Seaplanes & Crabbing: Life in the Puget Sound

Words by Will Kutscher
Photos by Will Kutscher

Growing up in the islands of the Puget sound, summer and crabbing come hand in hand. While various species are in season year-round, most of my memories of harvesting the delicious Dungeness pair with the summer cool ocean salty breeze and good times that occur during and after a fishing session. Crab is meant to be shared and eaten surrounded by good friends. We use our hands and get messy, and it’s a lot of fun.

The Journey

Dropping pots off of a floatplane is by no means a normal way to source your crabs but when you have a pilot friend with a ruby red 1940s beaver Seaplane you jump on the opportunity to hop from the Seattle area to the san Juans Islands where the crabbing is open for a fun day trip. Here are a couple of tips if you’re interested in getting involved!

Like I said you don’t need a plane to crab, any kind of boat or even dock will do but be sure to check the regulations, seasons, and pick up a shellfish fishing license in your area before starting. Crab pots can be bought from any number of fishing supply or outdoor gear stores in the area and will provide you year after year of crab! Be sure to mark your pot float with your name and number so if it does drift away it can be returned. Bait: the nastier the better. along with raw chicken and any old seafood (octopus works well), Friskies cat food does a great job. Just pierce the top of the little tin cans with a fork several times so the scent escapes but the mass doesn’t get swept away. I do suggest weighting the bottom of your pots to make sure they sit flat on the seafloor and to reduce the change of moving in the currents.

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Let sit for at least 2 hours, the more the better! I suggest having a refreshment with friends and exploring or continuing on your journey for a bit before heading back to the pots. Check your catch and be sure that you’re grabbing the right pot, understandably, people can be very territorial over their catches! One of the best parts of crabbing is pulling up the pot to see what you’ve caught and hauled in onboard! Look out for those claws; dungees really do have some serious clamping strength. You can only keep the males and be sure to measure them with your crab gauge to see if they are legal for harvest! (look for diagrams online on how to identify males vs females)
once you’ve got your haul head back to land and prepare for the feast of a lifetime.

Let’s Eat

Prepping crab is pretty straight forward but I suggest a good boil or steam in a large pot on a stovetop or beach campfire! My personal favorite is steaming with garlic, white wine, lemon and old bay seasoning. Once ready pull the crabs out and present to the hungry crew of friends in banquet style on a large communal table. Be sure to supply dishes of melted butter with garlic salt to dip the meat into, possibly a mallet or two to crack the shells, and plenty of napkins…. it’s about to get messy and incredibly delicious!

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