Crabbing for Dungeness from the dock is a great excuse to spend the day by the water with your family. (Photo credit: Don Frank)

Summertime is a great time to hang out dockside at Oregon Coast port towns. You can watch the commercial fishing boats come and go and unload their catch of the day. If your family wants to be part of the action, crabbing for Dungeness from the dock is a great excuse to spend the day by the water.

Dock crabbing is an easy activity for kids of all ages. Just rent a crab ring, bait, crab gauge (for measuring keepers) and bucket, and hit the dock.

“That’s it! You’re crabbing,” says Matt LeDoux, owner of Fishermen’s Wharf in Charleston. His retail fish market rents crab gear for $10. (You also need a shellfish license, which be purchased at any local sport shop.)

LeDoux recommends D Dock and B Dock in Charleston for crabbing. Bait the ring, toss it in the water and wait a few minutes. Pull up your line and see if you’ve nabbed a tasty crustacean that’s large enough to keep. “It’s kind of like playing the slot machines,” LeDoux says.

Keepers must measure 5 and 3/4 inches across the back. All females and small males must be released. These simple practices are what made Oregon’s Dungeness crab industry the first certified sustainable in the world. (Females can be recognized by their shorter abdominal flaps. See the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recreational crab fishing page for details.)

Many shops on the coast, like Fishermen’s Wharf, will cook your catch for you. “We cook ’em, you clean ’em,” LeDoux says. Take your fresh cooked crab out back and enjoy a picnic while watching the activity on the docks.

The best time to crab in the summer is one hour before high tide and up to one hour after. Check the tide tables at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website or with a local fishing supply store.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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  1. Debit says…

    Charleston Oregon is an unincorporated area at the entrance to Coos Bay. Further north, in Newport, OR, my son and his friends rented a boat (last week) and went crabbing in Yaquina Bay. They were delighted to bring back a dozen keepers! Yum! Debi

    Written on August 7th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  2. Barbara Riesenhuber says…

    It is sad to see summertime crabbing promoted in your magazine. At this time of year the crabs are not “full” because they are in their growth/molting stage of life. Commercial fishermen are not allowed to harvest crabs between May and December for this very reason. The crabs need to be allowed to mature.
    Barbara Riesenhuber
    Florence, OR

    Written on August 8th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  3. Gloria Latta says…

    Charleston is not at the entrance to Coos Bay! Drive right into either Coos Bay (from south) or North Bend (from north), and your turn will be near The Mill Casino. From Highway 101, turn west at the traffic signal on Newmark Ave. Drive west on Newmark until you see water straight ahead. Curve left to avoid going into the bay and simply follow Cape Arago Highway to Charleston. It is the best place to crab, and there’s lots to see on out the road including a sea lion reef and a lookout point where you’re surrounded 180 degrees by the Pacific Ocean.

    Written on August 9th, 2013 / Flag this Comment
  4. Marleen says…

    My fondest meimroes of childhood are the times we went crabbing with my grandfather. It was tiring, sometimes boring, hot work. But the rewards were priceless.I can still see Grandpa standing over the steaming pot and the smell of cooking crabs filled the air.When they were done, we’d sit at the round, wicker table covered with newspaper and pick crabs and drink ice water. My lips burned like crazy, but I kept on eating.I wish with all my heart to be able to sit with my grandparents and eat crabs again.Thanks for stirring up that memory this morning!

    Written on December 7th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
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