Trapped In Delaware

First, some background: a few months back, we had a scheme to catch Dungeness crabs while on a kayaking trip in Glacier Bay, Alaska. The plan was to cook them in camp using two tin foil lasagna pans as a makeshift steamer, and then to brag for years about how we lived off of the land (or, rather, the sea). It all sounded perfect…until our traps came up empty and we sat in the rain eating dehydrated beef stroganoff. Good times.

bridge at Love Creek

Last weekend, our friend Ellen invited us to join her and some close friends/family for the weekend at a house on the Delaware shore, and the crab scheme was reborn. Once we arrived in Lewes, the good folks at Bill’s Sport Shop were kind enough to point us to a local hotspot on nearby Love Creek. Gear in hand, we headed out at low tide with high hopes.

My dad taught me as a kid that low tide isn’t really the best time for crabbing–but we still found a pretty active scene. We left with a modest catch of eight legal-sized (5+ inches tip to tip) blue crabs, and we caught and released loads of smaller ones. All were landed with either basket traps or hand lines.

Souzz was skeptical that crabs would be dumb enough to hold onto bait (in our case, a drumstick) while a hand-line was pulled to the surface…but we landed quite a few that way. Turns out that crabs have brains the size of a point on a pencil, so there is apparently very little math going on down there. Think of it this way: if you saw an uncooked drumstick hanging from a string in the ocean, would you eat it? Unlikely, right?

lots to watch down there…

As the crabbing action picked up, twelve year old Ciara was our unofficial cheerleader, hopping with excitement with each successful retrieve. Fourteen year old Michael was our key grip with the net, and fourteen year old Nell provided help in measuring our catch–so it really was a team effort. We also made friends with Mitch and Roger, two locals who were happy to share their insights and even offered up an extra trap. Maureen and Mike provided running commentary, as well.  Crabbing is certainly more social than fishing, maybe because there’s plenty of time in between retrieves.

Back at the house, we found that blue crabs fit easily into the fry-bake, so the tin lasagna pans weren’t called to action (a future blog awaits). We steamed the crabs in beer and added a bunch of Old Bay seasoning, and they were cooked and gone in no time. And we all agreed that they were much better than dehydrated stroganoff.

But wait, we know what you are thinking: who eats steamed crab without apple pie?!

Being smarter than the average crab, we’d thought ahead about dessert and had brought some gala and honey crisp apples from a local farmer’s market. We added cinnamon, ¾ cup sugar, a teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of flour, and a few dabs of butter. All of that went into a pretty standard (read: store-bought) crust. I hid the packaging and created an elaborate story (read: lie) about how we made the flour by hand–but I did at least use a wine bottle as a rolling pin, so there was some creativity involved.

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For the dutch oven, we used 10 coals on the bottom and 8 on the top. From there, it was just a matter of time, and it took a full hour and 15 minutes (it was windy out, which didn’t help). The curly W on the crust was Michael’s idea, as he’s a big Washington Nationals fan. It didn’t help the Nats, though, as they lost to the Giants in 18 innings.

Thankfully, the pie turned out better than the baseball game. And is there anything more American than baseball, crabs, and apple pie?


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