EDITOR’S COLUMN | Real manhood ended up having to wait

Ahhhhh… manhood! I’ve arrived at last. Admittedly, it was a couple of days later than planned, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Let me just say first that the air is clearer up here with us real men, us crabbers. As the elite we know things that other people don’t, stuff like how it feels to be that guy in the office who gives away free crab because he caught more than he can eat. Well, this week I’m that guy because I caught two.

Ahhhhh… manhood!

These were two hard-earned crab, I might add. As I mentioned in this very column on Wednesday, I’ve had a lot of fun in life and have gotten to see and do some cool things. But being my own crabber, the one who decides when and where to drop his pots, had somehow eluded me. Seriously, what self-respecting Whidbey Island man hasn’t gone out and caught a few Dungeness crab in his life?

Well, my name had been on that short list for too long so I boldly wrote that I would end my shame that very night. That column was written on Tuesday. TUESDAY. Those who already live up high in the clear air will know why that’s relevant. For everyone else, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are especially important in the crabbing world for reasons I’ll explain shortly.

So, after work I loaded up my leaky old aluminum dinghy — it belonged to my late grandfather and has hauled countless Dungeness in years past — my trusty first mate (Mr. Spock, the dog) and headed out to pick up my fishing license. Wanting to be a responsible fisherman, I was careful to quiz the experts about what areas are legal to fish, daily limits and size requirements. I was ready.

I should preface this by mentioning the work and investment that preceded these events. Buying a trap and gear ($125), borrowing a trailer for the boat and wiring the Toyota to tow it ($50, and an afternoon under the truck) buying bait ($2.50) and time rummaging through the shed for stuff like life jackets, extra line and other miscellaneous boat gear (headache).

So finally I was set and Mr. Spock and I hit the boat launch at Freeland Park. It was too rough to comfortably launch such a small boat — 8 feet — but I was determined and strangely we had the place largely to ourselves. Similarly, Holmes Harbor was a ghost town of other boats and crab traps alike. Weird, I thought as I dropped my pot after a wet and bumpy 30-minute ride to Sandy Point just south of Honeymoon Bay.

Well, the mystery was solved when I arrived back at the launch to a man with a knowing smile who expressed his hope that I wouldn’t lose my pot because the fishery was closed. Being a naturally suspicious newsman, I marked his face just in case it did go missing as I knew the area was in fact open.

Of course he was right. A call to a state hotline made it clear that while the area was open, all crab fishing in Puget Sound is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Ahhhhh… manhood, looks like it would have to wait until Thursday. What a newbie. The trip back out that very evening to pick up my illegal pot was smoother than the previous trip, thanks to it being 8 p.m., but it was bitter consolation as I dumped overboard the eight crab I found inside.

Thursday came all too quickly, however, and I dropped my pot in the very same spot, which was now surrounded by a sea of other traps. A half-hour later, I claimed two legal-size males, chucked a small one back and dropped the pot down for an overnight soak. I had crab for dinner, the best one I’ve ever eaten, gave another away Friday morning and am eagerly awaiting the end of the work day to fetch more red gold.

So what’s the moral of this fish story? I don’t know; crabbing is expensive and time consuming but fun. Just be sure to check the regulations carefully before you head out — your manhood may depend on it.