Vancouver’s urban dwellers find a way to access fresh seafood for free, and barely out of the downtown core. Andrew Stegemann describes how to stand up paddleboard for crab in British Columbia’s largest city.
Reaching the buoy strategically placed off Vancouver’s glassy shore, I kneel on my stand up paddleboard and pull at the rope, lifting the crab trap attached to it below. Judging its hefty weight, I fight off anticipation—a 10-pound starfish can feel like a lot of crab. On shore, my friends are preparing our day’s first catch, which were snagged by snorkel and fins. What’s in the trap is merely a bonus.
Each time we emerge from the ocean, we’re greeted by surprised onlookers who don’t realize Vancouver has a bounty of crabs just beyond eyesight. Happily, this largely hidden fact will feed us tonight. It’s true that laying a crab trap from your SUP is part of the experience, but diving below the surface and grabbing crabs off the seafloor is the highlight.
Successfully snorkelling for crab requires nothing more than good visibility, a fishing licence and the right habitat. In the case of Dungeness crab, that means a sandy bottom in relatively shallow water so you can see and grab them without too much effort. Once you find the place, the trick is to have your SUP beside you as you snorkel and a container for your catch. On this particular day, snorkelling produced half of our allowable catch, so as I pull up the trap in the glow of sunset, I know I am covered. Still, the weight indicates potential, which turns to delight as the trap comes into view and I see it is full of Dungeness from the ocean floor: a few females, which went back into the water, and a few big males, which went into the cooler to hang out with the crew.
The best pursuits mix passions. In the case of stand up paddlecrabbing, those passions are outdoor recreation and tasty food. And the price can’t be beat. Except for the cost of an annual fishing licence—$22.05 for Canadian residents—the crab are free. Which clearly beats the nearly $40 per two-pound crab you pay at the market.
Back at the beach, we are immersed in the ocean, the sunset, the salt air. Vancouver has once again provided us this simple, yet highly sought-after meal. Butter. Garlic. Crab cooked in the very seawater where they were plucked off the ocean floor. The taste of home.