Editor’s note: Recreational crabbing in Oregon is open south of Cape Falcon (between Cannon Beach and Garibaldi). Confirm locations are open before you go.
Summertime is a great time to catch your own dinner on the Coast — namely Oregon’s state crustacean, the meaty, sweet and decadent Dungeness crab. In Oregon’s port towns, it’s fun to watch the commercial fishing boats come and go and unload their catch of the day. You could also crab from a private dock that specializes in making the experience a breeze for all ages. Here’s how to do it.
Start by visiting a local shop or dock, where the experts will help you rent a crab ring, bait, crab gauge (for measuring keepers) and bucket. You’ll also need to purchase your shellfish license at any local sport shop.
Once you’re set up, hit the dock and know that it’s a good idea to have your kids wear a personal flotation device, which the shop may provide. Pro tip: The best time to crab in the summer is an hour before high tide and up to an hour after. Check the tide tables or consult a local fishing-supply store for expert advice.
After you bait the ring (use gloves if you don’t want dirty hands), toss it in the water and wait a few minutes. Kids love tossing the ring in the water but may require some help. After some time (ask the locals how they’re biting), pull up your line and see if you’ve nabbed a tasty crustacean that’s large enough to keep. It may be a while, so bring chairs, water, snacks, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and games to help the little ones pass the time if you like.
Keepers must measure 5.75 inches across the back. All females (which have shorter abdominal flaps) and small males must be released to ensure a healthy population. These simple practices are what made Oregon’s Dungeness crab industry the first certified sustainable in the world. See the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s excellent “How to Crab” page for details.
Enjoy Your Crab
Once you’ve pulled up your crab, many dockside spots will cook your catch for you, so you can take your freshly steamed crab out back and enjoy a picnic. If you don’t catch anything, don’t despair: Many docks will have a large selection of fresh crab ready for purchase, which you can also have cooked on-site or take home to enjoy. If you do bring it home for dinner, check out Oregon’s Dungeness crab recipe page for inspiration — from crab cakes and crab rolls to crab chowder and the best way to prepare a whole crab. Make sure to say hello to the sea lions you may see lounging on the dock.
Here’s where to find fresh crab to enjoy with the kids along Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline.
Kelly’s Brighton Marina and Jetty’s Fishery Marina & RV Park are within a mile of each other just north of Rockaway Beach, so if one is crowded, go and check out the other spot. Both make the crabbing experience as easy as possible for everyone in the family, with picnic tables for enjoying your catch (or fresh purchase). At Jetty’s Fishery, you can order cups of chowder with crackers and smoked fish, and you can find a small selection of beverages in the on-site store.
If you’re looking for a more DIY experience — without assistance on-site — rent your gear in town and head to one of Oregon’s tranquil bays, like Nehalem Bay (just south of Manzanita) or Nestucca Bay (just south of Pacific City), for a more rustic adventure.
Chelsea Rose Seafood at port docks 3 and 7 in Newport is a historic fishing vessel that operates as a middleman to sell fresh tuna (and canned), halibut, salmon, crab, lingcod and rockfish directly from the dock. This and other floating shops are excellent places to ask questions and purchase seafood since they’re designed to deal directly with the public.
With little freshwater influence, the shores around Coos Bay are some of the state’s most abundant for shellfish. That’s great news for families looking for a nice catch. The Umpqua River Estuary, near Winchester Bay, is another gorgeously uncrowded gem ripe for exploring. Make sure to follow the posted guidelines and maps for designated crabbing areas.
If You Go:
- Know that public restroom facilities may be limited at these sites, so make arrangements before you visit.
- Bring a chest or cooler with ice in it for your fresh purchases.
- Have different forms of payment available if your chosen form of payment isn’t accepted.
- If you’re at a dock, be mindful of lots of activity happening around the boats; keep an eye on children and leave pets at home.
- Remember to leave Oregon’s natural areas cleaner than you found them; find our tips on how to Take Care Out There.