A Day on a Dory Boat

Photo Courtesy of Pacific City Fishing

By Harris Newman

One thing you’ll notice about the fishing town of Pacific City, Oregon, is that there is no port. There’s no boat ramp, no docks and no marina.

“Our beach is the port,” says Captain Mark Lytle, owner of Pacific City Fishing.

Welcome to the world of dory fishing—a 100-year tradition where fishermen (“dorymen”) launch flat-bottomed boats directly from the beach to fish the expansive waters off Cape Kiwanda. And Pacific City is one of the world’s few places where you can do it.

We start at 7:00 a.m.—Captain Lytle, Rodrigo Cassas (the “pusher”), me and five other passengers. The sun has just peaked over the Coast Range, and foggy mist is curling over the trees. Birds circle the iconic Haystack Rock, and whale spouts abound. You can smell the ocean—it’s a quintessential picture of the Oregon Coast.

Lytle throttles past the surf, and within minutes he’s zipping us to his hand-picked secret spots. We make our first stop.

“They’re down there, go get ‘em!” he yells.

Cape Kiwanda is a cornucopia. The fresh water and stringent catch regulations ensure an abundant selection of lingcod, rockfish, bass and many others. Meaning: If you can hold a rod, you’re almost guaranteed a catch.

And that’s exactly what happens.

Once the lines drop, Lytle and Cassas are moving from rod to rod to unhook fish. I’m an absolute novice, yet I snagged a 30-pound lingcod within seconds of dropping the line. Five hours later, our floor is covered with flopping fish.

The action pleases Lytle to no end. His primary goal—beyond safety—is filling your refrigerator with fresh fish. But deeper than that, it’s the feeling that catching a fish is a primal delight; an indelible, lifelong memory. Lytle’s bringing us home and sees me beaming. He leans into me and yells over the motor: “THAT SMILE…THAT’S WHY I DO THIS.”

Our trip ends back at Lytle’s house—after the dory’s famed beach landing (or, as Lytle says, “a controlled crash”)—where he steams crabs, then cleans and packages our fish. We drink cold beer and recap the day. Each person has pounds of fish and, more importantly, a wonderful story to tell.

Dory fishing season goes from April to late October, and Lytle runs trips seven days a week. His guests span all ages, from small children to retirees. To inquire, visit pacificcityfishing.com. For more information about visiting Pacific City on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast, go to tillamookcoast.com.