Shilshole Bay Marina | Crabbing in Seattle
Are you looking for a place to go pier crabbing in Seattle? You came to the right place. There are honestly plenty of spots to go crabbing around the Puget Sound, but one of our favorite locations is Shilshole Bay Marina. In the following post, we’ll tell you exactly what you need to start crabbing, where to go, and even how to cook the crabs you catch.
Shilshole Bay Marina (7001 Seaview Ave NW) is near Golden Gardens Park in Ballard. There’s a public fishing pier near the north end of the marina, and that’s where you want to go. There’s plenty of free parking in the area, but because of its location (in close proximity to the beach, boat launch, etc.), parking can be fairly difficult on summer evenings and/or on the weekends. The public fishing pier can get pretty crowded with crabbers as well.
Tove and I are far from “experts” at crabbing, but we’re learning a lot. You honestly don’t need to break your bank to get started. We went to Seattle Marine (2121 W. Commodore Way) for our equipment. The employee there was extremely helpful. He gave us all sorts of ideas on bait, locations (he’s one of the people who suggested Shilshole Bay Marina), and he even helped us get everything we needed (crab trap, 100′ leaded line, a crab caliper (to measure the crabs), a buoy, and bait bag) for less than $45.
NOTE: I know I’m stating the obvious, but I need to say it — you MUST have a valid Washington crabbing license. I bought my annual license at Big 5 in Ballard for about $25. There are several restrictions on the crabs you can keep and which days you can go crabbing in Seattle. For all of the rules, please check out the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
There are several different types of bait you can use when crabbing in Seattle. We used chicken legs and a can of cat food (just crack it and throw it in your bait bag), but many people use old fish parts (heads, carcass, etc.) that you can buy at many local markets in the area. The biggest tip we heard from folks — the stinkier the bait the better.
Crabbing at Shilshole Bay Marina is easy. You simply tie your line to the pier, grab your pot, and throw it into the water. We’ve heard “the deeper the better,” so give it a good toss. If you’re using a crab pot, let it “soak” in the water for 45 minutes to an hour. You can go longer or shorter. Feel free to do it however you want. We saw people with ring nets checking their catch every 15 minutes or so.
TIP: We’re told the best time to go crabbing is at “slack tide,” which is right around low and high tide. The tide isn’t taking the crabs in or out, so that’s an ideal time for them to scavenge for food. Click here for a Puget Sound tide chart.
If you can snag a spot at the end of the pier at Shilshole Bay Marina, do it. We were tossing our crab pots off the north side of the pier, and weren’t having a ton of luck. We were pulling up smaller red rock crabs and a few Dungeness crabs, but none of them were keepers (all were too small or female). Near the end of our crabbing excursion, we snuck into an open spot at the end of the pier and snagged four keeper red rock crabs. We saw a few people with keeper Dungeness crab at the end of the pier, but we weren’t lucky enough to take any home.
TIP: Take a cooler with you to Shilshole Bay Marina. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests using a towel and ice. Soak the towel in salt water and place it over your crabs, and then cover the towel and crabs with your ice. We saw people using several different methods, though. Most were simply using a cooler or bucket full of salt water to store their crabs, while others used a cooler full of salt water with ice.
After you’re done crabbing at Shilshole Bay Marina, you need to cook your crabs immediately. There are several different ideas on how to cook your crab, but here’s how we do it:
We boil a large pot of salt water (use 1/4 tsp per gallon of water) and Old Bay Seasoning. It might sound cruel, but simply drop the crabs into the boiling water. Using ice in your cooler (or placing them in the freezer for a bit) will put the crab in a “sleepy” state, so they won’t squirm around when you drop them in the pot. Boil the crab for 18-20 minutes. After they’re done cooking, rinse them under cold water to slow the cooking process and make them easier to clean (otherwise, they’re way too hot).
NOTE: Instead of me describing how to clean a crab (it’s a little tough without images), take a look at this video. After you clean your crab — POW! — you’re ready to eat! We simply suggest dipping your crab in melted butter. It doesn’t get much better than that!
If you want to stray away from Shilshole Bay Marina, people have suggested several other public fishing piers for crabbing in Seattle. You can try the Elliott Bay public fishing pier at Centennial Park or the pier at Seacrest Park in West Seattle. If you’re willing to get out of Seattle, you should check out Kayak Point, Edmonds, Des Moines, Westport, and even Port Townsend (where we’re told the crabs are on “steroids” because they’re so big).
We really hope this post encourages you to try crabbing at Shilshole Bay Marina, or wherever else you want to go around the Puget Sound. Crabbing might seem a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but it’s actually pretty easy. We’d never gone crabbing off a pier before until recently, and we took home four crabs for lunch. It was really rewarding to catch our own food. Not to mention, we had an absolute blast doing it!
Have you ever gone crabbing at Shilshole Bay Marina? Where is your favorite spot to go crabbing in Seattle and/or around the Puget Sound? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more awesome experiences around the Emerald City!