In Search of the Fabeled “Easter Crab”*

asaxon

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While most folks know about the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs, few know of his marine compatriot, the Easter Crab and his Easter “eggs” of of the in the form of Pismo Clams. Yes, folks, the Easter Crab will lead you to the Pismo Clams for Easter. As we have lovely Furte avocados ripening from our tree right now, The Admiral gave me very clear orders, “Bring home a big crab.” “And look for Pismo clams.” - Yes SIR!

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Since lobster season was finally gone, we ran the Moby Kate out to Santa Cruz Island on Easter for the Easter Crab and Pismo Clams hunt. Leaving Channel Is Harbor, it looked like the threatened “showers” were definitely going to make an appearance. I also forgot how much crap 3 UW photographers can bring as I tried to stretch out in the bow among a3.31.13 2b (1024x681).jpgll their bags of stuff.

First stop was Yellow Banks, the Big Ledge at 85 feet – it has a 15 foot high sheer/overhung face. We dropped our down line and buoy and only then did we appreciate how strong the current was plus it was running “uphill” – NE to SW, opposite to its normal pattern. I jumped in way up current and swam hard for the bottom, arriving there about 30 feet up current of the ledge. So I slipped over the ledge and looked around. There was 25 foot vis with lots of cool elk horn kelp and marine invertebrates plus a curious female sea lion who followed me throughout the dive investigating what I was up to and blowing bubbles in my face. I wonder if it is the bubbles from the scuba they imitate for sea lions not uncommonly do that with divers. I speared a couple of fish for the Admiral but didn’t see the Easter Crab. Uh oh, could be trouble at home.


On surfacing, conditions had deteriorated with SE winds, serious threatening skies and a modest cross sea and the current was now screaming. So I decided to move to the E end of Santa Cruz so the others could dive the wreck of the Spirit of America in the MPA. By the time we got there it was raining, not showers as predicted (30%) but serious rain. Of course, in our dive gear who cared and the surface conditions were much better with flat seas and only modest current. The wreck sits inside the MPA and has been a protected sight now for some 5 years. And it shows. If you don’t think do not MPAs work, you should dive on the Spirit. It used to be like everywhere else, some calico and fish but nothing special. Well now, there are enormous numbers of huge calico bass just hanging about plus some sheep-head that look like giant black sea bass or a Volkswagen bus! What a gorgeous dive with 30+foot vis. Of course, we took no game here. Indeed, we were visited by and had a nice chat with Merrill, a new Park Ranger who came by in his fancy inflatable – he’d recently moved from Yosemite. Big change for him.
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The story of the Spirit, aka The Peacock, is an interesting one. Originally AMS-371, she is a composite steel frame wood hull WWII mine sweeper that was decommissioned in 1955. In the late 1960 she is reported to have been as a floating brothel docked in Long Beach but when the law came down on the owner, he towed it to Santa Cruz Is and anchored her near Scorpion Anchorage only to have it sink during a storm.
By now the weather had cleared nicely but I was getting worried; only one more dive and still no Easter Crab. So we scooted down to a site outside the MPA and I jumped in and headed for the rock/sand interface at 60 feet. After about half a tank, I find him**, the Easter Crab sitting at the base of the rocks munching on sea urchins. Wahoo, the Admiral will be pleased plus I’ll be allowed back in the house. He sees me, raises and waves his claws while continuously snapping them. Being VERY careful not to give him a chance to grab me I wrapped a line about his back legs and shot him to the surface with my small lift bag. I wonder what goes through their mind when all of a sudden going zooming to the surface. “Oh no, I’m being abducted by aliens?” As I finish my dive, I come across another crab. But now I have no lift bag nor did I bring a big game bag and I’m not going to struggle to hold onto his claws while I surface etc. So I jam his back leg between the tines of my pole spear and up we go with him at “arm’s length”. Back on the boat, I interrogated the crabs as to the location of the Easter clams; they foolishly believed me when I said I wouldn’t put them in boiling water if they told me.***

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Armed with intel as to where the clams are hiding, we ran over to the “clam spot” in 20 fsw where vis is usually 3 feet and were greeted underwater by as good a vis I’d ever seen there – it must have been 15 feet. Not only did I bag my limit of 10 big Pismos (the picture has >10, my limit plus another divers clams) but I found some small ones which is great news as we hadn’t seen small ones in years. What thhat means is the clams have had one or more successful recruitments in recent years which translates into clams for the future. Very good news. I brought up a few small ones to show one of our divers and returned the shorts to the ocean.
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Nothing to do then but scoot on to the harbor, haul out, pick up a flat of strawberries for the stand on Hueneme Road and go home. Not a bad Easter day. I’ll post some of the underwater pics when the photographers send me some

*No animals were harmed in the telling of this story but the truth took a bit of a beating…
** The Easter Crab is a male; we only take male crabs to eat.
***Of course I lied and the Easter crabs both got a bath in boiling water when I got home.
 
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KTKT70

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nice job buddy. u always have the best storys. yet another good trip and the boss should b happy with ur work. Congrats
 

Felq

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I like your Dive flag!

I made one similar but it got torn to pieces by an uninvited predatory fish (had fish strung to it)!

Are those crabs tasty? I tried to cook one once but the meat was textured like pellets. Any tricks?
 

dtj6ppc

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Asax, I love it!

Awhile back I wrangled a king crab in 30 feet of water off of Rats Beach in PV, had to wrap it in several feet of reel line out of my spear gun and prod it to the surface, by the time I got it ashore the crab pinchered thru 2 of my 5/8" dia. bands, turns out those pinchers had alot more severing capability than I thought, glad I did not get any fingers in grabbing range.............Don
 

asaxon

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d

Are those crabs tasty? I tried to cook one once but the meat was textured like pellets. Any tricks?
The crabs are delicious. Do not take them apart and then cook. Put whole in a large pot (canning pot works well) of boiling salty water for 15 min. Take out meat from body and legs (each has about half the meat. Eat it. I use a hammer to crack the legs. Once you learn how to crack them at the joints, they come apart real easy.

We fly a blue and white international dive flag and a red/white one from our mast head while diving and use a red/white one on the pole bouy attached to a round ball float on our down line.

Yes Don, they do have amazing power in their claws. Many years ago when I was young and did beach diving, I took a big crab off county line. While I was trying to bag him in my large game bag, I didn’t notice he’d gotten a claw free and all of a sudden. Blinding pain! I pulled my hand back in absolute agony not knowing what had happened. I look and find a detached claw on my thumb. The crab had clamped down on my thumb and it was so painful that I’d pulled away violently enough to tear the claw right off the leg!. Ever since then I have been very very cautious with these fellows.
 
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