One of the great highlights of our family's summer is heading out on Bellingham Bay in our boat. There are so many wonderful sights to see from the beautifully undisturbed scenery to the active marine life – dolphins, jellyfish, seabirds and jumping fish. But the best sight of all is that of the creature that dwells at the depths of the Bay – the NW Dungeness crab! We anxiously wait for the opening day of crabbing on July 1st and reluctantly say goodbye on September 30th. But not this year! After checking with the www.wdfw.wa.gov website, I see that Dungeness crab harvesting has been extended until the end of the year – December 31st – and is now seven days a week!
The crabbing ritual is quite a production. The first thing is to make sure that the weather, wind and waves are going to cooperate. I check the Bellingham Bay cam and weather station information on the internet multiple time while getting ready. As we have found out the hard way, Bellingham Bay can be very unpredictable and downright scary at times. While the husband is busy getting the boat and gear ready for our excursion, I am responsible for snacks (everyone's favorites must be on board), layers (make sure everyone has a jacket even if it is 80 degrees outside because you never know…), crab bait (do they want turkey legs this time or salmon chum) and crab transportation devices (what will we carry our bounty home in?). There is one last stop on our way to the marina launch – yes, there must be enough gas to get us to the hunting grounds and back. We stop at our favorite gas station to fill up. Now we're ready to go!
Time to launch. This can be a bit tense at times. I've mastered the backup technique by now, but still have a difficult time reading the minds of those also launching or coming back in. Patience is the key. Once in the water, it's time to head out to our favorite spot – Eliza Island. During the 17 minute ride out to the island, I am busy stuffing the bait boxes in the crab traps (got to make it irresistible) so that we are ready for action the minute we arrive. Upon arrival we drop the pots and pray for success.
What keeps our focus is the amazing taste of a fresh Dungeness crab that you yourself have caught that very day. Catch it at noon and dinner is served. Yummy! All summer long there is an on-going competition between ourselves and the commercial fisherman. Have they already harvested all of the crab? Can we max out on the daily quota? Seems like only the small ones are left… (Did you know that it takes 11 years for a Dungeness crab to reach it's adult harvesting size – we have more respect for these creatures now that we know this.) One more drop will surely put us over the top. If not, it's because the commercials have taken all of our beloved crab… Oh well. We'll still enjoy our day's spoils tonight.
The last day of crabbing, September 30, is always a sad day for us. It marks the end of summer and the end of our fun-filled excursions out onto the Bay. But not this year – we have more time. We aren't sure how many more times we will make it out for the remainder of this season, but it is great to know that if the day is a wonderful weather day we can head out and catch one of our beloved crabs for dinner which is really only earmarked for summer. Enjoy!