Puget Sound Dungeness Crab, Opening Day, the San Juan Islands – 2012
Crab season in the San Juan Islands opened up yesterday. Its been open for a couple of weeks in the rest of Puget Sound but for some reason, in the San Juan Islands, area 7 South, we are always a couple of weeks later. With Cap Sante Marina as our home Anacortes port, we are ideally situated for pursuit of these delectable denizens of the sea.
Having a boat in the water also translates into having a lot of friends, with and without boats. Sherrie & I spent the night on the boat, being more fun and a lot easier than getting up early and trying to get going. Our first guests arrived at about 6:00 AM and we soon left the dock with crab pots and bait aboard.
Since these guests had other commitments later in the morning, our time with them was limited and we elected to drop our pots fairly close. On our boat, at 5 knots, it took us about 20 minutes to get out to where we normally have had pretty good luck. We dropped 4 pots, let them soak for a couple of hours, and pulled them. Not a great return. We ended up with only 2 keepers before having to head in again.
At about 8:30 AM, we’d dropped our first guests and picked our second batch of friends. This party was comprised of 4 adults and 2 children, giving us 8 aboard. We headed out toward Guemes Island and another historically productive crabbing area. This time, we dropped 6 pots and then took off to do a bit of fishing while they soaked. Fishing wasn’t wonderful but did result in two nice Cabezon (both caught by my wife).
We pulled the pots and were again somewhat disappointed. We had a couple of keepers but nothing like what we are used to. Having limited luck along Guemes, we moved over to Saddle Bag Island, probably the most popular and heavily crabbed area in the San Juans. Saddle Bag Island is just a few miles from anacortes and is on the edge of a huge shallow eel grass plain that extends from Samish Island to the Samish Slew, 6 miles away. Crab anywhere north of the island in 15′ to 50′ of water. The shallow water goes in for a mile or two and, at low tide is not navigable in anything deeper than a kayak.
After dropping the pots, we pulled into the northern inlet of Saddlebag Island, set our anchor, fired up the grill, and had a nice lunch. The pots soaked for 2 or 3 hours wile the wether warmed and we chilled. About mid-afternoon, we took off and checked the pots again. Our results were very mixed. Some pots came up as total zeros, some with a few, one with over 25 crab. At the end of the day, we came home with 22 legal Dungeness and 5 legal Red Rock crabs. Red Rock crab are, to my palate, even tastier than the Dungeness though they are smaller and their meat more difficult to extract. The extra effort required is well worth the effort to enjoy some of the sweetest and tenderest crab you can ever imagine.