Yum. Dungeness Crab!
Here in Oregon we are blessed with an abundance of succulent, juicy crab just waiting to be boiled, then drenched in butter. In 2007, the Newport area was actually dubbed “The Dungeness Crab Capital of the World,” and the Pacific Northwest is the highest producer in the world!
Oregon is the perfect location with over 360 miles of coastline and crabbing can be done year round with great success. It’s a fun, easy, and delicious activity that will be sure to delight and educate the child in all of us.
A Quick Crab Education
Dungeness, red rock and Pacific rock crabs are the three species most common to our coast, and all are delicious!
Dungeness crabs are easily identified by their white-tipped claws and reddish-brown to purple color. Mature Dungeness crabs may reach 10 inches, but are typically 6-7 inches. They are common throughout the sandy and muddy areas in the shallowest parts of lower estuaries all the way to depths of 2,000 feet.
Red rock crabs will have black tipped claws and are typically a deep brick red. As their name implies, they prefer the harder habitats such as rocks and other structures. The Pacific rock crab lives in similar habitats as the red rock crab, however is more commonly found in the nearshore ocean. They’re easily discerned from red rock crabs by their spotted undersides, brown/purple color and hairier legs.
Best Crabbing in Newport
Just a few miles away from Hallmark Resort Newport lies Siletz, Yaquina and Alsea Bays, three of the best crabbing bays on the Oregon coast. Crabbing is open in estuaries (i.e., bays), beaches, tide pools, piers and jetties year-round, but keep in mind that ocean crabbing for Dungeness crab isclosed from October 16 through November 30.
For the best dockside crabbing in Newport, check out the Port of Newport public fishing pier by South Beach, or the piers of Abbey Street and Bay Street from Historic Bayfront.
What to Know:
To ensure a healthy crab ecosystem in our Pacific Northwest, here are some of the regulations:
- Keep only male crab to ensure a sustainable ecosystem for our crabbing industry – Here’s how to tell the difference:
- All male crabs must be 5 ¾ inches across the back (not including the spines) or wider.
- Crabbers should not harvest any more than 12 male Dungeness crabs that measure 6 inches or more.
- Releasing “soft shell” crab is strongly recommended. Soft shelled crabs are newly molted and are essentially a small crab in a big crab’s body.
Let’s Go Crabbing!
Crabbing is easy. There’s very little gear required and pretty much all Oregon coastal towns offer equipment or boat rentals. While boat crabbing may increase your likelihood for success, dockside crabbing is very accessible. The weather changes quickly in Oregon, so be sure to bring plenty of warm and waterproof layers of clothing. Otherwise, this is all you’ll need…
Must-Haves for Crabbing:
- Shellfish license
In Oregon, all individuals ages 12 and up require a license to harvest shellfish. Licenses are available for a single day or a full-year and can easily be purchased online.
- Crab measuring device
Any crabbing rental outfit will provide you with a crab measuring tool, or you can buy your own for under $10. It’s usually made from a durable plastic that’s great for tossing into your tackle box or back pocket, and accurately measures crabs in the states of Washington, Oregon and California.
- Pots or rings
A crabber should use no more than 3 pieces of crab gear, either pots and/or rings. When wondering whether to use pots or rings, it’s recommended to use a combination of both to maximize your chances to catch the most crabs. For both, check all the lines on your crab pots or rings for kinks or knots to ensure they are durable and will allow gear to work correctly.
For pots, allow them to sit undisturbed for about an hour before you pull it in to check the catch. If you use rings, allow them to sit for 10 minutes (or more) before you check them. The key is to pull them consistently to allow your basket shape to catch all crabs in your trap.
Make sure all your buoys are well-marked so you can tell which pots are yours.
Store legal-size “keeper” crabs in a cooler with ice. Crabs will stay fresh when stored in a cooler full of ice up to 48 hours – as long that you keep them out of standing water and replace the melted ice.
- Bait / Bait Holders
Whether it’s turkey, chicken, clams, fish carcass, or any other meat scraps, fresh bait is best. One of the best baits is mink, with the smell of the carcass attracting crabs. Salmon heads and frozen chicken also work well. As long as the bait stays in the pot or ring and the crabs can get to it, most baiting methods will work. Use a bait bag to avoid pesky seals and sea lions trying to steal your bait.
- Gloves (to help pull up wet ropes and sort crabs)
Sorting Your Crabs
There’s nothing more delightful than pulling up your pot or ring to see it overflowing with crabs! An experienced crab handler will sort the crabs trying hard to keep them at ease. They want to get out, but they don’t want to be forcefully grabbed. A quick shake of the pot is often more effective than reaching directly for them. Find the females and smaller crabs first and toss them back into the water. The larger males should be measured to ensure they meet regulations. And always watch out for those claws!
Or, You Can Just Visit Georgie’s for your Dungeness Crab Fix!
If your Newport crab hunt didn’t go to plan, or you just couldn’t wait to satisfy that seafood craving — Georgie’s has you covered! With a wide variety of fresh crab dishes, like seafood fondue, crab cakes, and Fisherman stew, you can taste just why Newport was dubbed the “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World.”