Kodiak, Alaska’s crab fishery has changed over the past 35 to 40 years. When we first moved to the Island with the Coast
Guard in 1979, red king crab was plentiful around the Island. It wasn’t unusual to take off at lunch, with the baby strapped to our back and drive
down to the old WWII marginal pier on the Coast Guard base, drop in one or two crab rings and fish for 30 minutes. The crab rings were simple devices,
made of rebar bent into a circle and a net stretched across. It was very much communal living on the Coast Guard base, so crab rings were regularly
passed down from family to family – I don’t remember ever making one. So with a salmon head or chicken neck bone for bait, we would throw the rings
over and within minutes we would pull up two or three large red king crab. It was always exciting to look over the side of the pier and see the crabs,
usually red king crab but sometimes tanners, crawling around in the web. You had to be quick because they could easily scurry over the side and drop
back into the bay.
Today, you can still catch king crab in certain spots, but most red king crab comes from out west when the Bering Sea crab boats return with their catch.
Crab fishing activity starts early in October in Kodiak. Flatbed trucks start delivering the 6 x 6 crab pots from storage yards and pot yards all around
town to the docks for repair and loading. You can drive by Pier II or “the City dock” and see rows of pots stacked four or five high waiting to be
moved by boom truck to the Kodiak’s Bering Sea crab fleet. Kodiak’s boats can be seen on the Deadliest Catch tv shows – Cornelia Marie, Incentive,
Stormbird as well as some of more notorious names such as Captain Sig Hansen’s Northwestern.
The first boats will be returning this weekend from Dutch Harbor and the Pribilof Islands to fleet deliver crab back to town. Kodiak Fish Market will have
fall 2015 crab within a day or so of landing and unloading. Watching from the dock, you can see processing crews go over the side and down into the
cavernous fish holds that are filled with live king crab. The crab is hand offloaded into buckets and then pulled up by crane into the processing plant
where it is run through the processing line which includes cleaning, sorting, and packing into cooking baskets. Once the crab is cooked in a brine
solution, it is taken out of the baskets and packed into a bulk (usually about 45 pound) master pack and sent to the freezer.
At Kodiak Fish Market, we buy the crab in the bulk boxes and then break it down into smaller units for our customers. When you receive the frozen crab,
it is fully cooked. You can thaw it out in your refrigerator overnight or simply put it into a pot frozen and steam it. We recommend steaming over
boiling simply because it tends to lessen the saltiness of the brine that it was originally cooked in. We are often asked how much should we buy and
the answer is for dinners or main courses, about one and a half pounds of crab per person. For dips or appetizers, use less depending on your recipes.
Our next blog will feature more about how to handle the crab, how to crack or open the crab and tried local Kodiak recipes for dips and main courses. The
crab is coming soon, reserve yours now and there is always a limited amount available. Contact us at (907) 942-3497 or watch for our special offers
All the best from the Fish Market