Howdy everyone! I hope y’all aren’t flooded out and drifting down river. The rains just keep coming and coming and it seems like the wind and waves on the ocean are part of the package deal. In my eight short years here as owner of Basin Tackle I have noticed how we get what I call the April “false start” wherein the weather gets nice, the sun shines and the fish bite and then WHAM, we are hit with rain and cold. It’s just all a part of the flavor of living on Oregon’s South Coast but rest assured warm sunny days with fish biting and crab a pinchin’ are close at hand.
With that being said there’s not a whole lot of fishing or crabbing to report this week as most folks have decided to wait for nicer days, so let’s talk about sea critters instead.
Did you know there’s a tasty crawling crustacean waiting for you off our docks?The particular crab I’m speaking of is one that I usually only see once or twice a year and most folks might not even realize it’s a different species from the red rock; I’m speaking about the Pacific rock crab.
The Pacific rock crab shares a lot in common with the red rock crab but the two are not to be confused. Similar in size and shape, the Pacific rock crab is a much stouter, “beefier” looking fellow, kind of the Sherman tank of crabs.
The coloration is much browner than the red rock and the claws are much larger and smoother, lacking the sharper edges found on their red rock cousins. In addition, the underside of the claws and body are often covered in small pigmented “freckles” that carry through from the shell right through to the meat.
The Pacific rock crab inhabits similar areas to our common red rock crab but mostly just in the nearshore ocean range, seldom venturing into our bay. In the 12 years I’ve come out here as a tourist and the eight I’ve lived here as a business owner, I’ve only encountered a handful of these tasty tough shelled critters, until this year that is.
I have been regularly pulling up twenty to thirty of these fella’s a day when I run my crab traps or rings off the docks. They don’t classify as either a Dungeness or a red rock in the regulations, which makes them fall into the “keep ten of ‘em” category and that’s what I’ve been doing some days. Their meat is softer than a Dungeness and not as “grained” as a red rock and to my palate the flavor is far more reminiscent of crawfish than crab.
So let’s analyze this from a food harvesting standpoint and assume you have a stellar day of crabbing here in Charleston: you could possibly go home with 12 dungeness crab, 24 red rock and ten pacific rock for one day of crabbing! Eat your heart out Red Lobster.
These tasty ten additional crab to you daily limit range from Northern Mexico to central Washington and generally spawn November to January. Like most crabs the Pacific rock crab carries her eggs with her under an abdominal flap and after seven to nine weeks the little ones hatch and float away on the ocean currents.
The Pacific rock crab’s favorite food is other crabs (see, everyone loves seafood!) specifically the hermit crab. The hermit crab is clutched and held as the rock crab chips away at its shell, slowly but surely exposing the soon to be devoured morsel of crabby goodness.
If you catch, cook and plan to eat one, be prepared to lay a beating on them to get the shell cracked. The Pacific rock crab’s shell is about twice as thick as the red rock — like I said, it’s the Sherman Tank of crabs — but they sure are tasty. I hope to see you out there.