Stefan Randt shows off a male red rock crab he caught at the Sidney Fishing Pier. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Stefan Randt shows off a male red rock crab he caught at the Sidney Fishing Pier. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

WATCH: Crabbing on the coast is a pastime for some, a sustainable food source for others

Important to be aware of what’s safe to eat and what’s legal to keep

On a cloudy day in early July, Stefan Randt makes his way to the end of the Sidney Fishing Pier and meticulously sets up his trap for an afternoon of crabbing. After securing the thin orange rope to the railing, he tosses the trap over the edge, squinting as the trap sinks beneath the murky waves and disappears from sight.

Crabbing is a fun pastime for some and a sustainable means of accessing food for others. For Randt, it’s both.

Randt, an engineering student at the University of Victoria, got into crabbing with his friends earlier this year. They choose different spots along the coast to set up their traps and have since had a number of crab dinners.

The success rate for fishing on the coast is low, he said, but with crabbing you’re almost guaranteed to catch something and you don’t need a boat. It’s easy, fun and inexpensive, he added.

The trap is circular and has a hinge in the middle. A mesh pocket for bait — usually raw chicken or fish — sits at the centre to attract the crabs. A rope attached to both sides of the circle draws the edges of the trap shut when the crabber pulls on it.

The traps typically cost between $15 and $20 and the required B.C. Tidal Waters Sport Fishing licence costs $22.05 per year for residents.

READ ALSO: ‘An extreme crisis for our sacred salmon’: B.C. rockslide threatens First Nations’ food security

Based on grocery store crab prices, Randt said the crab you catch on the first day will likely make up for the cost of the trap and licence.

“It’s kind of gratifying,” he said. “Especially being able to catch something and bring it home that day and cook it — you can’t get seafood that’s fresher than that.”

Randt learned how to trap, transport, butcher and cook crab by watching YouTube videos.

He leaves the trap for five to 10 minutes before pulling it up to see what he’s caught. The crabs can smell the bait and it doesn’t take long for them to get into the trap, he said. In fact, if you wait too long, they’ll climb out because they can’t get the bait out of the pouch.

Some people leave their bait outside to let it get extra smelly for the crabs, he explained.

“Or maybe to get everyone else off the dock,” Randt said with a laugh while dragging his trap up from the depths. After untangling a crab from the net, he plops it in a bucket of cool water. The crabs need to be kept alive until you’re ready to cook them because the meat goes bad quickly, he explained.

Randt lives in Saanich, but enjoys crabbing in Sooke and Sidney. He’s tried crabbing in the Cordova Bay area but was worried about the health of the crabs when he saw many of them had missing limbs and damaged shells.

According to Will Duguid, a PhD candidate at UVic who studied crabs for his master’s degree, missing limbs and worn-out shells are normal for crabs because the males are very territorial. He’s seen a crab missing more than half its limbs.

READ ALSO: Victoria named Canada’s top family friendly fishing town

Black spots on a crab’s shell are also not something to worry about. They’re just healed breaks, said Duguid. The spots stay black until the crab moults again. A grungy shell just means the crab is close to moulting. The meat is fine, he said.

At the moment, there are no diseases preventing crabs from being eaten in the area. However, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) doesn’t currently allow crabbing in Esquimalt Harbour due to a fuel spill in May 2016.

“People should always check our website before harvesting to ensure they are obtaining crabs from an open area,” said Michele Rainer, communications advisor for DFO.

Another notice from DFO points out that no more than 135 grams of crab hepatopancreas — the mushy, yellow substance under the shell — should be consumed in a week. This is due to dioxin contamination of the hepatopancreas.

Health Canada describes dioxins as a toxic chemical that is found in the environment and in some foods in small quantities.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, crab hepatopancreas can also contain toxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

“Just be aware of the regulations for what you can eat as well as what you can keep,” Duguid noted.

READ ALSO: Crab poaching under cover of darkness earns 10-year commercial fishing ban, vessel seizure

Only four male crabs of the correct size can be kept by a crabber — no matter the species. In terms of size, Dungeness crabs must have a shell width of 6.5 inches and red rock crab shells must be 4.5 inches wide. Crab callipers are often used to ensure the creatures are of the correct size.

Heavy harvesting in areas such as Victoria is, in theory, sustainable, said Duguid.

“You’re only allowed to take males that are big enough to have mated at least once,” he explained. The population shouldn’t be affected if the size regulations are strictly adhered to.

After a few hours of crabbing, Randt heads home with plans for a satisfying dinner. There are many ways to cook crab, but Randt recommends “one part crab, one part garlic butter.”


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaFisheries lawfishing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Stefan Randt baiting his trap with raw chicken for an afternoon of crabbing. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Stefan Randt baiting his trap with raw chicken for an afternoon of crabbing. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Just Posted

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

A family of ducks that lives near Saanich Municipal Hall recently welcomed 11 ducklings and took them for a swim in the koi pond outside the offices. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Pair of ducks make Saanich Municipal Hall a nursery for 11 hatchlings

Family of ducks spent time in koi pond before heading down to Swan Lake

Architect’s rendering of the 7 Erskine Lane development, showing the view from the east and south. (VDA Architecture Ltd. image)
View Royal green-lights residential development on Erskine Lane

First of two developments near Victoria General Hospital will provide 71 housing units

Sue Hodgson returns as publisher of the Peninsula News Review starting June 1. (Courtesy Sue Hodgson)
Peninsula News Review welcomes back Sue Hodgson as publisher

Dale Naftel takes helm of Oak Bay News as publisher

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports 1st vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Most Read