Tired of freezing weather? Sick of snow and ice?

Things could be worse; you could be fishing for crab. A friend loaned me a copy of Discovery Channel's documentary "Deadliest Catch," which aired a few years ago. Watching Alaskan fishermen getting battered by freezing rain and the Bering Sea's icy waves, I felt pretty cozy sitting in my warm, dry living room.

I love crab, especially Alaskan king crab legs. But like most people, I limit it to special occasions because of the cost. Now I know why it's so expensive.

Crab fishing is no a leisurely summer pastime for slackers. According to the documentary, it's considered "the world's most dangerous job." The program showed fishing crews heading out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on a chilly October day. Old wrecked vessels and maritime crosses dotted the shores as a reminder of those who didn't return. The crew must be physically tough and mentally alert to withstand the rigors of the job. So why do they do it? Because they might earn up to $15,000 a month.

Captains rely on intuition to find the schools of crabs hovering on the ocean floor. To catch them, the crew uses steel cages, called "pots," which are about 7 feet long and weigh 700 pounds. They're baited with fish, and then dropped 400 feet below the surface to sit for five to 24 hours, then hoisted back on deck.

The cages' holes are configured so the crabs can crawl in but can't get out. If crewmen are lucky, they will be pulling up cages filled with 30-60 crabs. To ensure there will be more seafood in the years to come, only male king crabs measuring 6 1/2 inches from spine to spine across the body, and male snow crabs measuring 4 inches, are kept; the rest are thrown back in the sea.

According to the show, each live king crab is worth about $5 per pound. A crewman's wages are usually based on a share of the harvest. They can earn from nothing to tens of thousands of dollars.

While watching the show, I wondered at what point the crabs are killed and cooked. I found out from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute that the caught crabs are kept live in a tank of seawater. They're delivered live to processing facilities, either on the shore or floating offshore, where most are cleaned, cooked and chilled or frozen for delivery to market.

Does all this talk make you feel a little crabby? The Market Street restaurants are hosting their annual Crab Festival through February. Here's one of their recipes that combines crab with another favorite, shrimp. The filling can also be used for crab cakes.


2 tablespoons butter

1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 pounds crab meat (Dungeness, rock, snow or lump)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon Coleman's dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Olive oil

16 large shrimp, peeled and butterflied (split open)

Saute onions in butter until clear, about 4 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients together and then the onions. Lay butterflied shrimp in greased baking dish. Shape 2-ounce portions of crab filling and stuff each shrimp. Cook under the broiler until the shrimp is completely cooked, about 15 minutes. Serves 4. — Gastronomy Inc.

E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com