Since I first starting coming to Birch Bay in 1963, one of the greatest experiences is to go out and crab. Back then, you could walk out at low tide and just pick them up. I remember the first day I did that (at age 11) I got 18 crab (there was no limit then, and you did not have to have a license). I also got sunburn, but we sure enjoyed our dinner that night.
This last week crabbing opened in Birch Bay, and so far the season has been great. Of course now you need to have a license (We got ours at the Bay Center Market) and you are limited to 5 crab per day per license and you have to keep the crab back if you clean it in the field so Fisheries can confirm it meets the legal size of 6 1/4″. Unlike 1963 when I waded out (you can still do that) we now go out in our boat as do many, many others.
The joy of crabbing is going out and catching the crab, cleaning them, and enjoying the meal. Nothing replaces fresh caught crab, freshly cleaned, and freshly cooked, and here is how we do it:
- First, we only keep the number of crab that we are going to eat, includes freezing some crab to enjoy over the winter. Limiting our catch helps ensure the sustainability of the crab population.
- Second, we keep our crabs alive in seawater until we get home.
- Third, we get fresh seawater to boil the crabs in. This makes a huge difference in the flavor of the crabs.
- Fourth, we enjoy our dinner and any left over goes into our winter storage (it is great at Thanksgiving and Christmas.)
- Fifth, we recycle the shells by taking them back out and putting them back in the water where they provide food for smaller sea creatures.
- Sixth, we are thankful for being able to harvest some of the seas bounty.
So if you have not had a chance to have any fresh crab yet this season, you do not have to go out and catch it, live crab can be purchased. (If we don’t catch it, we buy ours at Taylor Seafood on Chuckanut Bay or Barlenes on Lake Terrell Road.)
To find out more about the regulations on catching crab, you can get a printed regulation book at the Bay Center Market, or you can go to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/13/). Birch Bay is in what is called Marine Area 7 North – Straight of Georgia. Crabbing is great family fun, and a chance to teach others about one aspect of our local ecology.