Feeling Crabby

Elizabeth Thompson

Elizabeth Thompson › Elizabeth Thompson is a writer and photographer. She lives in Alaska with her husband and their ...


It’s February in Alaska (heavy sigh). Solstice seems so long ago and yet we are still dragging ourselves out of bed in the dark. The Valentine’s chocolates are gone, so we try to be comforted by our happy-lights, sub-lingual vitamin D3 drops, and surfing for cheap flights to the sun on the sly. We all need a diversion… thank God for crab season!

Suddenly, after a long couple months of QUIET, the harbor is busy with boats jockeying for position at the crane dock to load pots and gear on board their vessels. Crew are walking the docks in shiny new xtratuf boots and well-worn rain-gear. We are all dreaming of crab… crab louie, hot crab dip, crab omelettes, crab cakes, crab fettucini and steamed crab simply dipped in butter. But, before we can eat it, we have to get it up off the bottom of the sea.

Both Tanner and Golden King Crab pot fisheries opened on February 16th this year. Known for their rich sweet flavor, Alaskan crab are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list as a “good alternative.” Crab populations vary from year to year, as favorable weather and water conditions are necessary for young crab survival. In Southeast Alaska Fish and Game uses an abundance-based strategy for harvest regulation in the tanner crab fishery, ensuring healthy male crab populations. This conservative management means we can all feel good about enjoying this wild-caught and sustainable delicacy!

Our boat, the St. Lazaria, gets to tender tanner crab from the icy waters of Sumner Strait this year. We’ll meet the cheerful crew of the F/V Pacific Sea at the south end of the Wrangell Narrows, transfer their catch to our tender and deliver it to the processing plant (see slideshow). These crabbers are a professional, productive operation and a pleasure to do business with. Tanner crab is also known as Snow, Queen, or Spider Crab, and is called Kani when in sushi.  Found on the continental shelf of the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea in depths of up to 1433 feet, a legal-sized crab must be male and at least 5.4” wide.

Ask your local fish-monger for some wild-caught Alaskan Tanner or King Crab. The sweet and rich meat is a low-fat delicacy everyone who loves seafood should experience.

What’s your favorite way to eat crab?

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Thompson