Here is my crabbing gear: pot, bait box, line, buoy, weight and measuring guide

Crabbing for beginners: How to catch and prepare Dungeness Crabs

Crabbing is one the best, most easily accessible recreational fisheries there is. You do not need a bunch of special gear or tackle. You just need a couple of things, easily obtainable from your local sporting goods supply store. Then you need a little bit of knowledge and you will be set. Ok, let’s get started.

What do you need

First and foremost, get a license and be legal. In Washington state you can get your license through Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They will also provide you with the most current regulations and information about seasons. Anything specifying a regulation here may be out of date so be sure to check with your local Fish and Wildlife agency before engaging in any kind of fishing activity. Failure to have a current license or to follow regulations will result in dumping whatever you caught, fines and potentially jail.

Now that we got the serious part out of the way, let’s go shopping for our crab gear. Everything you need can be found at your local sporting goods store that sells fishing gear. Often hardware stores will also carry this stuff when crabbing is in season. You will need one crab pot, there are requirements for the pot, so again, check with your local fishery agency. In Washington State each person is allowed to fish two pots, maybe you get two. You will need line, between 100 and 150 feet. You will need a crab buoy so you can find and retrieve your pot and the bounty inside. If the line you get is the type that floats you will need a line weight. You will want a measuring guide to make sure the crabs you keep are the proper size. Finally, you will want to have a bait box or something to hold the bait and keep the crabs interested.

Here is my crabbing gear: pot, bait box, line, buoy, weight and measuring guide

Here is my crabbing gear: pot, bait box, line, buoy, weight and measuring guide

Do I need a boat?

I believe most people use a boat to go crabbing, it certainly makes more areas accessible. However, you do not need to crab from a boat. You can crab from a pier or you could use a kayak or even a paddle board. Using different techniques than I describe here you can even catch crabs in shallow water, where there is eel grass, by scooping them up on a pitchfork or a shovel or a net. Whatever you do, do not let access to a boat be a limiting factor.

When can you go

Your local fishery agency will determine seasons. In Puget Sound the Dungeness season generally runs from roughly the beginning of July through Labor Day weekend. Then they normally have a winter season that starts sometime in October and runs through the end of the year. However, check the rules before heading out.

Where should I go

The most important thing is where. The second most important thing is probably bait. I am primarily talking about Dungeness here. These you will find wherever there is a sandy bottom. I’ve caught them anywhere from 30 feet to 100 feet of water. In Puget Sound you can also fish for Red Rock Crab. These are smaller, but still tasty. You find these where there is a rocky bottom. Watch others and talk to people to see how successful they are at a given location. Don’t give up, sometimes you have to be patient to find a productive spot.

What bait should I use

Common wisdom tells us that crabs will eat anything. Therefore you can use anything for bait and people do. You will see people using everything from salmon to chicken to cat food. I have had the most success using salmon. If you go to the fish counter at your local grocery store they will often sell you, or give you in some cases, the trimmings and heads and spines from the salmon. This is pure gold as bait.

Catch some crabs

Load your bait box up with bait, make sure the doors on your pot open and the lid is shut. Carefully lower your pot into the water. You will want to make sure you have enough line so the pot actually touches the bottom. You will want to allow at least another 15 feet of line beyond the pot touching down to allow for the tide change. If you are using a line weight be sure to attach it to the line after you play out a few feet of line beyond the pot touching down. You do not want your line floating on top of the water when the tide goes out and you have excess line in the water. It can get caught in the boat props.

Now you wait for your pot to fill up. How long you wait depends on you. Some people leave the pot overnight. I have even talked to folks who will leave it for a week. My secret is that I only leave the pot for one to two hours. I try to time that around a tide change. My theory is that once the bait is gone there is nothing to keep the crabs interested and it is possible for them to get out. Also, if the spot you are in isn’t working then you can move and try a different spot. If you choose to leave your pot overnight or for a long period of time be sure to weight it down. People lose pots all the time from the current sweeping them into deeper water.

I have a pot full of crabs, now what?

You pull up your pot and it is full of crabs. Now you need to sort them. Today in Washington you can keep 5 properly sized, 6 1/4″ or greater, male crab per day. Get rid of the females and juveniles.

To handle the crabs grab them at the back, far away from the claws. They will be a little more subdued if you flip them onto their back. Use your measuring tool to check the width. You measure at the widest part of the back shell. To identify the females flip the crabs over onto their backs. The ones with the wide abdominal apron are females, the narrow abdominal apron designates the males. Finally, make sure none of the crabs are in the soft shell stage. To check push the elbow of the claw forward and gently press on the body where the claw normally covers. If it depresses the crab is soft and you should return it. Carefully return the crabs you cannot keep to the water.

Clean and cook the crabs

You have a choice, you can cook the crabs and then clean them, or clean them and then cook them. I prefer the latter. To clean them pop out the abdominal apron then pull the back shell off and the body of the crab will come out in two pieces. You can also just flip them onto their back and quickly slice them in half with a quick, hard blow from a large knife. Then pull the back shell off.

Now, pull the mouth parts and the gray lungs off. Then clean the gunk out by spraying with a hose or dunking them in and out of water.

A batch of cleaned crabs

A batch of cleaned crabs

Next you need to cook them. I advise cooking them outside. The odor from cooking crabs indoors lingers for a while. Bring a pot of water to a boil. I season the water with some crushed garlic cloves, and either salt or Old Bay. Once the water is boiling, toss your cleaned crabs in and boil for fourteen minutes.

Cooking crabs in a pot of boiling water seasoned with Old Bay and Garlic

Cooking crabs in a pot of boiling water seasoned with Old Bay and Garlic

Time to eat

Now put the bowls of crabs on the table. Serve with melted butter and squeeze some lemon juice into the butter. Sourdough bread and corn on the cob are great sides. Enjoy!

Cooked crab for dinner

Cooked crab for dinner

The entrance to the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds

Whidbey Island Adventures – The Fair

Toward the end of July each year in Langley, the Whidbey Island Fair rolls around at the fairgrounds. Until we had attended this event a few years ago I had only been to major fairs. A small, community fair, is different in size. While this means there is less to see and do, it turns out there is still plenty of fun to be had.

The main concourse at the fairgrounds with barns on one side and food vendors on the other.

The main concourse at the fairgrounds with barns on one side and food vendors on the other.

Walking into the fairgrounds you will see the barns for the indoor exhibits off to your left and the stalls for the food vendors on your right. You will have no problem finding all of the fair food that you know and love and shouldn’t eat but will anyway. There is a variety of burgers, dogs, ice cream and plenty of fried items.

Inside the various barns you will find arts and crafts exhibits from members of the community. Educational exhibits such as robotics from local schools. Of course there is a single barn of commercial merchandise from local vendors. Since it is all isolated to a single place it makes it easy to skip the sales pitches for things you really don’t need.

The arts and crafts exhibits are really the best. You can find excellent examples of quilts, knitting, photography, painting and flower arranging. There are many categories for both adults and children as well as beginners to advanced. The wide range of categories encourages broad participation from the community.

An excellent example of the wonderful quilts you can expect to find.

An excellent example of the wonderful quilts you can expect to find.

The area displaying all of the quilts

The area displaying all of the quilts

The area with the flower arrangements

The area with the flower arrangements

Sprinkled around the fairgrounds you can visit historical exhibits from around Whidbey Island. There are a couple of old cabins on display. There is also a barn dedicated to historical farm tools and tractors. One of the highlights for me is the lumberjack area. Not necessarily historical but they use both modern and historical tools during their demonstrations.

Historical farm tools and wagons and buggies

Historical farm tools and wagons and buggies

An example of one of the oldest logging wagons on the island

An example of one of the oldest logging wagons on the island

Along the edges of the fairgrounds are the livestock barns. The best part of any fair for those of us who live in the city is the opportunity to see farm animals and talk to the 4H kids that raise them. In addition to seeing the animals in the barns, they also do various demonstrations of the animals. There are dog agility sessions, horse barrel racing and even wagon racing.

A couple of sheep posing for the camera at the fair

A couple of sheep posing for the camera at the fair

Horses pulling a wagon racing at the fairgrounds

Horses pulling a wagon racing at the fairgrounds

An Alpaca demonstrates agility

An Alpaca demonstrates agility

Finally, no fair would be complete without carnival rides and games. They have them here.

Exiting the Fun House at the fair

Exiting the Fun House at the fair

Even if you don’t live on Whidbey Island, a trip to the fair is a great outing for your family.

Disneyland a Family Vacation Destination

Disney properties are sort of the ultimate family tourist vacation destination, or tourist trap depending on your perspective. I grew up in the southwest and visited Disneyland often as a child. Then there were many years when I didn’t go. However, when our youngest daughter entered kindergarten we started taking trips to Disneyland and it has become something of a tradition. We have been back roughly every 18 months since. We joke about the frequency of the trips. “Maybe you should go somewhere else”, my wife will gently suggest. I agree we could get another trip in somewhere else if we skipped this, but it’s so predicable, we just know what to do and what to expect. It is the easiest vacation trip possible.

This is the view from Tarzan's Treehouse of New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America

This is the view from Tarzan’s Treehouse of New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America

It is fun to go with kids and see how they evolve from year to year when you visit the park. I used to think adults going there by themselves was a little creepy. We will see what my attitude becomes when the nest is empty.

Why it is a good trip

It is a great value! What I mean by that is for the price of admission, all of the entertainment is included. Now sure it is very commercial. The food is overpriced and bland and there is barely a vegetable to be seen. They have stores everywhere, many rides dump you into a gift shop. They work hard to eek money out of you at every turn, but if you stay focused you won’t spend much more than the ticket price.

It is also a good trip because there is something for everyone. The Disneyland trips we do now that our daughter is 13 are very different from when she was 5. There is always something different to see and unexpected entertainment is just around the corner.

Why is it a bad trip

I won’t kid you, the tickets are expensive. For a 2 day ticket you will pay out $200/person. If you want to hop between parks then it’s more like $244/person last I checked at Disneyland Tickets.

The other reason are the crowds. Disney does a good job smoothing out the spikes in crowds by using blackout dates for Annual Pass holders during naturally busier times of the year and by using variable price single day tickets. I assume there are times when the park is pretty quiet, like the week after Labor Day when all school are back in session. However, the reality for a family is that you are going to go on a weekend, and likely a holiday weekend. You will experience crowds and you need to learn to deal with it. It is possible to work around the crowds very effectively.

Main Street USA in Disneyland!

Main Street USA in Disneyland!

Getting There

Ok, I convinced you to go. Great! Now you have to get there. The easiest thing to do is to fly into Santa Ana (unless you live nearby), also called John Wayne airport. This is the closest airport to the park and it is small with light travel volumes. Clearing security on the way home is generally not a long wait.

Don’t rent a car unless you intend to do other things while you are in town. The quickest way to get to your hotel and the park is to just catch a Lyft or that other rideshare operation. Yes there are shuttles and cabs also but Lyft is just convenient.

If you rent a car, depending where you stay you may have to pay for parking on top of the car rental. Just make a Disney trip about Disney. If you go to southern California for other vacations then do those things and skip Disney.

Where to Stay

You made it to Disney, now where do you stay. Basically, you have two options. You can stay on property or off property. The tradeoff is convenience and proximity to the parks vs. price.

If you stay off property you either want to stay at a place that has a shuttle that can take you back and forth, or you want to stay at one of the properties directly across from the main gate. Those are the places directly across Harbor Blvd. That should give you the shortest walk. If you want a nice off property hotel then the Hilton Anaheim at the Convention Center is highly recommended. However, it is a hike to the park from there. At the end of the day your feet will be tired.

Now, if you stay on property there are three options, but really only two are worthwhile. You are going to pay for staying on property but the convenience is worth it. If you are on property then you can go to your hotel in the middle of the afternoon which is the hottest time of day and the most crowded. Go take a rest and sit by the pool and let the kids play for a couple of hours.

Your two options are the Grand Californian or the Disneyland Hotel. You can also stay at the Paradise Pier, however that is a longer walk to the park than some of the off property hotels I directed you to earlier. It is cheaper but still much more than the off property locations.

The Grand Californian is the closest to the parks, it even has it’s own entrance into California Adventure for Disney guests staying in one of the on property hotels. The hotel is spectacular in terms of the lobby area and the architecture. They have a nice pool facility with a water slide for the kids. Whenever I look for trips this hotel runs between $100 and $150 more a night than the Disneyland Hotel.

That brings me to the Disneyland Hotel. It is maybe a 5-10 minute walk further than the Grand Californian and for that you shave a little money off your bill. It is a huge hotel and has several restaurants as well. The big draw for the kids is the pool facility. The water slides are great and the pool area is just very nicely thought out.

Mickey's hat at the Disneyland Hotel

Mickey’s hat at the Disneyland Hotel

We have stayed at both hotels and don’t really have a favorite. They are different and you have to pick between price and convenience. If you plan to spend lots of time on the trip at the pool you should go to the Disneyland Hotel.

How to Manage your Day

We kind of have a system. If you stay on property, then you get an extra hour in one or the other park each morning. You will have to check the calendar to see what time the park opens for you. We get up and just go to Starbucks in Downtown Disney for coffee and a breakfast sandwich then head to the line to wait for the park to open. The extra hour in the morning is key. You can get a lot of rides done. If the Magic Morning is in Disneyland you choose between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. If the Magic Morning is in California Adventure then you choose between Radiator Springs and Paradise Pier. We will generally go to a very popular ride, then go to another popular ride. At some point you will need to start getting fast passes. As soon as the Fast Pass return time is about an hour after the current time it is worth it.

After the Magic Morning hour the park will start to fill up. Keep hitting rides and using your fast passes. Generally at lunch time or right after we will head back to the hotel and sit for a couple of hours by the pool. Then we head back to the park around the dinner hour. In the evening there are parades and fireworks. These pull a lot of people off of attractions so go do the popular rides now. If you have the stamina the park gets very empty late at night.

What to Eat

Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to Disneyland for the food. The food in the parks is expensive and not great., but there are a few treats to be had.

The Blue Bayou is generally considered the best restaurant in the Disneyland park. It is pricey but the setting, inside Pirates of the Caribbean, is a fun thing to experience at least once. The other place inside of Disney that is fun for the location is Harbour Galley. It is located right next to Splash Mountain and you can watch the logs come off the mountain while you eat.

Other than table service the popcorn is a great snack if you have to stand in a long line. We treat ourselves to ice cream from Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor once a trip. You also need to have at least one churro each trip.

Enjoying Churros across from Mickey's Fun Wheel in California Adventure

Enjoying Churros across from Mickey’s Fun Wheel in California Adventure

What else

There is so much to describe about Disneyland that it won’t fit into a single piece. You should go and discover it for yourself. Also, watch this place for upcoming articles about trips and more information about what you should do.

Summer in Frankfort, Michigan

Every summer for the past 6 years, we take a trip to the Midwest and visit the Northern Michigan town of Frankfort. When I tell people from the Northwest that I’m off to Michigan I get curious stares. “Why would you go to Michigan?” they ask. I explain that the beaches on Lake Michigan rival the white sand beaches found in the tropics. I go on to describe the beauty of the rolling hills and the friendly communities. Finally, of course, we have family there.

The beach along Lake Michigan

The beach along Lake Michigan

Getting There
The most obvious way to travel there is to fly. From Seattle, this means taking a flight to either Chicago, Minneapolis or Detroit. From there you fly to either Grand Rapids and then drive for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Alternatively, you can fly into the very small and very convenient Traverse City airport. Flying into Traverse tends to be a bit more expensive and can be unreliable because there are very few flights, however the convenience and the short drive to Frankfort – just about an hour – make it worthwhile.

What to do and see
I can’t say enough about spending time at the beach. On a windless day the water is flat as a swimming pool. However, when it’s windy being at the beach on the lake gives you waves you would expect if you were at the ocean. Head on down to the city beach in downtown Frankfort and you can play in the waves and watch the surfers and kiteboarders.

Watch the waves at the city beach in downtown Frankfort.

Watch the waves at the city beach in downtown Frankfort.

You can also just play in the waves when it’s windy out. Because of the sandy bottom the lake develops unexpected rips and undertow. Never swim alone and be sure you know what to do if a rip current pulls you away from the beach.

Playing in the waves on a stormy day

Playing in the waves on a stormy day

While you are exploring beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan be sure to take in the sites of the many lighthouses along the shoreline. Frankfort itself has two very different lighthouses. At the city beach you can walk out the breakwater on a calm day to the Frankfort North Light.

The breakwater walk out to the Frankfort North Light at the city beach in downtown Frankfort.

The breakwater walk out to the Frankfort North Light at the city beach in downtown Frankfort.

What to eat

There are a few good restaurants in town. Be sure to hit up the Stormcloud Brewing Company. They brew their own beer and have a decent menu. If the weather is nice you can sit out on the patio and enjoy lunch or dinner. It is one of the few establishments that is open year round. If you do nothing else don’t miss this place.

Stormcloud Brewing Company

Stormcloud Brewing Company

We can also be found at the Crescent Bakery for coffee and a donut in the morning. Sometimes we go to Dinghys for lunch. The other place to grab a nice coffee is Petals and Perks.

When to go

You’ll want to go anytime in the Summer. It is a vacation destination so it gets busy. If you can swing a trip in late August things are starting to quiet down. The other time to go would be in the early fall as the leaves turn. Michigan has spectacular colors.

Northern Michigan is not something I would have ever considered for a vacation. It is beautiful and you should not miss it.

Fishing in SE Alaska

The Lodge

The Lodge

As I posted a couple weeks ago, It’s Vacation Time, I spent 5 days fishing in Southeast Alaska with family. Here is the overview of the trip highlighting one of many possible destinations for an Alaskan Fishing Adventure.

Getting there
For us, being from the Seattle area it isn’t a bad trip. We fly from Seattle to Ketchikan on Alaska Airlines. The Ketchikan International Airport is situated on an island across from the small town. It’s an interesting flight into the airport between the cruise ships and fishing boats crowding the harbor and the seaplanes taking off and landing everywhere. After getting off the plane we have to take a seaplane to our ultimate destination. We check-in with Pacific Airways and then head down to the seaplane dock right outisde the airport doors. You climb aboard the seaplane and fly to the amazing Clover Bay Lodge over on Prince of Wales Island. Now you are ready to go fishing.

The Seaplane off to the lodge from Ketchikan

The Seaplane off to the lodge from Ketchikan

Time at the lodge
Once you are at the lodge, and you get your license, it is fishing from dawn ’till dusk with meals in between. You head out in an 18 foot skiff that comfortably takes up to 3 people. The boat is equipped with all the gear you need: rods and reels for salmon and halibut, tackle, bait etc. You are free to explore the area, but honestly, most people wind up congregating wherever the fishing was best most recently. When you head in for meals, your hopefully full fish box, is taken by the dock staff. The fish are cleaned, vacuum bagged and frozen for you. Over meals and evening drinks the conversation naturally leans toward who caught the biggest Salmon or Halibut and where! Plans are made for the next outing and the cycle starts over.

Heading out in search of Salmon

Heading out in search of Salmon

Mornings start early for most of us. People start heading out just as the sky begins to lighten, around 4:30 AM. Then some folks will go out after dinner and fish until the sun sets around 9:30 PM. It makes for a long day but I don’t know anywhere else where the fishing is this incredible. Add in the spectacular Alaskan scenery and wildlife. The wildlife we regularly see includes eagles, black bears, deer, porpoises and whales. Every year I have gone up we have had lots of whale sightings including some very close encounters. Typically we will watch humpbacks and sometimes there are orcas as well.

Going Home
Heading back to regular life is just like heading to Alaska except in reverse. However, there is the added burden of at least one or more 50 pound boxes of fresh Alaskan fish. Most of us have an extra freezer for the fish we bring back. I also recommend a smoker because fresh smoked salmon is a wonderful treat.

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It’s Vacation Time!

Most of the time we  write about things to do and see on the weekend — all within easy access of Seattle. However, August this year is vacation time for our family. There will be less time spent visiting the Briny Beach Cabin than we do the rest of the year and a bit more time out away from Washington State.

First on the agenda is a trip up north to Clover Bay Lodge, just outside of Ketchikan, AK. During this trip there is lots of time spent fishing for salmon and halibut and plenty of viewing of the wildlife including eagles and bears. Here is Chef Ellie from Kid Foodie after catching her first big one!

Her first fish!

Her first fish!

After Alaska and a couple weeks back at work it’s off to Frankfort, MI and a week spent on the white sand beaches of Lake Michigan, also known as The Third Coast.

The beach in Northern Michigan

The beach in Northern Michigan

As soon as we get back from our visit to Michigan a couple of us will head off to the happiest place on earth for one last bit of fun before it’s back to school and work!

Main Street USA in Disneyland!

Main Street USA in Disneyland!

Hopefully that will hold us over for a while. Chef Ellie will be heading back to school. I will be out of vacation for the rest of the year and we will be back to focusing our weekends on exploring sights around home.

A little unsure on the first day of Kindergarten, a very long time ago.

A little unsure on the first day of Kindergarten, a very long time ago.

Check back for the story of these adventures and as we enjoy August together.