Wading Puget Sound For Crabs

A funny thing happened as I attempted to catch crabs with what I was billing to others as the “least effective way possible.”

It worked.

There I was in my waders, pulling my wife’s laundry hamper behind me as I essentially trolled the eel grass, seaweed patches and sand flats for Dungeness and red rocks on a Central Sound beach during Monday’s -2.5-foot late morning low tide.


When I found a crab, I jousted it with one of my sons’ plastic telescopic pincer toys to try and get a hold and lift it into the basket.

The device didn’t work that great for grabbing the crabs, as their claws could still slip through the gap behind the pinchers, but I think the chicken wire/broomstick getup I used during Sunday’s minus tide has officially been retired.

Sunday was when I decided that wading for crabs is the least effective method ever.

After a milelong wade-athon down the beach and then back up it, all I had to show was a pair of female Dungies – one softshell and both turned back, of course – another one that disappeared into eelgrass before I could check its privates, and the dawning realization that my waders were no longer waterproof in the area of my own privates.

Which is to say I went home crabby on multiple fronts. So much for my great idea on scoring from shore.


In hindsight, however, I think Sunday’s fail was related more to the murky water conditions.

Between a strong north wind, boats out chasing salmon and crabs and a big old container ship all sending nonstop waves into the shallows, and surface schmutz and subsurface goo further clouding my vision, crabs and everything else for that matter were tough to see.

Ugh, excuses, excuses …

Monday, with my confidence as low as the tide, I almost didn’t go back. It was a workday, I had an interview to do, I’m on deadline for my mag and others, time to get serious again.

Amy would have probably been fine if I’d given up – let us just say that she has not shared my excitement about how easy it is to pull the well-ventilated laundry hamper through the shallows, or its high potential crab storage capacity.


But this was also my big chance for the summer.

I don’t have a boat and the annual crabbing adventure that son Kiran and I go on in the San Juans is looking pretty unlikely at this point. Our retired hosts and myself don’t know how we could make it work in their 26-foot Bayliner given coronavirus and social distancing. Frankly, it’s an unnecessary risk for them and us and we can wait another year.

So with WDFW’s abbreviated Sunday-Monday-only crabbing schedule for Marine Area 10 this summer only lining up with a few really low tides, it was go-time.

Instead of heading south like I had the day before, I decided to go north. The wind and boat traffic were lighter, and once I rounded a wave-kneaded point, the visibility actually increased markedly.

Still, I ended up worrying the molted shell of a red rock with my pincer for an embarrassingly long time before I realized nobody was home, and then when I spotted the next mottled orange shape on the edge of an eelgrass patch, I assumed it too was a molt because it was so blatantly out in the open.

That one however turned out to be the biggest red rock of the day, about as wide as a keeper Dungie. It had been unwilling to give up the clam it was hugging, so the greedy bugger went into the hamper.


A couple other crabs were well out in the open too, but others sat at the edge of eelgrass. It really was like trolling because I was covering ground and zig-zagging between patches while using polarized sunglasses to sweep the 2- to 3-and-a-half-foot-deep waters.

With the tide just beginning to come back in I called it a day with five 51/2-plus-inch red rockies, and a handful more turned loose because they were a bit smaller than that.

(Five inches is the minimum size for the species; daily limit is six of either sex.)

On shore I talked with a curious mom and her son about what I’d been up to, putting on my ambassador hat to answer their questions and talk about the different kinds of crabs and the rules and regulations. (Crabs can be taken by hand but their shells can’t be penetrated by the instrument you use.)


Yeah, red rocks are kinda the pink salmon of the crabbing world – not as cool or coveted as Dungeness, and I was disappointed not to find any of the latter species.

But I really do like the taste of and amount of meat in red rocks’ big claws, and now I’m checking the tables for the next big minus tide. Looks like it’s in early August!

It turns out the least effective way to crab is to stay home, and I’m glad I didn’t, and instead added a new way to catch them.