Another weekend bobbing about in one of North America’s biggest bathtubs, The Puget Sound. Azure skies, crayola clouds, and snow-capped mountains surround us. Sailboats by the score with their sails in full, and Washington State ferries looking for all the world like Starbucks cups: green and white and hollow. Seals’ heads poking up and dolphin jumping waves with delight. Buoys that have been converted into high-rise bird hotels. We could take up birding on the upper helm of a slow going trawler like this, for we see everything. Much like going for a walk rather than a run.
With the crabbing season underway we left every entrée open for the weekend and just packed around it with greens and berries and such. Crackers and wine, leaving the cocktail hour open for crab as well. I wish I could say we always only hope to do better than the year before, but it’s a bit more than that. It is in crabbing that I have had my first experience with compulsive gambling. The season is short and trappers have to hustle right out of the gate.
After getting outfitted the first year with a trap, bait, and licenses, and catching a mere two “keepers” (females and undersized crabs are thrown back), we wolfed them down with wine one night at sunset, our eighty dollar apiece appetizers. And that was that for that year.
The next crab season a poacher went off with our trap, or it was dragged off by a boat or whatever. In any case it was gone when we went back. So, back to get reoutfitted. I’ve forgotten how many crabs we caught that season, but we were seriously behind in our investment.
The third season we purchased a second trap. Another investment made, and a smattering of crabs, most of which had to be thrown back. But we were on a roll, and the cost of each crab began to average better than eighty dollars. Plus we had enough that we could now begin to invite others over.
This time, the start of our fourth season, we went out to place the two traps in the water close to shore and one went under and off, buoy and all. One hundred feet of line and it went under, when other traps were all around, their buoys bobbing. One of us thought we had found middle earth or a vortex. The other was sure a seal must have gone off with it, relishing the salmon bait. Both of us were resigned to never seeing that trap again, and I knew I could no longer do the math. But come low tide, when we went back, there it was, back again, not too far from the other one. We feasted that night and the next day on nine large Dungeness crab, with enough left over to make a couple crab cakes. Almost too much at once.
I am going to relax about crabbing…. by going fishing. An older, wiser woman I know has the fondest memories of summers spent fishing when she was young. “It’s not about the catch,” she tells me, “but about the time between the bites. The long and quiet moments when it’s just you and the lake. Catching fish actually interrupts that.” That’s what I’m after in fishing. I am not going to calculate a thing and I may not even catch anything. In this I may do well.