By Stacey Sutherlin
When most people think of crabbing on the west coast, they automatically think of Dungeness crab, also known as devil crab because of the face on the shell. If you have ever had the pleasure of eating Dungeness crab, you can attest to its rich, delicious flavor.
Head north to Alaska and you hear of king crab and snow crab, both of which are very tasty. King crab are easily known as the best in the world with their snow white meat, sweet flavor and texture suggestive of lobster. Snow crab, too, offers a sweet flavor with a salty flavor as well, and their meat is more fibrous. However, have you heard of tanner crab?
No? That’s okay, not everyone has.
Tanner crab, Chionoecetes bairdi and C. opilio, is a very close relative of snow crab. They provide a sweet and rich flavor with a tender texture, thus making them versatile for many recipes in the kitchen.
Tanner crab facts:
* They are found throughout the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea along the continental shelf and coastal waters down to Oregon.
* In Alaska they are found north of the Alaska Peninsula, around the Pribilof Islands and the Gulf of Alaska
* They live in subtidal depths down to around 1500 feet.
* They feed on a wide assortment of marine life including worms, clams, mussels, snails, shrimp, crabs, other crustaceans, and fish parts.
* They are fed upon by bottom fish, seals, sea otters, octopus, cod, halibut, pelagic fish, and humans.
* Mating occurs from January to June and larvae hatch between April and June.
* Although C. opilio and C. bairdi are discreet species, they are able to crossbreed.
* There are specific regions in the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean that contain high numbers of Tanner crab hybrids.
* Tanners are “true” crabs with four pairs of walking legs and one pair of pincers.
* These crabs are also marketed under their trade names: snow crab (C. opilio) and Tanner crab (C. bairdi).
If you’re headed out fishing personally or on a charter, be sure to see about throwing some pots for some tanners. You won’t be disappointed.
Be sure to check with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s current regulations in regards to the tanner crab fishery which includes dates open for harvest, pot rules, limits, legal size and everything needed to know for this fishery. Female tanner crab taken must be returned to the water unharmed immediately. A permit is needed for crabbing, but is free with your fishing license and reporting your catch is mandatory.
We all know a bad day fishing is better than any good day at work, but add the fact you are throwing some crab pots over deck, the day is sure to not disappoint.
With your crab pots loaded with bait, salmon heads work but fresh cod seems to work best, as you’re headed out trolling for salmon or a day of fishing on the salt, toss your pots over deck. While your pots are sitting and collecting these tasty treats, you are able to wet some lines, hopefully catch some fish and take in those stunning views that Alaska never seems to disappoint with.