How to Keep Your Seafood Catch Sustainable
Respecting local regulations and limits to fish and crab responsibly
I grew up crabbing and fishing. Maybe you can blame my dad. He tied flies for fun and loved to cast a long line in every eddy he could find along the cold clear McKenzie River outside Eugene, Oregon where we called home. But I remember fishing and crabbing with him even before we moved to Oregon.
Every summer we’d travel back to my Grandmother’s lake cabin outside Lawrence, Kansas and every cousin who could would try to catch whatever swam in those waters. My dad would load the old minnow bucket with minnows and let it dangle in the water just off the dock. He taught us to scoop up a wiggly little bait and slide it onto a hook so that it wouldn’t fly off the minute we cast.
In the coastal marshes of South Carolina, near where we lived for awhile, he taught us to tie chicken legs to a string and carefully lure in the crab and scoop them up in a net. Now that I’ve lived in Scandinavia for several years, I’ve seen this same technique used by young Danes and Swedes for good summer fun. Many a dock in Denmark has a place to keep the crabs for “inspection” for a bit before returning them to the cold clear Baltic Sea.
From a young age, my dad showed us how to use proper techniques and equipment, how to clean and definitely how to enjoy our catches. Memories are still strong of the fish cleaning hut at Diamond Lake, in Oregon, where he would gut the days’ limit looking inside each fish’s stomach to see what fly he should try the next day. He taught us the value of adhering to legal catch limits to keep stocks sustainable and available for years to come.
6 ways to keep your catches sustainable
With species depletion occurring from overfishing throughout our oceans, it is important and critical to make sure the seafood you catch and/or consume is sustainable. Even if you don’t want to fish for your own, ensuring that the providers of the food on your plate adhere to best practices is key to maintaining biodiversity in the world’s waters. Being aware of the effects of bycatch on untargeted species that get caught in nets can help us keep those populations safe. Individuals can do their part to keep their catches responsible and respectful of the local environments.
There are ways to catch and farm fish that are environmentally responsible and many fish stocks and habitats can recover if they are managed sustainably and given time to recover.” – Our Blue Planet, BBC Earth
KEEP IN MIND TO KEEP YOUR CATCH SUSTAINABLE
1 | Use proper equipment to limit untargeted bycatch.
2 | Adhere to local catch limits to ensure the viability of future stocks.
3 | Educate yourself on local size restrictions to allow animals enough time to grow and reproduce.
4 | Don’t leave equipment (lines, hooks, traps, pots) behind.
5 | Practice catch and release. (Or consume what you catch.)
6 | Use fishing guides who prioritize responsible practices when traveling.
All of the experiences you’ll find here take these ideas to heart. From crabbing in the Pacific Northwest to lobstering in Canada and Cape Town. With contributions from a collection of travel writers around the world, let’s go find some seafood.
→ North America
CRABBING FOR DUNGENESS ON THE OREGON COAST | USA
by Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the World
As I’m an Oregon Girl, I’ll start with the crabbing that I know best – Dungeness crab – a delicacy on the West Coast of the United States. You can find Dungeness crab in coastal bays from California to British Columbia and on into Alaska. They prefer cooler waters and can grow quite large. Different states have different regulations, so make sure you’re aware of what is ok where. In Oregon, you are required to have a license to take shellfish, just one way the state manages stocks.
I grew up crabbing on the central Oregon Coast, in places like Florence, Yachats, Waldport and Newport. Now each time we return to visit family, we spend a day out on the water crabbing. From grandparents to grandkids, it’s an active day of fun throwing in pots and pulling them up to see what we’ve got. Make sure you’ve got a measurer to check your catch for legal limits and only take the males. The females have a job to do. Teaching your kids to spot the difference, even if they don’t want to get close to the pinchers teaches them to be a responsible fisherperson. Read more about how to pull up your own crab dinner in Oregon here.
Fly Fishing in Vail, Colorado | USA
by Priya from Outside Suburbia
The hundreds of miles of rivers, streams and waters around the Rocky Mountains in Colorado are famous for the abundance of trout. We love spending summer in the mountains and while we were in Vail one summer, our family went on our first fly fishing expedition. We had no idea what equipment we’ll need or what flies to use, lucky for us we had Mark and Dan from Gore Creek Fly fisherman as our guide for the day. They provided all the essential gear, from fishing poles to waders to wading boots. Although we felt a little clumsy at first walking down to the Beaver creek river in our waterproof waders we truly looked the part of an angler. After setting us up with the right poles and flies, Dan picked up a rock to show what kind of flies were in the waters there, then he picked out a bait that looked exactly the same from his box of colorful hooks and baits. When the fish start biting the first couple of times I froze up with a Colorado death hold as Dan called it and didn’t know what to do. Then I learned to hook the fish and let it run, “Let the fish win” Dan exclaimed when I caught my first ever Rainbow Trout. I had to let it run a few times before we caught it and released it back in the water.
It is a surreal experience standing in knee-deep water surrounded by the mountains with only the sound of water and hummingbirds flying around trying to eat the same flies that the fish were after. Fly-fishing is a beautiful way to relax, enjoy the summer weather and explore some of the most serene spots on Vail’s many streams and rivers.
FISHING FOR BLUE CRAB IN CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS | NORTH AMERICA
by Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the World
You might think that since we are experienced crabbers on the west coast that it might translate to big catches as well on the east coast. But the blue crabs that populate this part of America are quite different from the Dungeness we know in Oregon. Dungeness are bottom dwellers, scurrying side to side across the sea floor for scraps of food. Plunk down a pot and they crawl right in. But blue crabs are swimmers and take a bit of patience and luck to pluck up. Take a look in the photo below and see their back legs have paddles to propel them through brackish waters of marshes off shore.
You can find blue crab all up and down the eastern seaboard, so when we visited Cape Cod off Massachusetts several years back, we decided it would be fun to try to catch a few to cook. We’d tried them in Delaware and were dreaming of our own crab boil here. You can pick up small affordable dip nets at a local hardware store or sporting goods shop. Attach a chicken leg, find some moving water and swing your net in. We loved the beautiful Bell’s Neck Conservation area near Harwich, MA. The boggy wetlands here offer other opportunities to find funny looking little fiddler crabs too. Not big enough to eat, but interesting to see.
READ MORE | COME FISHING FOR BLUE CRAB ON CAPE COD
CRABBING IN JUNEAU ALASKA | USA
by Jennifer Kanikula of The SoFull Traveler
There are a lot of things that Alaska does right and one of them is fishing. But more importantly (and tasty in my opinion) is crabbing. Having spent my spring and summer in Juneau, Alaska, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the process of crabbing first hand. Not only are there copious amounts of crab to feed a large family for months, but the process of crabbing (and hunting of all species) is well respected and appreciated by the locals of the area.
The primary crab caught in Juneau, Alaska is Dungeness crab while Alaskan king crab is the more highly sought after delicacy of the species. Regulations are in place to protect the eco-system and the crab population. Crabs must be of the male species and meet the indicated sizing criteria. Additionally, only a certain number of pots can be dropped per day and number of crabs that can be taken home per person. Overall, it’s a simple process. One drops the pots with bait, waits a few days, and returns to pick up the pots that hopefully have your delicious crab waiting inside. The pots are drawn up, crabs are assessed and measured, and if they meet the criteria, are taken home for a delicious sea food dinner.
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FISHING AROUND Peterborough & The Kawarthas, Ontario | Canada
by Michele Peterson | A Taste for Travel
Located east of Toronto, the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario is dotted with so many marshes, lakes and rivers, the Anishinaabe First Nation people named it “Ka-wa-tae-gum-maug” or the “Land of Shining Waters.” Today, it’s popular as a weekend getaway from Toronto. While there are many things to do in the Kawarthas — from canoeing, hiking, cycling and relaxing at one of the many lakefront cottages and resorts — one of the best things to do is go fishing.
The abundant fish population in the region’s lakes make it especially rewarding for family travellers who can angle for smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye (pickerel), muskie and perch. It’s even possible to fish from a dock or the shore which makes it an affordable activity as there’s no need to rent a boat.
Of all the lakes in the Kawarthas, Rice Lake offers the best results for families interested in going fishing. With a maximum depth of 27 feet ( 8.2 metres), Rice Lake features shallow waters with plenty of weedbeds and mudflats, all of which contributes to prime habitat for fish. Experts say that it has the most fish per square mile of any lake in Canada. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll catch fish at Rice Lake.
An ideal way to experience the best of Rice Lake fishing in the Kawarthas is to go fishing off the dock in the early morning or evening at one of the family resorts such as Elmhirsts Resort near the village of Keene, using bait such as worms or minnows for good results. Or, if you have your own boat, you can opt for one of the public launches in Roseneath or Bewdley to access Rice Lake.
LOBSTERING AROUND PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND | CANADA
by John Widmer of Roaming Around the World
Prince Edward Island (PEI) is renowned for its lobster. The cold, clean Atlantic waters surrounding this island province in eastern Canada hold an abundance of these tasty crustaceans. It’s an awesome local experience for visitors to PEI to actually go lobstering in the harbor and then indulge in a floating lobster boil!
During the excursion, a PEI fishing captain brings passengers out into the Charlottesville Harbour on his boat to teach visitors about PEI’s lobstering trade. After cruising across the blue Canadian waters, the boat arrives to an area where lobster traps have been laid. That’s where guests can haul in a lobster trap themselves.
Passengers are then taught how to measure the lobster to ensure it’s of legal size. The next lesson in lobstering is about banding. Using a special tool, guests carefully place rubber bands around the lobster’s powerful claws.
It’s an interesting hands-on education into lobstering and it provides a renewed appreciation for the work that goes into catching what becomes a prized seafood feast. Yet this excursion in PEI doesn’t end once the trap gets lowered back into the water. That’s when the fun really begins, and a lobster boil commences.
Fresh lobsters are boiled directly on the boat in preparation for a floating lobster feast! From trap to table, it doesn’t get much fresher than this. PEI lobster is absolutely delicious! We’d argue that it somehow tastes even better eating it on a lobstering boat while out in the open waters.
This experience all adds up to such a fascinating introduction to lobstering in PEI, that is equal parts fun, informative, and delicious!
Catching Crayfish (West Coast Rock Lobster) CAPE TOWN | South Africa
by Campbell and Alya | Stingy Nomads
Catching crayfish for sport and recreation is very popular in South Africa and the catch is a much sought-after delicacy. The crayfish caught around Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa live in the ocean and is not the same as fresh-water crayfish found in Europe, they are not true lobsters since they do not have large claws, the correct name is the West Coast Rock Lobster jasus lalandii, called kreef by locals.
Crayfish can only be taken out in season, exact dates vary, but always in summer around December and January, only four per person with a specific size limit. They are found primarily in shallower waters, around rock and kelp structure, the biggest specimens live on the West Coast of South Africa.
Crayfish is collected in two ways, they are either trapped in a net or they are caught by free divers. The net is attached to a big metal hoop, the net holes are a specified minimum size that will allow crayfish smaller than the size limit to escape. Fish heads and pilchards are tied as bait inside the net which is dropped in the water either from a boat or the shore attached to a line allowing the fisherman to pull up the net.
Collecting crayfish with Scuba gear is illegal in South Africa, only free diving is allowed using a snorkel. Free diving for crayfish is not allowed from boats only from the shore. The diver has a pouch around his waist. Diving down, usually between 5 and 10 meters below the surface crayfish must be caught under the rocks and placed into the crayfish-pouch. Only subsistence fisherman with the correct permits can catch crayfish commercially from boats in season.
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TIGER FISHING ON THE ZAMBEZI RIVER | ZAMBIA
by Piritta Paija & Niina Lehikoinen | Bizarre Globehopper
Catching the big, iconic tiger fish with the enormous teeth is a must for everyone even distantly wanting to try fishing. One of the best places in the world to go tiger fishing is on the Zambezi River in Zambia. There are several lodges along the river arranging special boat trips for tiger fishing adventures.
The tigerfish is a very aggressive predator that feeds on baitfish, and it’s one of the fastest freshwater game fish in Africa. Sought after especially by the fly fishermen, tigerfish usually weighs several kilos and can be as massive as 13 kg (around 30 lbs).
Both Upper and the Lower Zambezi are excellent locations for catching this predator fish. Just check the best time of the year depending on the specific area you’d want to visit. The best times vary a bit.
You will go to the river with a guide on a small boat, and if you want you can spend several hours catching the tigerfish and admiring the beautiful river beds. Tiger fishing can be calming and exciting at the same time.
The lodges also practice “catch and release” –method. So after the thrill of catching one tigerfish and getting that classic photo with it, you will release it back to the river. Only in some extreme cases the fish is too hurt to be released, and this happens very rarely.
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, South Korea
by Marie Boes of Be Marie Korea
The South Korean peninsula is surrounded by water, it comes as no surprise that fish plays a huge part in the Korean diet. From all kinds of sea fruits to fish and even sea weeds. Fishing is a popular activity, for some people that’s how they earn their living, for others it is a relaxing hobby. There are three types of fishing in Korea. First salt or sweet water fishing with a rod, secondly ice fishing in winter and lastly, digging for clams and other sea food in the many mud flats which surround the peninsula.
Ice fishing is only possible during January in the north of the country where some of the rivers are covered with 40 centimetre thick ice. At this time, there are multiple ice fishing festivals happening, with the most popular being the Hwacheon Ice Festival. The festival was also classified with being one of the seven wonders of winter by CNN. Over 10,000 holes are drilled into the thick ice which allowed local and international visitors to fish for Korean mountain trout.
Apart from ice fishing, there are other activities happening at the festival, like sledging, ice skating and a bare hand ice fishing competition. This is one of the biggest festivals during winter and it has received a lot of international news coverage. Daily shuttle buses are leaving from Seoul, and the ride takes around 1,5 hours. When purchasing tickets online, this includes the entrance ticket, shuttle bus, and coupon for the other activities.
Crabbing in Norfolk, England | UK
by Catherine Boardman of Cultural Wednesdays
Hours of my life have been spent staring down at a crabbing line baited with bacon. The excitement of pulling the line up, alive with hungry crabs, remains as intense now as it was decades ago when my parents introduced me to the sport. Norfolk has many good crabbing spots but our favorite was always Wells next the Sea harbor. High tide when beach is covered with water and harbor full is the best time. No need to worry about bringing supplies, everything you need can be bought from nearby shops. Afternoons in summer will see the Quayside in Wells crowded with families dangling lines in the harbour. For more elbow room get there early.
Our ideal Wells next the Sea day is arriving mid morning and crabbing at the Quay. Once we have more crabs than we can count it is time to put them all back and head for for Fish and Chips. Crabbing done, fish eaten it is them time to walk the mile to Wells next the Sea beach. At low tide golden sand stretches as far as the eye can see, perfect for beach cricket or sandcastles or just meandering looking for shells. Keep an eye on the tide tables to ensure that your beach time is low tide and crabbing time at high tide. Click here read more about our time crabbing at Wells next the Sea.
KING CRAB SAFARI IN KIRKENES | NORTHERN NORWAY
by Michelle Minaar of Greedy Gourmet
Ever heard of a king crab safari? If you are looking for an adventure of a lifetime then definitely check out the king crab safari well inside the polar circle in northern Norway. More specifically, in the beautiful town of Kirkenes, Norway.
The king crab safari offers a ride on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat or RIB on the infamous Barents Sea. It gets very cold in seconds. The boat rides along the Bøkfjord, offering some spectacular views until it reaches a king crab trap. You will get to experience king crab fishing firsthand and witness the entire process, from taking the king crab out from the sea and getting it on the plate. This means you will also learn how to correctly handle king crab, prepare it and steam it. I can tell you fresh steamed king crab legs are to die for and are totally worth the trip to Norway.
If you are really considering this trip, then please pack warm clothes. In fact, pack your warmest clothes and wool socks. It is very cold on the boat up there, so you’ll need to inform yourself about which type of gear is best suited for you, depending in which season you go. Just for your information, survival gear and life vests are provided. Although, word of the wise – purchase goggles and gloves to protect yourself from the icy cold water and wind. To learn more about taking a king crab safari yourself in Norway, then check out my food and travel blog here.
HANDLINE FISHING FOR CRABS | SWEDEN/DENMARK
by Erin Gustafson of Oregon Girl Around the World
Pick a pier any pier around Scandinavia and come summer you’re sure to find wee Danes and Swedes with handlines trying to lure little crustaceans from their hiding places in the rocks and seaweed. We first learned of this tradition on a visit to family friends at their home in Torekov on the west coast of Sweden. Our Swedish friend gave each child a line of twine tied to a clip – the kind you might use to keep your bag of chips fresh. And of course in Sweden, the bait of choice was a bit of meatball from the night before, pinched in the clip.
Carefully the children lower the bait in between the rocks right offshore. The blue Baltic waters here are clear and cool and hide lots of little critters in the crevices. Soon the scent of a bit of meat lures the scavengers from their spots and slowly, with some practice, the kids are able to pull the crab up. A net is handy to scoop up the crab in case they let go. A bucket of water can be used to collect them for a bit before sending them back to the deep. Some shops sell little rods with reels complete with clip, but we found the hand lines were easier to pull up and put back down in the sea. Teaching your kids to handle the animals carefully and gently return them is key.
COD FISHING AROUND COPENHAGEN | DENMARK
Fishing for cod has been happening in the waters around Scandinavia as long as there was water around Scandinavia. It happens to be a very traditional and fun day out in Denmark. Book a half-day tour with Spar Shipping out of Copenhagen and catch all you can (within sustainable limits of course.)
What’s great about a day out on the water fishing for cod is that there is very little skill required. Bring your own or book a pole rental before you board. Once aboard, gear is distributed and territory around the boat staked. Special ties keep your rod in place. Then the boat chugs out to the fishing grounds and a bell is rung. Time to begin. A casual underhanded flick cast and your hook is in. A little jig up and down attracts the fat cod who swim in schools under the sea.
Plan ahead and order coffee and pastries to be waiting for you on board, especially nice when sailing in winter. Afternoon bookings offer sausages and beers (when in Denmark) for purchase in the galley. Buckets provided to collect your catch on board, but all cleaning of the fish is for you and yours to do. Special gutting tables come out at the end of your ride, but remember to bring your own bag or cooler to carry your fish home. Boiled cod is a traditional Danish New Year’s eve dish. Cheers from here. Skål.
I’m always curious about customs and cultures in other corners of the planet. If you’ve got a unique method for responsibly pulling up your seafood, I’d love to here all about it and even add it to the blog. Leave a comment or send me an email at the contact link below. As they say in Norway, “skitt fiske.” Literally translated, it means shit fishing. Kind of like “break a leg” for fisherman. Cheers to that.
Sharing is caring! Pin the post or tag a friend you might want to take out fishing and crabbing in your little pond. Cheers from Scandinavia.