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Crabbing

Dungeoness CrabDungeness Crab

The season is open the full length of the Oregon Coast all year in estuaries, bays, and tide pools. You can fish for crab from piers and jetties or a boat in the bay and river. The Nehalem River (and Nehalem Bay)  that runs through the City of Wheeler is the perfect place to crab.

Crabbing is closed in the ocean itself from August 15 to November 30. The best time for crabbing are in the months that end in “R” but other times can also be good.

During the commercial season you can charter a boat to crab in the ocean. The charter will supply you with the necessary equipment, bait, and expertise. To go crabbing on your own in the bays and estuaries you can rent equipment from marinas or bait shops up and down the coast.

Oregon Coast Crabbing Regulations
You will need a Shellfish License for each person that is crabbing that is over the age of 14. This license as of the time of writing is $6.50 for Oregon residents. The fee for out-of-state residents is $9.00 for a three-day license. The license entitles you to use three crab pots or rings at a time with a catch limit of 12 crabs. You are only allowed to keep the male crabs which measure 5 3/4 inches across the back just in front of the last points. All the females and undersized crabs must be thrown back unharmed.

It is a good idea to check for updates to regulations before you go on your trip. You can do so by calling the Oregon Department of Agriculture, 800-448-2474.

Equipment for Oregon Coast Crabbing
Equipment you will need:Oregon Coast Crab Fishing

  • heavy gloves
  • crab rings or crab pots
  • a measuring caliper
  • a bucket for holding your catch

You can rent the crab pots or rings all along the coast at bait shops, tackle shops, and marinas. These come with the required ropes and buoys and you are usually given a measuring device as well. You can also usually get your Shellfish License at these places.

In addition to the above list you will also need bait. People who go crabbing regularly often have their own very secret bait recipe and they are not about to tell you what it is. So you will have to do your own experimenting to see what works best for you. Think smelly! Crabs are attracted to the bait by

the smell. You can use fish carcasses, chicken, or turkey. A lot of people use cans of cat food–the fishy kind. If you do this, leave the cat food in the can but punch holes in it.

ou will have to secure your bait in the trap and most crabbers wrap it in wire mesh as well. Your bait makes a tasty meal for any seals or sea lions lurking about and if they eat it, well, no crabs will be attracted to your trap.

Planning Your Oregon Coast Crabbing Trip
There are several factors to consider when you are planning to go crabbing. Along with the time of year is the weather and the tides to consider. During periods when there has been heavy rain, the crabs move towards the ocean to get away from the fresh water in the bays and estuaries. So you don’t want to go during or after a lot of rainy weather.You also want to choose a time when there is the least water movement. This is just before the tide changes from coming in or going out. Most experienced crabbers look at the tide tables and choose a time when there is the least difference between high tide and low tide.Dungeness Crab

For a printable tide table for the Oregon Coast visit Tidesonline

Okay, so you have your license, your pots or rings, and you have found a place where you can throw them into the water. Well, that’s what you do. Lower your traps which are loaded with bait into the water until they hit the bottom. The little buoy attached to the rope tells you where your pot is located. Wait a few minutes–15 to 20–and raise the pot to see what you have caught. Check over the crabs and throw the undersized and the females back into the water. Put the keepers into your holding bucket. Then lower your pot again and again until you have your limit of legal crabs.

How to Crab

Beginning crabbers:
Beginning crabbers usually prefer the crab rings over crab pots. The rings are lighter and easier to handle but you cannot leave them in the water very long because the crabs can crawl out of them. The crab pots are very heavy but once the crab is inside, he is there to stay. This means you do not have to haul the pot up every 15 to 20 minutes.

How do you tell the difference between male and female crabs? You have to look on the underside. There is a difference in the undershell piece. The male piece is about 2 1/2 times longer than its width. The femail piece is very large and broad. The place where you rent your traps will be able to show you the difference and also show you how to properly measure your crabs.


Don’t feel the pinch. Crabs can pinch very hard with their claws and they are fast. They can have ahold of you before you know what happened. To avoid this, handle the crab towards the tail and be quick about it. Grab it and let it go–wear gloves.

Crab Catch

Crab Catch

Handling Crabs

Cooking Your Catch
Most marinas have public cooking pots where you can have your crabs cooked. You want to do this as soon as you can after you catch them. You can scout these places out before you go Oregon Coast crabbing. Local bait shops are in the know and will tell you where to go.

Enjoy your Oregon Dungeness Crab–a feast for a king.
Article courtesy of Great Oregon Vacations:www.great-oregon-vacations.com/oregon-coast-crabbing.html

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