Crabbing with the Kids

July 31, 2013 (Updated July 30, 2014)
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 The

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.