Catching Crabs

Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, shows the difference between a Dungeness crab i(left) and a rock crab (right) in his backyard on the first day of the recreational season, Nov. 2, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, shows the difference between a Dungeness crab i(left) and a rock crab (right) in his backyard on the first day of the recreational season, Nov. 2, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

Words and photos by Tony Santos

Braving the open sea, wrangling wild animals from the depths of the ocean, and taking the kill home to feast upon the meat.

Ok, it’s no Deadliest Catch, but Daniel Hoffman is regularly enjoying fresh Dungeness crab, caught from the comfort of his kayak.

Every few weeks Hoffman, a biology major at SF State who lives a few minutes drive from Baker Beach, loads his kayak into a pickup truck and heads out to make good on what the San Francisco Bay has to offer.

About two years ago Hoffman started kayak crabbing, adding to the other water-related activities he enjoys. He says crabs are abundant in San Francisco and come in shallow waters to spawn, making them an easy catch.

After sending out his nets and waiting a few minutes in the kayak, Hoffman has his first crab, and continues until he’s satisfied. Pulling in the final net, Hoffman paddles in, packs up, and heads home to unload his equipment and catch.

Arriving home, its time for Hoffman to finish the job.  He boils a pot of water with table salt, measuring only with his eyes, and drops in the sweet crustaceans. Once the crabs are done cooking, they must be cleaned.

Hoffman begins by separating the telson—the pointy-triangle on the bottom—from under the abdomen, allowing the body to be detached from the shell. He then removes the gills and guts from the body, leaving legs, claws and torso meat.

A relaxing day on the water, followed by a meal fit for kings—not bad for a day in the life of a student.

Bon appétit!

  • Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, carries his kayak through is backdoor to load it in his truck. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, carries his kayak through is backdoor to load it in his truck. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, untangles the ropes for his nets before crabbing at Baker Beach Oct. 30, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, untangles the ropes for his nets before crabbing at Baker Beach Oct. 30, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, pulls up a crab net at Baker Beach, Oct. 30, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    Daniel Hoffman, senior biology major, pulls up a crab net at Baker Beach, Oct. 30, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • The California Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that Dungeness crab be a minimum five and three quarters of an inch on the widest part of the carapace—the second notch of the shell—in order to be legal. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    The California Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that Dungeness crab be a minimum five and three quarters of an inch on the widest part of the carapace—the second notch of the shell—in order to be legal for catching. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • To trap the crabs, Hoffman uses nets, similar to basketball nets, that have a smaller, webbed rim on the bottom. When the net hits the ocean floor, the larger top rim collapses flat over the bottom, so crabs can crawl onto the net to nibble on the bait. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    To trap the crabs, Hoffman uses nets, similar to basketball nets, that have a smaller, webbed rim on the bottom. When the net hits the ocean floor, the larger top rim collapses flat over the bottom, so crabs can crawl onto the net to nibble on the bait. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • Hoffman lights his portable stove to boil crabs in his backyard on the first day of the recreational season, Nov. 2, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    Hoffman lights his portable stove to boil crabs in his backyard on the first day of the recreational season, Nov. 2, 2013. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
  • Hoffman cleaning the crab he caught earlier. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress
    Hoffman cleaning the crab he caught earlier. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

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