Various species of crab are caught off the coast of Hokkaido, but the four species of horsehair crab, red king crab, snow crab, and spiny king crab are the most prominent. Crabs have also become a major tourism draw for many of the municipalities where they are caught.
Among these, horsehair crab is one of Hokkaido’s most well known seafood products. These crabs are prepared in a variety of ways, such as boiled live in salt water or the meat is de-shelled and processed into other products, along with the kani miso.
Other crabs are prepared differently based on their species, either grilled or made into soups, among other dishes, which means you can enjoy menu items unique to each species.
■Wakkanai ranks as the leader in the horsehair crab, red king crab and snow crab catch
Crabs are mainly caught in the areas along the Okhotsk Sea, with Wakkanai City ranking as the leader among all municipalities in Hokkaido in terms of the horsehair crab, red king crab and snow crab catch. In addition, horsehair crab is also caught in the Iburi region where the season peaks in summer. Spiny king crab, or hanasaki-gani, is said to have been named because a large catch is hauled in at Hanasaki Port in Nemuro City, which accounts for a majority of the catch.
■Map / Main municipalities with fishing grounds
Esashi Town, Erimo Town, Wakkanai City, Nemuro City, Oumu Town, Hamatonbetsu Town, Sarufutsu Village, Shiraoi Town, Monbetsu City, Okoppe Town
・Red king crab
Abashiri City, Wakkanai City
Abashiri City, Yakumo Town
・Spiny king crab
Nemuro City, Hamanaka Town
Otaru City, Esashi Town, Wakkanai City
The Okhotsk Sea usually comes to mind when most people think about crabbing in Hokkaido.
The sight of pure white sea ice approaching during the middle of winter is an annual occurrence in coastal areas. Large quantities of phytoplankton contained in this sea ice are released when the ice melts, creating a major feeding ground for crabs. Crabs that have been fattened on these nutrients feature an even stronger, savory taste, so the harsh winter conditions is what helps crab meat to become soft, yet tightly packed at the same time.
Horsehair crab is primarily caught using specialized cages with bait inside.
Horsehair crab is caught in the Okhotsk Sea during the winter and an expansive area of the Pacific Ocean coastline during the summer. This means they are harvested nearly throughout the year as the fishing grounds change seasonally. The snow crab season runs from March to June and November to December, red king crab from March to November, and spiny king crab from April to September, illustrating that the season differs based on the species.