Five minutes west of the town of La Conner, Washington -- population 891 in 2010 -- is a view of Skagit Bay in the Puget Sound that includes Hope Island State Park. That view is available to RV campers at the Thousand Trails RV Resort. Skagit Bay is known for its Dungeness Crab, a heavy-bodied creature that cooks nicely in boiling beer.
Thousand Trails in Crab Country
The Thousand Trails RV Resort in La Conner (thousandtrails.com) has more than half a mile of beachfront from which to fish, and a boat ramp to launch light water craft. The resort is near the mouth of the Skagit River, which washes food and fresh oxygen into the salt water of the sound. La Conner is a fishing town, and fishers throw fish guts into the water and those remains are also carried into the sound. These factors make the area around the mouth of the river prime crabbing territory.
Thousand Trails Details
Thousand Trails Campgrounds are a membership network of RV campsites with 80 campgrounds in 22 states and British Columbia. Membership, which is $499 a year at the time of publication, entitles members to use any Thousand Trails campground in one zone. For Washington and Oregon, that is the Northwest U.S. zone, with 18 facilities, including the one in La Conner. Of the 220 campsites at La Conner, 54 have full hookups and the rest have electric and water only. Seventeen cabins are also available. The park at La Conner has a boat launch and a trading post that sells bait.
Netting and Trapping
Two islands are within view of the RV park: Saddleback Island to the south and Hope Island to the northwest. Just north of each of these islands is reputed to be prime crabbing water. The park is on the Swinomish Channel, which is known for its commercial as well as recreational crabbing. For those without boats, anywhere with a muddy bottom or eel grass, from a few inches deep into very deep water, Dungeness crabs will scavenge for food. These crabs are ravenous feeders that will go after fish offal, dead bluegill or -- a favorite bait for crabs -- raw chicken backs. The crabber can tie the bait to a string and tease it within range of his crab net or tie the bait in crab traps -- regulation set a limit of two traps per person. The daily limit is five crabs, male only, with a minimum back width of five inches.
Licenses and Fees
If crab is all you are looking for, you won't need to purchase a salt water fishing license. Washington State issues a shell-fishing license that costs $12 for residents and $27.60 for non-residents, at the time of publication. If you are only crabbing for one day, you can buy a one-day combination freshwater/saltwater/shellfish license for $8.18 if you are a resident of the state, or $15.82 for non-residents.
Weather and Water
Crab season runs from late June/early July to mid-January -- the exact dates fluctuate slightly each year. Study the weather before you go crabbing. For tides, look up information for Swinomish Bay, Washington. Thousand Trails RV Park has Wi-Fi access. The park is in a rain forest, and it rains a lot, year round. Bring rain parkas. The ocean currents prevent temperature extremes, with average temperatures in June around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and average temperature in January around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Wear protective flotation gear when on the water, because water temperatures are always in the 40s or 50s, and capsizing can quickly lead to disabling hypothermia. Be particularly careful during tide changes with small craft along the narrow channel at Deception Pass, northwest of the RV park.
- RV Park: Washington
- Town of La Conner, Washington
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Puget Sound's Dungeness Bounty; Greg Johnston, June 2001
- YouTube; Dungeness Crab at Skagit Bay: Dungeness Crab Hunt
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Recreational Crab Fishing
- Seattle Times: Crab Fishing Season on the Horizon; Mark Yuasa; May 2009