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Crabbing on Oregon Coast at its Prime Right Now


Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats & Florence.


Secrets of the Season

Crabbing on Oregon Coast at its Prime Right Now

Bay full of boats in Newport

(Newport, Oregon) – It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and not just in a holiday kind of way. It’s a season of great gifts for those who love crabbing on the Oregon coast.

Dungeness crab is at its best quality about now, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). The commercial crabbing season will kick off on December 1, which also means that private citizens can head out for a bit of adventure by going crabbing on the ocean.

Catching the coveted crustaceans is open year round in the numerous Oregon coast bays and estuaries, but only during commercial crabbing season can members of the public snag them from the deep.

One of Newport's many docks

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“Right now is the prime time for crabbing,” said Brandon Ford, an ODFW spokesman in Newport. “It’s the best conditions throughout winter and into the spring. The pre-season testing of ocean crab for the commercial fishery showed that crabs had hard shells and were full of meat. And crabbing in the bays and estuaries has improved in the last couple of weeks.”

Ford said that crabmeat is typically at its best this time of year, as they are plump and full of meat after filling their new shells with body mass since the molting season that happened earlier this year.

Newport alone has dozens of crabbing spots along the enormous Yaquina Bay, where crabbing is allowed year round. It’s also known as the “Dungeness Crab Capitol of the World,” partially because the area’s fishing fleet has broken many records for crab hauls in recent years.

Nehalem Bay shows its love of the crab

Other Oregon coast bays provide plenty of crabbing opportunities, such as Nehalem Bay, Tillamook Bay, Waldport’s Alsea Bay, the Siuslaw River (at Florence), Netarts Bay, Nestucca Bay and Seaside’s Necanicum River and bay. There, the 12 Ave. Bridge is a hotbed for fishermen, with their lines looped over the railings. But crabbing is hot here as well.

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"You can crab in Young's Bay or out of Hammond, but you need a boat," said Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium. "The 12th Avenue Bridge is popular because you need a boat in the Necanicum Bay, and restrooms and all sorts of other conveniences are nearby."

In some of these bays, red crab can be caught as well.

Commercial boat on Newport's Yaquina Bay

Commercial crab season opens December 1, and this means that the ocean will be open for crabbing to private citizens. There are, of course, a limited number of nice, calm days for this endeavor, but Ford said those hardy souls interested in this adventurous form of crabbing are growing in numbers – and they are often rewarded.

“When ocean conditions permit, anglers can combine crabbing and bottom fishing in one trip,” Ford said. “I believe there are more people looking for those opportunities. The crabs are generally bigger in the deep ocean, although it is often a matter of luck, like any sport fishing.”

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Ford stressed that the bay is still the best place to find the Dungeness crab, especially for those new to the sport. He pointed to one special spot in South Beach where crabbing is prime – the long dock that stretches a couple hundred feet out into the bay.

Docks at Nehalem Bay

“In South Beach, there’s that dock that goes way into the water, and it’s mostly used for fishing,” Ford said. “But you can crab from there. It’s excellent. I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t tried it before to come out here and do a little crabbing. It’s really fun.”

Aside from numerous crabbing spots all along Yaquina Bay, some bayside lodgings provide crab cookers for guests. These include the Landing at Newport and Embarcadero Resort.

For the adventurer, however, there are about ten charter boat services running out of Yaquina Bay, many of which provide deep-sea fishing and crabbing opportunities.

In the Nehalem Bay, Jetty Fishery provides boats, docks and crabbing rentals, on top of cooking opportunities. Some other hotels along the coast provide crab-cooking spots for guests, as do several other businesses.

Tillamook Bay

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Other benefits for crabbers this time of year include what is called the “value season” in Newport, which refers to the lower lodging prices – sometimes close to 50 percent less than in summer season. There are lower prices on just about everything in the Newport area as well as the rest of the coast. Lodging prices are less everywhere, with the higher end hotels dropping their prices more than the less expensive lodgings.

This season bodes well for those who want to indulge in the Dungeness at a myriad of Oregon coast restaurants, said Chandler.

“I’m excited the commercial crabbers are starting on time,” he said. “It means there will be plenty of it available around Christmas time. Usually, there’s some sort of price dispute between the catchers and the processors. But not this year, so they’re actually starting on December 1.”

You must have an annual shellfish license to go crabbing – the cost of which is $6.50 per year. For more information on Oregon coast crabbing, see www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/crab/, or call ODFW’s Newport office at 541-867-4741.

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