Commercial fishing in Alaska is famous for being one of the most dangerous and deadliest jobs in North America. Among these life-threatening jobs, fishing for the Alaskan king crab is ranked on the very top. This profession is filled with perilous conditions and casualties resulting in loss of lives. But, since it is a very high paying profession, it is extremely popular. Every year, Alaskan crab meat exports amount to around 10 million pounds.
Alaskan king crabs are invertebrates of the crustacean family, usually found in the cold waters. They have a unique fan-shaped abdomen located at the rear section of the body with two claws and six legs on either sides of the body. There are around 10 different species of king crabs found in the cold and freezing Alaskan waters.
These species include the red king crabs, the blue king crabs, and the golden king crabs. The red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is found in the cold waters of Bristol Bay, Norton Sound, and the Kodiak Archipelago. The blue king crab (Paralithodes platypus) is found in the waters of Alaska's Bristol Bay, Kodiak, St. Matthew Island, and the Pribilof Island areas. The golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus) is found in the waters of the Aleutian Islands.
Popularly known as 'crabbing', fishing for the king crabs comes with occupational hazards, such as icy glacial waters of the sub-zero Arctic Ocean, with treacherous waves pounding at the decks of the fishing boats. The fishing season lasts from two to four weeks, which is usually between the months of October and January. During the peak seasons, the crab meat production is believed to go up to 200 million pounds. Recently, the crab meat hauls have not been like before, as the catch has decreased due to overfishing, warmer waters, and increased fish predation.
The actual process of commercial fishing for these crabs, consists of the use of steel traps, also called pots. These pots usually weigh around 600 pounds. They are filled with bait fish and are dropped into the sea from both sides of the fishing boat. The buoys attached to the pots help in locating them later.
The pots are set in strings to get the best catch, and remain in the water for a specific amount of time. A hook is thrown towards the buoys and then it is pulled up with the help of a hydraulic system. A filled pot weighing around a ton, is dragged up and the pot is emptied on the hold of the boat.
How do I become an Alaskan king crab fisherman?
Becoming a king crab fisherman is considered to be the ultimate goal in the Alaskan fishing world. An average deckhand can get a wage of up to $50,000 for a stint of six months. The fatality rate is 90 times that of any average worker in North America, yet it fails to deter people from seeking this opportunity of becoming Alaskan crab fisherman. A typical king crab fishing boat has on board, a crew consisting of a captain and around four to ten crew members working on it.
A newcomer will never get a chance to work directly on this boat. He has to start with a salmon fishing experience on an Alaskan fishing boat in the summer and move on to crab fishing in the winter, after which he can apply for king crabbing in the summer. There is no shortcut to becoming an Alaskan king crabber, other than experience.
How big are Alaskan king crabs?
Among all the types, blue king crabs weigh the heaviest. Some blue king crabs are known to weigh up to 20 pounds. During peak times, red and blue king crabs weighing up to 15 pounds were caught in the Kodiak and Pribilof Island areas.
How do I steam Alaskan king crab legs?
- King crab legs need to be thawed in the refrigerator, before steaming.
- Use a steamer pot to boil the water, after which the claws can be added to the water.
- Cover the boiler and steam the claws for 4 to 6 minutes.
- In case of completely frozen king crab legs, boil them for 6 to 8 minutes.
- Once the aroma is noticeable, the crab legs are ready. Crab meat emits a nice smell, when heated thoroughly.
- Check the meaty part with the help of tongs, to see if they are hot.
- Either use a scissor or a knife, to cut the crab legs.
- The crab legs are now ready to be served, in any way that you would like.