If you live by the Pacific ocean, you’ve probably seen lots of fisherman on the docks tossing crab traps into the water. But what if you had your own light-weight, compact crab trap and could take it out on your paddleboard and drop it far offshore to catch your very own crab? You could catch your own crab and make the onshore fisherman green with envy!
This is what some members of the Paiwen family have been up to. North Vancouver, BC couple, Lily Tourond and Anton Davies, just started paddling less than a year ago when Lily first bought her Paiwen board.
The couple are sub-urban homesteaders who love to grow their own food and eat as locally as possible – they have backyard chickens, pallet gardens to grow vegetables – and have been catching their own crab from their standup paddleboards on beautiful, Indian Arm, just outside of Vancouver, BC.
So how do they do it? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get set up and go SUP crabbing on your own:
1) Learn about crabbing. In the Pacific Northwest, there are two types of crabs – Dungeness and Red Rock. Lily and Anton usually catch Dungeness. Canadian regulations specify that harvested crabs must be males (taking females is not allowed), and Dungeness crabs must be 6.5 inches wide across the back of the carcass and Red Rock crabs 4.5 inches across the back. Smaller crabs must be put back gently. (Tossing crabs into the air can kill them.)
2) Purchase a shellfish fishing license through the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans website here and carry it with you when you go crabbing.
3) Purchase a compact and light-weight crab trap. The traps with red around the entry hole seem to yield the biggest crab harvests. Buy a rope and buoy to attach to the trap.
4) Purchase bait to put in the crab trap – turkey neck, chicken, fish guts tend to do the trick.
5) Take your trap with you when you SUP, and drop it deep enough offshore – but not so far out that it will be in the middle of boat traffic.
6) All you need is a minimum of 20 minutes – go for a short paddle and then come back. If your trap is in the right spot, you could catch quite a few – if not, you may pull it up with no catch. Don’t despair – paddle to a different location and drop it again. The length of time the trap is dropped seems to be less important than the location where it is dropped.
7) Once you’ve caught some crab, place the trap on the board and go through each crab, checking to see if they are male or female (turn them over to inspect their bellies – males have a long curve shape drawn on their abdomens, and females have a smaller, rounder curve. Wikipedia has a photo that shows the difference between a male and a female.) If you’ve caught females, put them back gently into the water. If any of the crabs are under 6.5 inches across the back (if they are Dungeness) or 4.5 inches (if they are Red Rock), gently put those back as well.
Tip: To pick them up without being pinched, pick them up from the bum.
8) Keep the male crabs over 6.5 inches wide. Ideally keep them in salt water in a bucket for the ride home.
9) Cook the crab – some people will prepare the crab by slicing the crab through the belly when alive. (This is how many crab shops do it). Others will steam or boil the crab alive. Slicing the crab through the belly is apparently the most humane method because it is instantaneous. Boil or steam, and enjoy!
Happy SUP crabbing!