California Coast Crabbing for the Holidays!

Crab, with is tender melt-in-your-mouth, sweet-salty goodness is an ocean floor delight for many. And this week, Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp decided to catch her own!

Crab is a staple of holiday festivities; shows up on date night plates, or an indulgent treat that requires you to get intimate with it using a combination of tools and tenacity if you want to get past the hard shell to its meaty reward.
It is a carefully portioned and coveted star of Louisiana gumbo, and Crustaceans restaurant fans travel far and pay a pretty penny for their “secret” crab recipe using roasted garlic. But fresh crab does not need much fanfare. It is lovely simply steamed with a hint of butter and lemon. For those who love it, crab always delivers in any form.
20131215-175824.jpgLate fall in the San Francisco Bay Area signals the opening of the crab season, when Dungeness crab fishermen troll the Pacific Ocean along the California coast to harvest and deliver the native delicacy to restaurants, fish mongers, and boiling pots everywhere.
Earlier this week, I decided to show out my devotion to crab in a new way, by fishing for my own and inserting myself into the karma of consumption. Far too often, we consume without awareness of the context, complexity, and appreciation of the lives that bring nourishment and the pleasure of a delicacy to humans.
With the support of high-school friend and bass-pro fisherman Aaron Coleman, I was introduced to the snare method of crabbing. Unlike the more common and passive pot and net methods, snaring is more active in that it uses a pole and line, which was more suitable to use along the rocky coast.
The snare traps have a cage you filled with fresh fish such as squid or mackerel then the system is altogether tied to a hook to cast as far out as possible. Shown below
The trek to the secret location, where Aaron’s family has fished for decades was formidable. I’ve been contemplating it since, remarking to others my own sense of fear and trepidation as our journey included steep climbs over jagged rocks and thoughtful steps along a path in between the crash of waves during high tide.  We had to pass our gear back and forth between us, while holding on to the contours of sea-worn stone. It was my guide’s familiarity with the area, and coaching that made it possible to arrive safely to the rock platform that looked out over the endless sea framed by the steep and unforgiving cliffs surrounding us.


Morning view from the edge

 The set-up – click for larger images


First crab of the day!


All told, we reeled in 10 crab, which is the limit per person for a California sport fishing license.


Once we brought the crabs to dry land, we took the time to clean them and store them in fresh water sealed in freezer bags. Below is a fresh batch steaming with herbs and butter for my family dinner that night.


My children and I savored the hard-won meal, remembering and feeling grateful for the sea from which these fruits came. And we are excited to share our remaining stores with our loved ones as part of the holiday festivities.


Happy Holidays!