How to Catch Your Own Dungeness Crab Feast on the Oregon Coast. In a Kayak.

You’re gonna go crabbing in what?? Launch your pedal kayak for a surf-skimming trip.

By Kelly Clarke May 19, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Kayak Fishing Oregon's Michael Rischer guides a crabbing trek on Tillamook Bay

Bald eagles soar overhead, but you’re focused on the water—on pulling a slick rope, hand over hand, out of the chilly Pacific Ocean. You heave a sopping metal cage onto your lap, sending teeny crustaceans skittering into your kayak. “We got a keeper!” yells fisher Michael Rischer, holding a measuring gauge, shaped a bit like a protractor, to the back of a hulking, claw-snapping, rusty-brown Dungeness. “I told ya, you’re gonna work for your dinner.”

In summer, launch right from the beach at Pacific City, spotting whales and taking in epic ocean views between hauling up pots of Dungeness. Winter brings peaceful bay excursions, paddling through misty, fir-fringed inlets like Netarts, Siletz, and Tillamook bays, where waves are gentler and crabs prowl the sandy bottom.

Rischer mounts his trips in stable, highly maneuverable Hobie pedal kayaks, which means crabbers “bike” through water with the aid of a rudder, leaving hands free for fishing (and selfies). Each person tosses out three baited pots, keeping as many as a dozen full-size male crabs per trip—a likely haul during peak season. Should skilled kayakers want to DIY a trip, Rischer suggests renting gear, from pots to drysuits (essential for kayaking in frigid waters), at Portland’s Next Adventure, and keeping a sharp eye on tide tables and weather reports.

“You don’t need a $60,000 boat to catch fish and crab. I can do it in my kayak,” says Rischer, opening his arms to the view. “We have this huge bounty of seafood in our ocean and rivers. Why not take advantage of all this?” Book a seven-hour Kayak Fishing Oregon crabbing or rockfish trip ($300 and up) at kayakfishingoregon.com

While You're There

EXPLORE A quick motor up the peninsula to Oysterville Sea Farms yields desolately stunning views of Willapa Bay’s tidal flats. Staffers harvest oysters in beds yards from the outfit’s super-fresh market while you shuck your own craggy beauts on the wooden deck—or grab ice-filled bags of shellfish to grill/slurp at your leisure. willabay.com

EAT  In harbor town Ilwaco, indie-style Salt Pub & Hotel and surf shop charms with sea-blue walls, cork floors, and a pretty view of the working port. The pub serves better than expected grub, with diminutive oyster sliders and an oddly excellent bacon-wrapped, Dungeness-topped hot dog. salt-hotel.com

STAY  The Long Beach Peninsula is dotted with hotels and condos. Another option: yurts at Cape Disappointment State Park. These 14 dwellings look like woodsy circus tents: skylights, bunk beds, decks and fire pits. Clamming a bust? Call Serious Pizza, the park’s tidy grill and store, for wood-fired pie delivery. washington.goingtocamp.com

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Gear Up

Aluminum shellfish gauge to check that your crab (and clam) catch is legit. For crabs (males only) that means 53/4 inches across the carapace. $5.99, Cabela’s

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Image: Stohlquist

With a soft, neoprene neck and easy to put on/take off design, a Stohlquist WaterWear Drysuit keeps you warm and safe in comfort. $499–899, REI

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