Reviving Opilio

Back to The Deadliest Catch. A season of this reality show on the Discover channel is divided into two halves. The first half films the boats fishing in the Bering Sea for king crab. King crab are enormous and fishing for them looks quite terrifying – until you see the second half of the season and watch the chase for opilio crab during the even stormier winter months, with ice crusting over the boats and the crab pots and sometimes the fishermen themselves. Then the king crab part looks like a vacation cruise.

I was relieved to see Josh, son of a boat captain but making his first crabbing trips this year, admit some confusion when confronted with a pot teeming with various sorts, genders and sizes of crab. Apparently Opilio is the smallest of four varieties of snow crab (genus chionoecetes). Snow crab are also called spider crab. Snow crab are also also called queen crab. As best I can determine (because there’s a good bit of conflicting or at least confusing information on the Web about these critters), two of the four snow crab types are called Tanner crab. But in the marketplace, ‘Tanner crab’ refers primarily to Chionoecetes bairdi and ‘Snow crab’ refers to Chionoecetes opilio.

Got that?

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