When you try something new, it pays to go with the pros!
That’s what more than thirty newcomers recently discovered when they signed up for the ODFW’S “Crab Class;” a course from the agency’s menu of adventures called Outdoor Skills.
Instructors, biologists and volunteers teach and assist students in the varied 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.
“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.”
Mike Hoge and his son, Jerrad Hoge, came all the way from Silverton to pick up pointers on the crabbing recreation.
“I did it a little bit as a kid,” noted Mike. “But I didn’t really have any instruction, so I thought some good lessons would help and I’m glad we came today.”
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.
The first order of business was how to place the bait inside the crab trap or rings. The bait of choice for the day’s adventure: chicken!
Jennifer Erickson said that she didn’t mind the tradeoff of chicken for crab.
In fact, she her husband, Steve Erickson, traveled from Portland for the chance to learn something new about a seafood they really enjoy eating for dinner.
“It’s really fun to go out with experts,” shed noted. “To be coached and helped along the way before doing it on our own just seemed to make a lot of sense to us. Plus, crab is so tasty – that’s a bonus.”
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 called 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 were checked, crabs counted and then it was time to cook; 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.”