Searching for new adventure in the Oregon outdoors? Consider going back to school for an adventure that may leave you a little crabby; head to the Yaquina Bay at Newport to find a new way to catch fresh Dungeness crabs.
Each October, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife offers a unique Outdoor Skills class that teaches folks how to catch their supper from the sea. It’s the sort of experience that draws lots of beginners to Yaquina Bay at Newport, noted instructor Mark Newell. He said that the class is perfectly suited to folks who want to learn the ropes of Dungeness crabbing.
“We want people to care about the environment and the best way to do that is to get them out enjoying it. Crabbing is a great family activity that they can do together, boating, pulling pots and all of that. There are lots of places to do it.”
One of those places is along Newport’s Bayfront Avenue where Steven DeMars demonstrated his new gear and technique that catches crabs called the “CrabHawk.” DeMars said that CrabHawk (the name comes from a South American raptor that actually eats crab) allows anyone with a rod and reel to cast the trap from a dock or shoreline to reach the big crabs. He came up with the idea after years of frustration with traditional traps and pots that were big, heavy, messy and limited him to one spot on the dock. The CrabHawk gives the fisher lightweight portability and flexibility to move to a new spot.
Initially, DeMars used coat hangers and old fishing net to create different prototypes. It took a couple of years to perfect the stainless steel folding trap that opens like a book at the bottom. The crabs walk onto the trap to feast on the chicken drumstick that’s used for bait. Why chicken? “The crabs love chicken and sea lions don’t! That’s why it works so well. I’ve had three keepers in one pull and when the crabs are really running, it’s nothing to get doubles every other pull,” said DeMars.
DeMars recommends a ten or eleven-foot rod that holds a spinning reel loaded with 50 pound test line. He can easily cast the CrabHawk 150 feet into Yaquina Bay, then prop up the rod and watch the rod tip for a bite. “That’s the key to this; the fact that you can see the bite. If you’re a fisherman and a crabber you get the best of both worlds,” he said.
The release of small crabs is easier than traps too; simply unfold the trap and the small crabs fall right back into the bay. Recently, DeMars has become a part of the ODFW crabbing classes, demonstrating how his new, innovative design works and catching lots of new customers along the way.