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 De-Mars demonstrated his new gear and technique for catching crabs called the “CrabHawk.”
“I made this for the recreational crabber and the people who don’t own a boat.”
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.
“You bait it, cast it out, let it hit bottom and take up your slack just like you’re fishing for trout or catfish.”
De-Mars explained that 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 all stainless steel folding trap that opens like a book on 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.”
DeMars recommends a ten-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 and then props up the rod and watches 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.”
Nearby, his fishing partner - Gary Bowman - cast his CrabHawk into the bay. He said that he used traditional crab pots for years, but after getting skunked as DeMars limited out, he gave in and bought a couple Crabhawks to try.
“For me, I like the ability to really fish – to cast, watch for the bite and then reel in the catch. It’s more interesting and fun than just watching a rope.”
Demars added that the release of small crabs is easier than traps too – simply unfold the trap and the small crabs fall right back into the bay. “No muss, no fuss and that’s what the CrabHawk is all about,” noted the smiling DeMars. “It doesn’t harm the animal at all.”
It’s new and innovative and recently DeMars has become a part of the ODFW Crabbing classes – demonstrating how they work and catching lots of new customers along the way with his uniqule all-Oregon product.
“It works so well and it’s just so simple. Give it a try!”