While Alaska King Crab garners plenty of attention, they are not the only Alaska crab sought by fisherman and consumers.
The Dungeness crab is much smaller than other Alaska crabs, with shorter legs and without spines on the top if its shell. Dungeness crab is sweet, tender and especially delicious, but not nearly as big as Alaska King Crab. It should be cooked in similar fashion to Alaska King Crab and tastes great with drawn butter, cocktail sauce or nothing at all. Dungeness crab is perfectly fine served cold, while Chinese restaurants will frequently serve them steamed in a black bean sauce.
Dungeness crab can be found along the entire coast of Alaska, giving it an advantage over other crab species in terms of commercial harvesting. While Alaska King Crab live in relatively deep water and are dangerous to harvest, Dungeness crabs are found in depths up to about 15 fathoms in shallow bays and estuaries with sandy or muddy bottoms. Fishermen use circular pots to catch Dungeness crab with various items used as bait. The pots are approximately 40 inches in diameter and extend over a foot high once extended fully. In Alaska, only males with hard shells and a width of at least six-and-one-half inches may be kept, while the number of pots per fishing vessel and season varies by the Alaska management area.
In addition to its relative ease of harvest, Dungeness crab is often an underrated species for its price as well. Two whole Dungeness can typically be purchased for the same price as one King Crab leg.
Another standby of the Alaska crab industry is the Snow Crab. It includes several types, such as the Opilio and Bairdi or Tanner Crab. They closely resemble a smaller version of the King Crab. Snow crab legs are frequently found at seafood buffets and the sweet meat is sometimes used in crab cocktails. Tanner crabs can live to a ripe old age of 14, but in general, commercially viable male Snow Crab range from seven to 11 years old and vary in weight from one to two pounds for Opilio and two to four pounds for Bairdi crabs.
Snow Crab should be cooked and eaten in similar fashion to the Alaska King Crab. Snow Crab fishing gear consists primarily of pots similar to those used for Alaska King Crab, with chopped herring as bait. Fishermen usually leave, or "soak" their pots between one and three days before retrieving them.
Learn about: Alaskan Pollack (Whitefish – pollack, sole, cod) >>>