How I Caught Crabs

And Mussels and Oysters and Clams


Just got back from my week out on the left coast. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Gabriola Island, where my GF spent her summers when she was young. Although I did not catch crabs from my GF, it is because of her that I caught as many as I did.

Gabriola’s shoreline, like much of the west coast, is ridiculously rich with life. When I showed interest in a tiny crab scuttling along the beach, my GF looked at me with a mixture of compassion and concern, and then told me to stand beside her. She leaned down and flipped over a rock the size of a laptop computer– dozens of tiny crabs skittered away for new cover. They ranged in size from the size of a toonie to smaller than your fingernail, and while most were dark brown, many were yellow, orange, or even coloured to resemble a mottled stone. They couldn’t give you much of a pinch, but to be sure, I learned to pick them up by the rear sides of their shells. I also learned to tell the boys from the girls.

Ed’s Note: Which is often how people catch crabs in the first place.

We stayed at a cabin with a dock on a secluded bay. When the tide went down, we went to nearby beaches and picked mussels and oysters off the rocks. My GF’s uncle pulled up a bag of clams from the dock that he had left underwater overnight; this way, they would spit out their sand and be edible. We steamed fresh seafood every day and ate it in garlic lemon butter. After dark, we would toss the empty shells in the water and watch the firework glow of the luminescent algae. We stood in the blackness for an hour listening to the progress of a group of otters barking and splashing along the shoreline as they searched for their evening meal.

Bald eagles landed in the trees around us, and a seal poked its head from the water and watched us curiously between its foraging dives. A rainbow of starfish crawled slowly in the seaweed just below the ocean’s surface; many were tucked into crevices on the rocks above, inches from the mussels they would devour when the water rose. And deer were everywhere, especially in front of our car on the roads we travelled.

For one glorious week, I reconnected with the part of me that loves the uncontainability of nature, the rawness of our predator/prey relationship, and the harmony and balance I only feel when I’m on the west coast.

Oh, and it rained for seven days. It started the day we arrived and was forecast to end the day we planned to leave. So, we came home a day early.

It was sunny in Calgary.

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