Note: This summer, SE intern Chichi Wang is heading out to the shores of Long Island to catch her own crabs, dig for her own clams, and scrounge up whatever else is edible by the ocean. Follow along every week on The Crab Pot. Take it away, Chichi!
For someone in her twenties, I’m a pretty incorrigible luddite. Each morning, I pour my coffee beans into a little wooden grinder made by Peugeot sometime in the sixties, and though my days are filled with blogs and emails, I'm usually just grateful to live in a country where taking a hot shower is possible everyday. Still, there are some technological advances to which I am very devoted, usually having chanced upon them five to ten years later than everyone else.
It was only one month ago, shortly after my arrival in New York, that I discovered the magic of possessing a GPS contraption for the car. Aside from being an oracle for all navigational intents, I have discovered that a GPS is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of a crabber. Hours and hours were spent in the past just trying to negotiate through the ramblings streets near shores; now, a simple tap on the GPS will do the trick.
Last week, our strategy to get to the waters of Patchogue was to look on the GPS map and find a pier that prominently jutted out into the bay. A quick perusal of the satellite image revealed that we were a few miles away from an area called Blue Point, where there was just such a pier. From my experience crabbing on the North Shore of Long Island, I had come to anticipate a wooden pier with plenty of fisherman, but I had not expected Patchogue to be as beautiful as, if not more so than, the beaches of Port Jefferson.
We arrived in the evening when the sun had not yet begun to set. While the beaches on the north are sandy with pebbly rocks lining the shore, here the bay was surrounded by tall green reeds that fenced in the waters like bamboo railings. All along the edges of the bay, houses were perched extremely close to the water. Unlike the high piers near Port Jefferson, the overwhelming feeling at Blue Point was that at any given moment, we were merely an arm's length from the water itself.
For weeks people have been telling me to go to Patchogue. Every time I show up on the piers of north shore with my crab pots in tow, I am greeted by bemused fisherman.
"Crab?" they ask, scratching their heads. "Oh, for crab you gotta go to Patchogue! Great blue shells there!”
During these chats with the people on the piers, I've accumulated a wealth of personal stories about crabbing in Patchogue. Some insist that the best time to do it is late at night, when the crabs are supposedly clinging near the wooden ramparts of the piers. Shining a flashlight on the wooden legs, I am told, will attract the crabs like moths to a lamp. All that's needed then is to pluck out the crabs with a long net.
Though I've not yet tried this technique, it sounds much too good to be true. Our usual modus operandi is to fill the crab nets with a smelly fish or some pieces of fatty chicken, and wait for the scent of the bait to waft through the water. On this particular trip, we used an aggressively stinky bunkfish, which was made all the more pungent when we split it between our pots.
In one hour, we caught a dozen of the liveliest blue shells I've seen in all my years of crab consumption. Approximately five inches from one point of the shell to the other, the crabs were wonderfully spiteful, pinching and jabbing at whatever came within a few inches of them. As we hauled up our pots for the last time that evening, we were astonished to see that the bait from the nets had been eaten right to the bones, leaving the bunkfish as a very clean skeleton. As I untied the ropes from the pier, I wondered about just how many voracious blue shells dwelled in the depths in the bay.
Cruising confidently along with our GPS in the front and a bucket of crabs in the back, we hurried home to steam the blue shells in beer. So lively were the crabs that when I turned on the stove, one of them soared clear out of the pot and onto the kitchen counter, scrambling furiously to get away from the heat. Half a dozen of them made for one very delicious meal and I, being a consummate peeler of all things crustacean, finished mine well before my dining partner. Still, I kept my twiddling thumbs away from his plate; after all, there are plenty of bigger crabs in the sea.
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