[Or, How to catch Blue Crabs without winding up in the Emergency Room]
The Bering Sea crabbers have nothing over summer beach vacationers. Sure, catching King Crab isn’t exactly child’s play, but until one experiences the veritable odyssey of catching, cooking and eating Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab, one doesn’t truly understand the meaning of “deadliest catch.”
The sweet richness of Blue Crab meat is not easy to come by. These elusive little critters first must be caught, and if that wasn’t difficult enough, properly cooking them is a science not many dare to attempt. However, at the dinner table is where the real work begins — eating steamed Blue Crabs is an experience like no other.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We must go back to the beginning and take this matter one step at a time.
Unless you plan to spend your children’s college fund ordering Blue Crabs for the whole family at a restaurant, it’s best to catch them yourself. You can find the necessary fishing equipment by rummaging through your garage and kitchen junk drawer – a net, a long string with a sinker and hook tied on one end, and a cheap cooler with a lid. A quick poke through the garbage will yield your bait – smelly, rotting chicken necks work best.
However, be forewarned: A myriad of secondary supplies are required, depending on the tolerance level of your family. Your crabbing expedition may involve chairs, smelling salts, cards, lawn darts, badminton set, Jenga, full length copy of War and Peace, ear plugs, brown paper bag, ointment, bandages, aloe vera, tweezers, and an enormous cooler of cold beverages.
Note: Do not use the beverage cooler to store your crabs unless you like them marinated in Dr. Pepper. These nasty critters may be small, but they’re mad as hell and can pierce an average beer can with a snap. Moreover, the minor convenience of bringing one cooler is not worth the risk of the severe puncture wounds you will suffer as you reach in for a cold one.
Haul your supplies to a suitable location — any old dock on the bay will do. Place one rotting chicken neck firmly on your hook, making sure to have smelling salts nearby in case you pass out from the revolting odor. When fully conscious, hold one end of the string, and chuck the baited hook several feet from the dock. Tie the string to the dock, take a seat in your lawn chair, and open a cold beverage.
Ahh, crabbing’s not so bad, you’re thinking, right? But please, be aware that it may take anywhere from thirty seconds to a full 24 hour and 52 minute tidal cycle to catch a crab. This would be a good time to make use of the cards, lawn darts, Jenga, badminton set and full-length copy of War and Peace.
Every so often, check your string for vibrations indicating that a Blue Crab is nibbling your bait. When you feel a twitch, pull your string ever so slowly, luring the unsuspecting crab toward the dock. Your prey is no Einstein – its pea-sized brain will think the putrid chicken neck is trying to escape and will grasp it even tighter.
Once you are able to see the crab, do not remain calm. Gasp, jump, knock your beverage over, and exclaim loudly, “I got one!! Grab the net!!” If you have not scared your catch away, have a family member scoop up the crab as it reaches the surface while you yell, “Get the darned thing for Pete’s sake!!”
You will inevitably fail at your first attempt to deposit the crab into the cooler, resulting in it scrambling around on the dock while your family emits blood-curdling screams at high decibels. Earplugs and brown paper bag may come in handy.
Once you manage to secure a crab in the cooler, repeat the aforementioned steps 34 times, yielding a half bushel of crabs – just enough meat to feed a family of five, as long as you also have corn on the cob, watermelon, bread, hamburgers, salad, beans and plenty of desserts to fill everyone up.
When you are done crabbing, properly dress your crab nip wounds with bandages, treat your bug bites with ointment, apply aloe vera to your sunburn, and pull out dock splinters with tweezers before heading home to cook your catch.
Stay tuned next week for Step 2 – How to cook crabs without being arrested for domestic assault. And remember: Don’t be a crab, you’re on vacation.