Take a seafood safari through Gothenburg’s gorgeous archipelago of islands
Head out to sea with Kastor Boat Trips in the Hönö Harbor
If you know this Oregon Girl, you know that I love sampling fresh local seafood while I’m out traveling. Especially when it’s sustainably caught not far from the shores we’re visiting. So when planning our trip back to Scandinavia this summer, I carved out a few days to try some in West Sweden. This region is famous for seafood caught in the cool, clear waters of the Baltic Sea.
You can take the train to Gothenburg – Sweden’s second largest city – then pop on a ferry to any of the archipelago islands nearby. We picked pretty little Hönö in the Öckerö area, just north of Göteborg, as they say it in Swedish. Why Hönö you might ask? Specifically for the opportunity to go crabbing. Come with me and meet Lasse, the captain of Kastor Boat Trips. You too can taste the fresh crustaceans on one of his seafood safaris.
KASTOR BOAT TRIPS KRABBTUR
Want to try your hand at pulling up pots full of crab and then enjoying it for dinner? Book a krabbtur, or seafood safari. This is as fresh as it gets. Lobster lovers can taste those too, but only come autumn when hummer season opens. (That’s Swedish for lobster.) Summer months in West Sweden bring buckets of krabba to the table. Also fresh shrimp, langoustine, mussels, oysters and more – but today we’re looking for the large edible clawed crustaceans.
Book ahead online or give Lasse a call when you come to the island. He takes visitors out for different sailings every day. Want to visit the noisy local seal colony? Or see the lighthouse on the little island of Vinga? He can boat you there too. Book one of those trips.
CLIMB ABOARD THE KASTOR BOAT
We met Captain Lasse on the dock in Hönö harbor. A seasoned veteran on these waters, he’s got stories galore. Step down into his classic wooden fishing boat and slip on some sexy waterproof pants. Once decked out in bright orange, accessorize for safety with a small life vest clicked around your neck and between your legs. Now you’re ready to set sail.
Or chug chug chug rather, out of the harbor. The forked tail feathers of graceful arctic terns deftly swoop overhead as we head out to seabeds where Captain Lasse has already set out the crabbing traps. Left out for days in deeper waters waiting for us to (hopefully) come and collect the keepers.
COMMON SCANDINAVIAN CRAB
The clawed critters you’ll be plucking from these waters are formally known as Cancer pagurus. Their common name depends on what part of Northern Europe you’re seeking them. Common Scandinavian crab, edible crab, brown crab, rock crab – they’ve been called it all. But these crustacean are much more intidimidating that the purpley-orange Dungeness crab I’ve grown up with on the Pacfic Coast. Don’t mess with the powerful claws of the Cancer pagurus.
Holding both black-tipped large front claws firmly as you wrest them from the traps. This is supposed to prevent them from pinching. Lasse asked if we wanted some gloves and when my husband responded that’d be good – he smirked, “Just like the Stockholmers.” Wink, wink.
RELATED: COME CRABBING ON THE OREGON COAST
LEARNING THE ROPES FROM LASSE
Besides the possibility for a serious pinching, the act of crabbing is really fairly easy. Lasse literally shows you the ropes. Using a long-poled hook, we first snag the floats as they bob along the sea connected to the trap deep below. The rope is set on a hydraulic crank which does the heavy lifting, pulling the pot up from the sea floor. Lasse put these out about 25 meters down, left for several days. He tells us local rules state you must check them at least once a week.
Automatically the crank stops as the trap gets to the top. Reaching down towards the water, each visitor is invited to bring the box on board to check for keepers. These are combo crab/lobster pots where a little last season mackeral baits the scavengers to venture in, but they can’t escape. Until you undo the sides and muscle them out. “Just show them who’s boss,” Lasse’s best words of advice when tenacious front claws don’t want to be moved.
MEET THE LOCAL SEAL COLONY
We fill a bucket of good sized crabs and have plenty of time left in our two hour tour on the water to pay a visit to the local colony of seals. Dolphins frolic in the relatively smooth water off the island of Vinga far off in the distance. Lasse keeps binoculars on board just for such spying. The seals lollygag on the rocks before a passing speedboat on the far side of their rocky perch sends them all swimming. Flopping into the water with a splash and much barking.
On the return sail home, captain offers a simple wooden board with a handline so we can troll for mackeral. Slowly pull the shiny hook at the end of the line back and forth while captain drives us back. Suddenly, we have a hit and a silvery-blue striped mackeral lands on board. Carved into the board are the words, “Hav giv oss mat.” The sea gives us food and Lasse adds, “the sun gives us courage.” Cheers to that.
RETURNING TO THE HARBOR
We enjoyed a brilliant blue skied mid summer afternoon out around the Gothenburg archipelago. Cute little Swedish summer houses litter the granite rolling rocky shore. We putter back into to Hönö Klåva with our bucket of fresh crabs. Lasse ties up the boat and picks a couple of the biggest from our haul which he puts in a separate bucket and before taking off his orange fishing pants, jumps on his bicycle and rolls them down the dock.
ENJOYING YOUR CATCH AT RESTAURANT TULLHUSET
When you book the full seafood package, you get to taste the crab you catch as part of a 3 course dinner. Lasse has an arrangement with the popular Hönö hangout – Restaurant Tullhuset at the end of the harbor. It takes about 15 minutes to cook your catch. Our job until Lasse returns? Keep the local seagulls from carting off the rest of the haul. A glass of wine or local craft beer comes with the package. Take a seat outside on the deck to enjoy the sun and front row views to the sparkling blue water.
LEGACY OF FISHING ON ISLAND OF HÖNÖ
The Gothenburg archipelago has long been the seat of Sweden’s fishing industry. Here the cold clear Baltic waters offer up cod, mackeral, herrings, lobsters, langoustines and of course – what we came for – Scandinavian crab. Hönö is proud of their fishing legacy and you can pay a visit to the little, but extensive collection at the Fiskemuseet (Fishing Museum) right on the harbor. Just down the dock from where you can catch some yourself.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Kastor Boat Trips runs crab tours from April to September
Fishing: 14.00 – 16.00 from Hönö Klåva dock (start times an hour earlier off peak summer weeks)
Dinner: 16.15 at Restaurant Tullhuset
WHAT YOU’LL BE SERVED:
- Fresh crab with bread, aioli and side salad
- Fish of the day (We enjoyed a pan-seared cod, langoustine in a cream sauce with dauphinoise potato)
- Dessert (Meringue with fresh raspberry and licorice)
- Local Hönö craft beer or wine and coffee
For the full crab package which includes 2 hours of fishing and sight seeing plus a 3-course meal
SEK 950 Adults
SEK 550 Children under 16 years
WHAT TO WEAR:
Fishing pants and lifejackets and all equipment will be provided onboard. Wear weather appropriate clothing and shoes that might get a bit wet. It was quite warm, so shorts underneath the rubber pants worked for us.
Want to see a little bit more of the action – head to my YouTube channel for a taste of what our brilliant tour was like. I can highly recommend this fun afternoon out. And just a note – this is not a sponsored post, we paid our own way. Thank you to Lasse for the stories and experience!