IT’S CRAB SEASON IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST!
Here, on Whidbey Island, July 1st marks the beginning of crab season! Most folks pull out their crab traps and load them into whatever boat they have to take out and drop around in the coves, points and bays around the island. I actually have two brand new traps sitting in my garage that I’ve had for a few years that we’ve never used because I have a much different way to get my crab: Wrangle them. Wrangle, you may ask. What is that???
Basically, I don chest waders and rubber boots that have the tops cut off (protection for the feet); grab a five-gallon bucket with tether and crab measurer, and long-handled garden cultivator; and have license, catch card and pen on me (required). Then, I go to one of my favorite spots for wading. The conditions to do this has to be very good. The tide must be a minus low tide. The wind speed must be to a minimum so there isn’t much ripple and the water is relatively flat (the flatter the better!). Visibility must be as clear as possible. I just wade into the water, no more than hip deep, looking for Dungeness crab, scurrying along the bottom or buried in the sand. They must be male crab and no smaller than 6 1/4 inches wide. I add an additional rule: do not separate breeding couplets.
The cultivator is great for scooping a possible catch up because when you scoop them, they usually wind up belly side up! That makes it easier to identify sex and measure them. I won’t go into sex identification here. You can look that up in the state’s fishing regulations, on line. I crab this ways for two reasons:
- 1. It is more sporting, meaning more difficult to seek and wrangle them as opposed to simply dropping a baited trap with line and buoy over the side.
- 2. I think it is more environmentally friendly, since I am specifically selecting crab as I go and not indiscriminately corralling crab in a trap, making them stress out and having to sort the crab – tossing illegal crab overboard -, later.
I just get what I need for the meal and leave the crab I don’t wrangle to go on their merry way. I just think it is more eco-friendly and fun to wrangle them.
- Preheat the over for 350 degrees F.
- 1 can (10 3/4 oz) of Cream of Celery soup
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 lb of fresh broccoli
- 3/4 lb of fresh Dungeness crab
- 1 bag of croutons
- 1/2 lb of shredded cheddar cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Blend soup and milk.
- In a buttered 8-inch square baking dish, layer half of the broccoli, crab and croutons.
- Pour half of the soup/milk mixture over the broccoli/crab/crouton layer.
- Sprinkle half of the shredded cheddar cheese over all.
- Layer the remaining broccoli, crab and croutons.
- Pour the remaining soup/milk mixture over the top.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese over everything.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
This recipe can be used as either a main dish or side dish. You can also substitute shrimp for the crab, and asparagus for the broccoli!