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21st Feb 2020 John Stepan

Five Reasons to Go Crabbing on Puget Sound

Courtesy of scenicoregon.com

Whether it’s for the love of food, nature, or adventure, crabbing for Dungeness in Western Washington’s Puget Sound region is a tradition with benefits far beyond the sweet meat and delicate texture that the crab provides.

Here are just a few of the reasons why crabbing for Dungeness is a popular activity throughout Puget Sound:

1. Crabbing is an Excuse to Explore the Region

It’s no secret that Puget Sound offers plenty of opportunities for adventure, hosting cyclists, backpackers, and skiers alike on its thousands of mountains and trails throughout the area.

Courtesy of belowtheboat.com

The waterways are another method of year-round exploration of the region, and crabbing is a great way to get your feet wet in Western Washington’s exciting boat culture. Puget Sound offers over 1300 miles of coastline on Puget Sound, with plenty of islands, coves, and public marinas to add to your bucket list.

2. Dungeness Crabbing is an Old Tradition

The region’s celebrated Dungeness crab has been harvested and enjoyed in Puget Sound for centuries. In the days before Europeans settled the area, tribes throughout the present-day Salish Sea and Washington coast harvested Dungeness crabs at low tide and prepared them the same way we do today: over an open fire, steamed, or boiled.

These days, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and the NOAA are working together to improve Dungeness crab science and management, after forming the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group (PNWCRG) in 2018 to promote sustainable Dungeness crab populations.

On that note...

3. Dungeness Crab is a Sustainable Harvest

In an age where terraforming, overfishing, and changing ocean conditions present constant threats to marine life, Dungeness crab continues to thrive along the west coast of North America, including the waterways of Puget Sound.

While their exact numbers aren’t known, nor is the impact commercial fishing might have on them, Seafoodwatch.org lists Dungeness crab as a ‘Good Alternative’ to the many popular seafood options that are facing a more tumultuous future.

Courtesy of foodandwine.com

That said, it’s worth noting that the species does face some challenges. Ocean acidification is causing disintegration to the shells of young Dungeness crabs, and it’s recognized that the commercial harvesting of Dungeness crabbing may be adversely affecting humpback whales and other marine wildlife in the area.

However, catching Dungeness with crab pots will not further the impact of these negative realities.

And thank heaven for that, because...

4. It’s Just Delicious

This one is a given, and if you’re reading this you’re likely already aware of Dungeness crab’s sweet, delicate flavor that can be enjoyed right from its own shell (although butter and lemon won’t be turned away).

Courtesy of thespruceeats.com

However, from Eggs Benedict to salads and sushi rolls, Dungeness crab has left an indelible mark on the region’s cuisine through its many other culinary applications.

Did you know that a Dungeness crab carcass makes an amazing soup stock? Or the often discarded guts, or ‘butter’ of the crab, is considered by many to be the most delectable part? Here is a guide to the many directions you can take Dungeness crab in your own kitchen.

5. Crabbing is Inexpensive

Many don’t realize that crabbing and (gasp!) boating can be just as inexpensive, accessible, and exciting as other activities they’re already enjoying around the region.

Whether you’re on a twin-engine fishing vessel, inflatable dinghy with a trolling motor, or even a paddleboard, all you need to go crabbing is some basic tools, the appropriate licensing, and access to the water. Here’s a good start to learn what you need to start crabbing right away.

Courtesy of standupjournal.com

Crabbing is not only inexpensive, but it can also be a financially sound hobby for the Dungeness crab lover.

With a market price hovering around $15 per pound for whole cooked Dungeness crab (or $50 per pound for the meat only), and each crab weighing between 1 ½ and 2 lbs, feeding a group of five with one time with market Dungeness will cost you twice the entire year’s worth of fishing and crabbing permits.

Alternatively, with the current daily harvest limit at five Dungeness crabs per license, a single crab outing could yield $150 worth of Dungeness crab at the market rate per person. That not only blows the market price out of the water, but it covers the price of your boat rental and then some!

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If the reasons above haven’t incentivized you to get your fishing license and crab endorsement by now, then you’re either reading this during the offseason or you don’t love crab.

But whether you’re a crab lover or not, always look for more inspirational excuses to explore the adventurous and diverse terrain that is unique to our Puget Sound.