found my buoy.

(Note to self: Next time make three reference points instead of two; or just bring the bloody GPS!)

In the showering rain I tool the loop on the top of the buoy and looped it around the handle/cleat on the side of the boat. “Haul away!” The leaded line began to accumulate on the deck. Soon I could see the trap, and there were things in it! I hauled the trap aboard and saw my little catch. I could tell right away that several of the crabs were undersized, and that a couple were females. I opened the trap and tried to catch a crab with my diving-gloved hand. Those guys are pretty fast, even out of the water! And their claws have a greater range of movement than I thought. And they can hold fast to the cage with their feet. I used the sizing gauge to distract them, putting a corner of it into their claws. I pulled out the females, gauging them anyway even though their illegal to take, and then deposited them back into the briny. I got the males and found them to be of legal size, and they went into my bucket. One of them had a “withered claw”, indicating he had lost a claw at some point and it was only half grown back. Finally I caught the red box crab. I gauged it, and it might have been legal. It was so close (the boat was rocking, the crab was struggling, and it was raining) that I thought I may as well throw it back. The game warden was waiting at the dock, and I didn’t want to take the chance that I’d mis-gauged it. Besides, I was after dungeness.

I soaked my canvass “goody bag” (part of my SCUBA gear) in the salt water and laid it over the two crabs I kept. Now back to the dock, slowly because of the water still in the boat. (Note to self: Bring the kayak pump when it’s raining.) I used the little flip-top Igloo cooler to put seaater into the larger cooler.

When I got home I took a large potfull of the seawater from the cooler and began to to boil on the stove. I offered a crab a chopstick, which he took, and seized him from behind. He went on his back into a baking tin. I laid a heavy knife lengthwise along his belly, which he didn’t like at all. He tried to grab it with his legs, which was annoying since I meant to whack the knife with a rubber mallet. He moved his feet and the mallet came down, bisecting him. I cleaned out the innards, removd the carapace, and put the legs and – whatever you call that mass where the legs attach – into the seive portion of the boiling pot. The second crab underwent the same procedure, except that it managed to move the knife at the last instant and I didn’t quite slice it down the middle. The claw on the larger half tried to grab my fingers, but it stopped once I removed the viscera.

With four halves of crab in the “seive”, I put it in the boiling seawater and jumped into the shower.

Eleven minutes later I pulled the seive out of the pot and put dinner on the plate. Hm. That’s more crab than I thought! I melted butter in a bowl, got another plate, and dug in. I really wished my friend were here. She likes crab, and I was getting full. I did devour both crabs by myself though. I think in the future however, that I’ll only eat one crab for dinner. You can freeze the crab meat in seawater, then top off the container after the water has frozen with more seawater. I hear it preserves the flavour very well.

Mmmmm! Crustaceans! :slight_smile: