Crabbing on the Coast
Crabbing requires minimal gear, which is often available for rent in most coastal towns. While crabbing from a boat increases your likelihood for success, dockside crabbing is easy and very accessible.
Before crabbing, be aware of regulations. Some knowledge of where, when and how to crab will increase your likelihood of success and information on crab biology, identification and behavior will enhance your experience.
Maps showing crabbing areas in Oregon’s bays along with additional information on crabs and crabbing can be found on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage: www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/crab.
- Fall is typically the best time of the year to crab. Beginning in September, crab tend to be more “filled out”, meaning there is a higher percentage of meat.
- At times, after heavy rainfall the resulting increase in freshwater, crab tend to be less abundant in the bays.
- Slack water (the time around high or low tide) is the best time to crab in the bays. During slack water, crab are generally walking around and foraging since they are not getting pushed around by tidal exchange.
- On days when there is little difference between high and low tides (small tidal exchange), crabbing can go on almost all day.
- Be sure to set crab gear out of the way of boat traffic to avoid potentially dangerous situations; set strings of gear parallel to the navigation channels and avoid placement directly in navigation channels.
- To reduce the changes of losing gear due to tidal currents, make sure the rings or pots are sufficiently heavy and the length of line used is at least double the depth of water the gear is in.
- Using sinking line, rather than floating line will reduce the chances of tangling lines in boat propellers.
- Crabbing is most often done with pots or rings, from a boat or off a dock or pier. Crab snares can also be used from a dock or pier.
- When crabbing from a boat, make sure your buoys are well marked so you can distinguish them from other crab gear. When crabbing from a dock or pier, tie the end of your crab line to the dock or pier.
- Allow at least 45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are using pots and 20 minutes of you are using rings.
- When using crab rings, be sure to pull quickly to allow the ring to set up in a basket shape and at a consistent speed to retain all the crab within the ring.
- Many different types of bait are used: turkey, chicken, clams, fish carcass, shad, herring, etc. Fresh bait is best.
- Keep in mind that seals and sea lions may eat bait they are attracted to and that they can access (e.g. laying out on a crab ring). You can minimize this problem by using a bait bag or box, using bait that they don’t eat (e.g. turkey legs), avoiding areas where they are prevalent, or by using pots.
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s shellfish program monitors recreational crab harvest in a number of Oregon’s bays. Current crabbing reports can be found on ODFW’s shellfish webpage: www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/crab.
- Be extra cautious when reaching into a pot or ring full of crab; a pinch from a crab can be very painful. Handle the crab from the rear with a thumb on the underside or by grasping the rear legs.
- Releasing “soft shell” crab is strongly recommended. Soft shell crab are newly molted. The volume of meat is low and the quality is usually stringy and less palatable.
- Be sure to carefully and quickly release unwanted crab; do not throw them from heights as this will crack their carapace and kill them. It is illegal to retain only the claws of any species.
1. A shellfish license is required for people age 14 and alder.
2. Crab may be taken using crab rings, pots or baited line (limited to 3 rings, pots or lines per person) by hand; dip net; or rake. Pots may be left overnight.
3. Bays, estuaries, beaches, tide pools, piers and jetties are open all year. The ocean is closed for Dungeness crab October 16 through November 30.
4. Daily catch limit per person is:
a. 12 male Dungeness crab
b. 24 red rock crab (any size or sex)
5. No more than 1 daily catch limit per day may be taken per person. No more than 2 daily catch limits per person may be in possession.
6. Minimum size for Dungeness crab is 5 ¾ inches. Size is measured in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but NOT including the widest points.
7. Undersized and female Dungeness crab and unwanted red rock crab must be immediately released unharmed.
8. Crabs may not be mutilated so that sex, size, or species cannot be determined prior to landing. Mutilated crabs may not be transported across state waters.
9. No holding pots, holding devices, or live boxes are allowed in the ocean. Holding pots, holding devices or live boxes in bays and estuaries cannot retain more than 24 Dungeness and 48 red rock crab per holding container.
10. Regulations are subject to change. Contact ODFW for further information.