Living the island life – Crabbing in the gulf islands

Things to do on the island: Read about our first-ever crabbing expedition!

I’ve always wanted to go crabbing in the gulf islands, but I didn’t have anyone to teach me.

I finally got over that, and just went for it. Our first ever Vancouver Island crabbing experience will be remembered forever.

I was walking with my boy Titus down by the ocean one day, and a gruff old fisherman was walking by with a bucket full of prawns. You could just tell this guy knew how to go crabbing in the gulf islands. The fisherman knew that Titus was curious, so he bent down so Titus could take a look.

The fisherman said “you like prawns boy? You want one?” Before Titus could respond he had 3 freshly caught prawns shoved into the front pocket of his little overalls.

It’s not every day you have someone stick fresh shrimp in your pocket. So what would any island boy? Well proudly walk home of course and ask his mama to fry them up.

That’s when I got the idea that it was time for me to learn how to go crabbing. And what better place then crabbing in the gulf islands.

I had no idea how to do it, but I thought maybe I would feel a little more like an islander if I learned this Vancouver Island crabbing skill. I thought to myself, “How hard could it be anyway? And wouldn’t it be fun to treat my mainland guests to some fresh crab to add to their Vancouver Island experience?” Those all seemed good enough reasons to me to go crabbing in the gulf islands for my first time, and that’s where our story began…

So completely unprepared and without a clue, I told the kids we were going crabbing in the gulf islands.

I don’t think they really knew what adult size ocean crabs were, but we were all up for a grand Vancouver Island crabbing adventure anyway. (Side Note: Fishing licenses for kids are free – learn more)

Vancouver Island Crabbing

We got ourselves a crab pot, and after a little research on what to use as bait… we walked down to the end of the dock by our house to go crabbing.

We used chicken as our bait for two reasons, one it was the first thing that came up online as a good bait and two, if the kids got hungry while out on our crabbing expedition I had something to give them for a snack.

I proceeded to drop the crab pot to the bottom of the ocean floor, while the kids eagerly awaited what would come next. When I told the kids we were done and it was time to go back home, they seemed a little confused as to why we were giving up so soon.

I probably shouldn’t have wound them all up with excitement and neglect to tell them the part about waiting. You see it typically takes a good few hours before a crab will make its way into the trap to nibble on some chicken. For my kids that was an eternity!

Finally the moment came when it was time to pull up the trap.

We all headed back down to the dock full of anticipation of what might be down in our trap in the depth of the ocean floor. Will there be 10 crabs, 2 crabs or no crabs? Well there was only one way to find out and as the kids peered over the edge I pulled on the rope. What came next I don’t think the written word will do it justice, so take a look at this video:

Like I mentioned before, I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. My confidence was so low in my crabbing ability at the time I really didn’t think I would catch anything…I mean I brought a little blue bucket with me. But lo and behold, we pulled up some beauties! Completely shocked and unprepared for what to do next, we managed to get the crabs into the back of my truck.

All the way home the kids were full of excitement and sharing “crab stories” of how they barely escaped the lightening fast, razor sharp claws of these gigantic ocean beasts… the stories would go on for days. I on the other hand, was wondering what I was going to tell my wife I was coming home with in the back of the truck. I called Gretta and figured it was better to tell her straight up as I knew she always liked an adventure.

“Gretta you better turn the computer on and start boiling a giant pot of water because we are going to need both… and fast”

It is amazing what will pop up on google when you need to know something quick.

So that night we managed to have some fresh crab for the first time as Vancouver Islanders. There’s nothing quite like catching your own dinner right out of the ocean… and yes, I very much felt a little more like a true Islander that day.

Favourite kids quote of the day, came from Kaia: “Put that one in the pot first daddy, that’s the mean one!!”

How about you? Do you like eating fresh Vancouver Island crab? Do you have a crabbing in the gulf islands story of your own? Have a favourite recipe? Use the comment section below.

Vancouver Island crab 2 Not the most traditional tools to open up a crab, but they worked in a pinch!

Vnacouver Island Crabbing 3

 Teaching others how to clean crabsTeaching guests to the island how to clean and eat crab

Here is a video that I wish I would have watched before trying to eat fresh crab straight from the ocean! This will definitely help all those who are googling “how to eat crab” in a panic right now. Enjoy!

Traveling Islanders


  • Kaia's scream sounded like she just saw a snake or giant spider! Sounds like everyone had fun though. - Reply

    • Our daughter has a flair for the dramatic. It may not sound like it in the video, but she was more excited than scared :) It's definitely a good memory! - Reply

  • This was a treat to wake up to and read. Jaedon was extremely interested in listening to me read it to him. And the video only topped it off. Thanks I have never caught fresh crab, but I definitely consider myself a complete lover of that deliciousness inside that exoskeleton! I love it so much, that I always buy it fresh from fishermans warf, in Victoria. I always want "non islanders" to try it, so I usually buy it whenever we have guests. I have discovered that steaming is much better than boiling. The timing for cooking is pretty much the same. I just feel the steaming doesnt steal away from the flavour like boiling in water seems to do. I could almost say that I have a food fetish for crab; I have even deep-fried it in a deep fryer, made crab and smoked salmon bisque (which was INCREDIBLE!), and I would consider eating only it for the rest of my life.... Now that we live in Calgary, it will be one of the delights that I will be missing. I am hungry... - Reply

    • We're so glad Jaedon enjoyed this story. You seem to have a thing for fresh crab, it's just too bad you moved all the way out to Calgary. Sounds like you may need to get back to the island soon. Maybe we could have fresh crab together sometime, our treat, and you could show us how to steam them. - Reply

  • HILARIOUS video, Jay! Kevin's extended family have always gone crabbing, and I got to go along once or twice (mainly so we could catch a few extra crab with my license on the scene). They had quite a system. Their crab pots were off the shore of a neighboring island so they'd take the ferry, drive to the beach, launch the boat and pull up pot after pot of crabs. Grandpa brought buckets (like 6) with lids - like those huge paint buckets - and once he got home, he'd dump the crabs into the pot and cook them. I can't remember if he split them before or after they were cooked, but he had an old axe embedded in a stump specifically for crabs. And then he and his sons would sit around a long table and clean the crabs with great efficiency... Some of it was to eat right then and there, some for a future meal or donated to another family, and some would end up in the freezer. I still haven't really gotten the hang of any of that! - Reply

    • That sounds like a lot of fun, Rachel. I'm glad this post brought back fond memories for you. It sounds like a lot of nice, fresh crab! One of our favorite things to make are crab cakes. - Reply

  • Do you have any suggestions for first-time crab fishing near Nanaimo/ Lantzville area? Your story has motivated me to finally give this a shot for my fiancee's birthday! - Reply

    • Hi Audrey! Glad to hear our Vancouver Island grabbing adventure inspired you to have one of your very own! It should for a very memorable birthday surprise. Here is some info on where you can go crabbing in Nanaimo: Good luck! - Reply

      • I am interested in going crabbing do you know any place Close to alberta?thanks - Reply

        • Hi Jessie! Alberta is a beautiful province but one activity you can't do there is crabbing like you see in this post... crabbing requires an ocean and the province of Alberta is on the other side of the Canadian Rockies. - Reply

  • Top shelf. Reminds me of when my daughter was that age. Before Facebook. That's why I have a no cell phone policy on my boat. Love the story. I think I'll go crabbing. - Reply

    • Hi Robert! Glad you liked our crabbing story :) Kids bring such excitement to first time experiences. Happy crabbing! J - Reply

  • Love love the video. Where you crabbing in Hornby island? Looking to go crabbing there and your post came up. - Reply