I associate summers at Hood Canal with equal parts waterskiing, clam digging and crab catching. Along with my siblings and cousins, we would dive into the often frigid Hood Canal waters and search for delectable treasures that we could serve to the adults for dinner. Now that the next generation of our family is crabbing at Hood Canal, we decided to share some of our experiences with other visitors.

waterfront at potlatch lucky dogDon’t worry, Dad, we don’t give up any of our bait secrets.

“What I love about crabbing Hood Canal is how in touch with the natural world and your community you become. You talk to friends and neighbors to find the good spots, you set your traps out and then you wait. And wait. The waiting causes you to be really present and engaged in the surroundings,” describes my cousin, Paul Goldberg.

crabbing hood canal
Paul Goldberg proudly displays a Dungeness keeper on the shores of Hood Canal.

Dropping pots is a family activity for us, and while we don’t set a timer to decide when to check the pots, there is usually an unspoken urge to grab them just around dinnertime. While some folks like to let their pots marinate overnight, our family typically sets the crab pots in the morning, checks them again mid-day during a water skiing break, and then let’s them sit throughout the afternoon.

“There is a lot of anticipation in pulling those pots,” says my brother, David Goldberg. While the crab counts have been lower this year, my family is anxiously awaiting a booming crab season. Our pots recently have been filled with mostly female Dungeness crabs and smaller crabs. A keeper must be a male Dungeness crab that is at least 6.25” in length.

crabbing hood canal
My brother and I love introducing our kids to the joys of catching fresh crab at Hood Canal.

“Going out to pull the pots is so fun for my kids. It’s like a surprise every time. What will we pull up? Will we get crab or a fish? Seaweed or starfish? Crabbing connects me and my kids to nature and the food chain. They can see up close how our work and the sea life are providing for us,” adds Paul.

“I like to crab with my kids,” agrees David. “It’s a connection to an activity I enjoyed as a child, too.”

Since our neighbor Mike Fox often spends weekdays at the Canal, we often turn to him for an unofficial crabbing report. “When you pull up a pot full of crab, those boaters who have never seen live crab are trying to climb out of reach of those pinchers. It doesn’t take long before folks who want to learn how to handle a crab have the technique mastered,” he says.

hood canal crabbing
While we aren’t going to share our secrets for bait, we can recommend putting your crab pot in a location where you see other pots.

“We take only what we can use that day, even if it’s less than the legal limits. It’s part of how you care for the fishery. It’s also how we connect to our family traditions on the water,” Paul adds.

Grab crab bait, launch your boat into Hood Canal, drop your pots and spend the day trolling for salmon, admiring the beauty, or waterskiing on a calm day. My best advice for where to set your crab pots is to look for other crab pots and go there.

And, if all else fails, you can always spend time searching for treasures along the shoreline. “Watching the grandkids endlessly scavenging for pieces of shore glass is one of my favorite Hood Canal activities,” says my dad, Larry Goldberg. “We spend lots of time finding flat rocks and then skipping them across the water.”

“Crabbing is full of good life lessons that can only be taught by doing and experiencing. It’s a chance to teach our kids respect for the animals we eat and the people who normally provide our food. Plus, there is nothing like a fresh that-day-crab from the Hood Canal,” says Paul in summary.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at submit@thurstontalk.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete event calendar.

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