We rented a beach house on the Oregon Coast for Spring Break. The beauty of going to the Oregon Coast in March is that you are guaranteed breathtaking waterfalls (due to all the rain), misty, foggy walks along the beach (due to all the rain), unbelievable cloud formations and rainbows (due to all the rain). There is so much to see and do, even in the rain! Sitting in the jacuzzi under the porch, out of the rain was pretty sweet too, watching the waves crash to shore, and the incredible ever-changing weather.
As with any gathering, great food makes it even more memorable. So, I planned ahead to have a surf and turf night featuring Double R Ranch Co. Filet of Rib Eyes and fresh crab. Double R Ranch Co. steaks are so portable. The meat comes frozen, so by the time you get to your destination they have thawed out perfectly in the cooler.
When the day came for us to go crabbing to complete our dinner, I thought maybe I would have four or five committed participants willing to throw on rain gear (just in case) and head to Brighton Marina five miles outside of Rockaway Beach. But to my elation, the entire family was up for the adventure! That means we had a total of 17 people, including eight grandchildren.
So, to keep it economical, we crabbed right off the dock. Good decision, because we would have been out on the boat in the…RAIN!
1. Choose a Marina with a seasoned salty fisherman. In our case, his name was Kelly at Brighton Marina outside of Rockaway Beach. There was actually a sign out front that said, “Kelly is here!” We soon found out why you would even care why Kelly was there- he kept us in stitches from the time we arrived, caught seagulls with his bare hands (hey… are you holding a piece of fish in your hands?), kept a toasty outdoor hickory wood fire going for us to get warm in-between checking our crab pots, and he was very helpful and informative (for first time crabbers).
2. Crabbing is best when the tide is in, and when there is very little rain. Crabs like the saltiest water possible and the fresh rain water makes them swim back to the ocean.
3. Make sure you give your crab pots a hefty throw, almost like the javelin wind up, but be sure no one is behind you or you may knock your friend, or lover, or mother in the drink…yes, it has happened.
4. Pull up the pots quickly, to keep the crabs from scrambling out. Throw back the females, you can’t have them!
5. Stomp on the bait each time…which our grandkids were more than happy to do, especially the boys. They loved the squishy squirty mess…and yes we all had to wash our fishy shoes later that day. Side note…wear rubber boots or Crocs when you go.
6. Move crab pots often and be patient.
We had eight pots going at the same time. It was quite comical as each pot was pulled up on the dock when we broke out in a chant: “Crabs! Crabs! Crabs!” (as if that would help). We would all run to that crab pot in hopes of a fine catch, dangerously weighing down one side of the dock in the water. Pretty soon we got the hang of it and waited until the pots were safely anchored on the dock. Fortunately, no one slid off the dock and into the ocean.
After boiling our catch right there for us, Kelly showed us how to clean the cooked crabs. The top of the crab shell pops off as easy as popping a can of soda. Then you pull off the gills, clean out all the guts (which are still edible), juice and all; (remember they are now cooked inside and out completely). Our salty sea fisherman demonstrated the fine art of drinking the crab juice right from the shell and eating some of the guts and heart (the heart is shaped like a star). We didn’t have any takers when he offered to share; not even our die-hard sushi lovers! We were excited to get back to the beach house and throw our steaks on the cast iron griddle and feast on the crab. Kelly had suggested a perfect spot to harvest fresh mussels on our way home to add to our surf and turf dinner. So, while I was putting together all of the trimmings and began boiling an extra pot of water with a few spoonfuls of ‘Old Bay seasoning’ for the fresh mussels, four of our crew went mussel hunting. When they returned, we cleaned and cooked our tasty mussels and proceeded to devour succulent tender juicy steaks, fresh crab with lemon garlic butter, seasoned mussels and more!
Now the grandkids have souvenirs of freshly caught crab shells and claws harvested from the sea-by themselves, and many of them were brave enough to eat crab for the first time. Those that did not want to try crab were happy with their “claws” and there was more crab for us. Yippee! It was a bonding family event from start to finish, and we came away greatly enriched. This quote sums it up:
“There are magical lessons learned at the table. Serving food family-style teaches a child to share, to leave something for the next person. Sitting together and eating creates a kind of intimacy and gently teaches the art of conversation and the importance of community.”
-From ‘Spoon Fed’ by Kim Severson