Ilwaco, Wash. — Captain Butch Smith of Coho Charters knows a thing or two about catching Dungeness crab. He’s been helping people do it for decades. He says one thing never gets old:
"This is actually my families 61st year in the charter industry, I've been doing it 43 years. And I just like to see the people’s faces and their reaction."
He says pulling crab out of the Pacific near the Columbia River Bar is an experience that just can’t be duplicated.
"It's absolutely 100 percent wild -- and a great food. Normally most of my clients have just seen crab in a store case or at Safeway or Costco. “
Guests supply their own shell fishing license, male crab are kept and females released, and WDFW recreational crabbing size regulations and limits are strictly adhered to:
"This crab is one of the most important resources we have on the Washington coast, to our coastal communities, and we want to make sure we follow laws strictly, so we have crab for our future, and not only for our recreational fisheries but our commercial guys.”
Besides, a limit of five crab is plenty. On this charter, after hauling in the pots the captain guided his guests on the best way to cook crab. Whole, in plenty of salt water – some folks even just boil their crab in sea water. Bring water to a boil, toss the crab in live, and set a timer for 20 minutes after the water comes back to a boil.
After that, rinse with cold fresh water – which makes the crab meat separate from the shell, and easier to pick.
To clean, pull the V off of the crab’s underside, then, keeping the crab upside down, pull the shell off the back (if you do it right, most of the gross stuff comes out with the shell). Pull off the feathery lungs, and rinse the yellow goo out of the cavity (or save it, it’s called crab butter and some cooks like it for sauce).
Then, dip and butter like Captain Butch, and devour.
"It's really good, I think it's far better than any crab, lobster in the world. I think Dungeness crab is absolutely the best."