Crabbing 101

May 24, 2012 (Updated March 27, 2013)

When you try something new, it pays to go with the pros! Instructors, biologists and volunteers teach and assist students in the varied Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Outdoor Skills courses.

Crabbing is a popular recreation that requires some skill and knowledge, so the agency developed the daylong course to encourage participation. ODFW spokesperson and instructor, Mark Newell, said that the students get all of the gear and assistance that they might need for a day of fun and excitement at Yaquina Bay in Newport.

The students kick off the affair at the South Beach State Park Activity Center, just south of Newport. Instructor Brandon Ford presented the basics of crab biology and explained the trapping techniques, the rules and regulations of the sport. The session was followed by a short drive to Yaquina Bay Marina where the hands on action began. Once the students were comfortable with the gear, it was time to toss the traps from atop Yaquina Bay Pier that juts hundreds of yards into the bay. The pier is open to fishing and crabbing anytime.

Students learned how to measure a crab to make certain it’s legal (only 12 male Dungeness crabs are allowed and they must be 5 ¾ inches across the back) and how to tell the difference between the two species of crab that are present in Yaquina Bay: Dungeness Crabs and Red Rock Crabs.

The course costs $40 for adults, $10 for kids under 18. Students are provided with instruction, plus all of the gear including bait, traps and pfd’s. Each student in the class must purchase an ODFW Shellfish License.

So, what to do with the catch?

I didn’t have to travel far to discover one delicious idea! Karla Steinhauser can clean and shake out the meat from a limit of crab faster than most people can boil a pot of water. She’s that good!

Karla has that “touch” for sure; a half-century of experience will do that. You see, back in the 1960’s “Karla’s Krabs” was a fixture in the coastal village of Rockaway Beach. Each week, starting in 1964, she cooked up boatloads of tasty Dungeness crab. Although she doesn’t cook and clean so many crabs anymore, she can still put on quite show. She averages a cleaned and shelled crab every three minutes and it’s a marvel to watch her work.

In fact, folks will travel to Rockaway from all over to watch her when she puts on a crabbing clinic. Stop in at Karla’s Smokehouse and say “Hello!” Chances are good that Karla will be there with her friendly smile and easygoing manner as she tends the counter or the smoky fires. It’s a warm and welcome place where “class” is always in session. Karla’s is open each Tues-Sat 10-5 and the smoked fish is usually ready at 1.

About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.