Grant's Getaways - Crabbing 101

Grant's Getaways - Crabbing 101


by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 9:11 PM


Although it's nearly summer,  it's back to school time for “Grant’s Getaways”  as Grant heads to the Oregon coast on an adventure that may leave you feeling a little “crabby.” 

But that’s a good thing because when you sign up for “Crabbing Class 101” you have the chance to try something new and catch your supper from the sea.

Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife's instructors, biologists and volunteers teach and assist students who want to learn more about catching their supper from the sea: fresh dungeness crabs!

Crabbing is a popular recreation that requires some skill and knowledge, so the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s developed a daylong course to encourage participation.

The course is part of a varied menu of ODFW outdoor adventures called Outdoor Skills.

ODFW spokesperson and instructor, Mark Newell, said that the students get all of the gear and assistance that they need for a day of fun and excitement at Yaquina Bay in Newport.

“We want people to care about the environment and the only way to get them to do that is to get them out enjoying it. That’s what ‘Crab Class’ does for many students.”

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.

“We show them how to crab from the pier,” said Ford. “But we also take them out on the bay in boats to drop traps in several places that our biologists have scouted. We try to take folks to the best places in the whole bay.”

The traps are checked, the crabs were counted and then it was time to cook. It was a fine way to round out the day’s adventure.

Each student in the class must purchase an ODFW Shellfish License.

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.

“It’s a real good deal, added Ford. “Especially at lunchtime because no one goes away hungry from the class.”

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 crabs faster than most people can boil a pot of water. She’s that good!

“It’s like shooting a free shot through a basketball hoop,” she said with a smile. You have a certain technique and it’s the same with these – it’s a touch.”

Karla has that “touch” for sure; a half-century of experience will do that.

You see, back in the 1960’s “Karlas Krabs” was a fixture in the coastal village of Rockaway Beach.

“My dad always said that during the depression there were two businesses that never go broke – the beer joints and the banks – so I thought, I don’t drink, so food is the way to go because people have to eat. I wanted a business that I controlled and one where I wasn’t likely to lose my job.”

So, the college graduate (she attended Portland’s Washington High School and Lewis and Clark College) who double majored in Art and Biology, created a “beachy” life for herself  – one that offered independence and self-reliance.

Each week, starting in 1964, she cooked up boatloads of the tasty Dungeness crabs.

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 travel to Rockaway Beach from all over the country to watch her perform during her popular crabbing clinics.

Two years ago, she decided the time had come for a change! She wanted to slow down a bit and thought it would be good to share her secrets in a new book:  “I Am Karla’s Smokehouse.”

The photo-laden book shows and explains her varied processes of cleaning crab and smoking salmon, albacore and cod.

The photos of local Don Best highlight her many seafood preperation techniques.

The book also offers Karla’s own colorful artwor that captures whimsical moments that will make you smile.

“I make myself look ridiculous with a long spiked nose and a great big belly and skinny legs. I am really a satirist and make fun of myself. It is expressing the real me to people and giving them the proper techniques. I want to be a teacher!”

Karla said that you can keep fresh crab in the refrigerator for up to four days, but who in the world could ever keep it that long? Not me!

“People love to see an artist of any kind at work,” she explained. “I always wanted to pass on what I knew to the public, which is ironic because when I was young, customers scared the dickens out of me. I was so shy and I had to overcome that. It took a lot of time, but eventually I did and writing a book was much the same for me; a big challenge!”

So stop in @ Karla’s Smokehouse in Rockaway Beach and say “Hello!” Chances are good that Karla will be there with her friendly smile and easygoing manner as she tends the counter or her smoky fires where there's always something fresh and ready to eat. 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.