Baiting the Trap

lucycrabsWhen I am at my home on Orcas Island, Washington and away from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles, I morph from a well dressed city slicker to a somewhat cave-like hunter and forager.

At this time of year, I trample around the forests, looking in the ferns with my beady eyes for the first sign of fiddleheads, I watch the crocuses peep up through the ground as the blossom bursts on the apple trees; but most of my cavewoman thoughts are towards the ocean, the icy, clear ocean filled with great big fierce Dungeness crabs.

Catching crabs is my passion. This past winter, the season opened for a few weeks in December and I was out there in my little row boat, freezing rain pelting down, hardly able to find my boeys due to the rough water; my husband watching bewildered through binoculars, from our little cottage; and as I pulled up my traps to see my haul of crabs, I was happier than a child on Christmas morning.

There is a very simple process to crabbing, but it takes months of thought – Throughout the off-season, I freeze all chicken carcasses in preparation for bait when the season opens. Like everything in life, it is the bait, the scent, the lure, that attracts the big boys and although I am happy with my catch which usually yields two or three crabs a trap, I know that my neighbors, the locals are catching more than me; generations of families have fished these waters and like most sacred recipes, they are only passed on to the next generation and not the next door neighbor.

And so it was during a snowy night last month, when I was pouring over one of my books on crabbing, that I spotted my secret recipe, I read, “The crabs will destroy traps to get at it.”

With great excitement, I announced to my family at dinner, that they need not worry about what to get me this year for my birthday, I didn’t want a trip to Europe to visit my prodigal daughter, or a Pippa Small ring, nor did I want that baby cashmere sweater from Loro Piana. “All I want is a frozen box of mink carcasses please.”

Now, you would think that most husbands would be thrilled that their wife would choose the carcass over the pelt, but my dear husband looked at me with horror.

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked innocently with an edge of defensiveness. He replied, “You want to Fed Ex a box of mink carcasses half way across the country to catch a crab fifty feet from here, which you can do with a can of cat food?” “Yes.” I said, “I do.” But as the words of defiance left my lips, I felt my peaceful cavewoman disappear as I realized the shame of my very un-green greed.

“Fine, You’re right.” Damnit!

That was a month ago, and I think about it every day, like a dress you see in a shop and desperately want, but do not buy; and so if anyone comes to stay at my house in Washington and would like to bring me a hostess gift, I would like a mink carcass please.


Lucy Dahl is an author and screenwriter. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs and beloved pig, Francis Bacon.