Living Center Oregon

Sustainable Living Center Oregon

Crabbing Oregon Coast

crab_4Dungeness crabs move between Oregon’s bays and the ocean. The bays are open all year to recreational crabbing.

Justin Ainsworth, shellfish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said timing your crabbing trip in the fall is more important to success than figuring out which bay to try. Most bays will be primed with crabs in the latter part of the calendar year, with late September through November usually the very best, with pretty decent crabbing possible from late summer to early winter.

Crabs molt during the summer and take a few months to fill out with good-quality meat, so summertime crabs are lower quality. More quality crabs start to become available in August or September.

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, crabs 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.

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.

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: http://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.

Recreational crabbing also is open in the ocean off Oregon, but unlike bays there is a seasonal ocean closure from Oct. 16 through Nov. 30. Ocean crabbing requires larger boats and higher skills, and better conditions, so bay crabbing is more popular with sport boaters.

Dungeness crab is in season on the Oregon Coast from mid-November to June, and is eaten with delight in worldside, and shipped to other locales as well. The finest crab is caught between November and March, so try to get meat early in the season, if you can. The meat is rich, savory, and so delicious that many people enjoy eating Dungeness crab plain, although there are a variety of tasty preparations for it including salads, sandwiches, crabcakes, and seafood stews like cioppino.

The important thing to remember when cooking this type of crab is that the meat has an excellent and unique flavor which should not be overwhelmed by other ingredients; less really is more. Taste the meat plain before adding seasonings, and use a light hand to dress crab, allowing your guests to actually taste it. Preferably, crab should be cooked live, so clean it after it comes out of the boiler or steamer by splitting it down the middle and removing the center section, along with scraping away the gills on either side.

Crabbing is one of the Oregon Coast’s most enjoyable pastimes. The thrill of pursuing these cagey creatures is justly rewarded with savory table fare. A sport that can be shared with the entire family, crabbing continues to grow in popularity.

 

CRAB MAX CRAB TRAPS

crab maxFolding crab traps are a recent innovation that is changing the face of crabbing from crab docks and the sandy shore. The Crab Max Crab Trap is made in Lincoln City by two handicapped men.

The CRAB MAX shown in the open position with a white hand line is a proven folding crab trap that outperforms conventional crab rings and other folding crab traps.

If the current is running hard, the crab will bury themselves at the river bottom and won’t be lured to the bait. Our Crabbing are timed within an hour of high or low tide, when the current is slack.

Fish carcasses work best as bait. Secure the bait to the bottom of the ring. Lower the baited ring to the river bottom. Upon reaching the bottom, the ring will collapse, allowing the crab to enter the ring. Leave the baited ring in place for approximately 20 minutes.

After the elapsed time, raising the ring quickly will trap the crab in the ring (slowly raising the ring will allow the crab to escape the ring), Immediately sort thru any trapped crabs and release any crabs that are too small, or the wrong gender. Transfer legal Dungeness crab that have been caught to a bucket or pail filled with salt water. Crab should be kept alive until it is time for cooking.

Danielson crab traps

Danielson crab traps usually come unrigged with non-weighted doors. These pots are very attractive to the occasional crabber that goes out a couple times a season, because they are designed to collapse into a nice flat square for easy storage.

davidsonWhen they are used in this manner, they are a little wobbly. If you don’t plan to collapse them and intend to use them more regularly then you can make them a little more rigid by using slip jaw pliers to secure and tighten the metal loops that connect the sides to the bottom and top of the pot. In addition, use of plastic “tie wraps” at the corners and top and bottom will also make a more noticeably rigid pot.

A word of caution when tightening down the metal loops using slip jaw pliers, these pots are made of wire with a vinyl coating. If you cut or nick the vinyl coating the saltwater will attack the bare metal and result in a weak spot in the pot. Generally speaking, if you fish these pots hard (multiple days, most of the season) they will last about 3 years.

Crab Bait

Many different types of meat are used for crab baits: turkey, chicken, mink, fish carcass, shad, herring, clams, etc…fresh bait is best.  There are just as many ways of securing your crab bait. As long as the bait stays in the gear when crabbing, and the crabs can get to it, most any method will work.

Keep in mind that seals and sea lions will eat attractive bait that they can access (e.g. laying out on a crab ring). You can avoid this problem by using a bait bag, using bait that they don’t eat (e.g. turkey legs), or avoiding areas where they are prevalent.

Cooking Crabs

The most widely accepted method of cooking crab is in salt water. Ensure the pot is sufficient in size to allow plenty of space to cook the crab; don’t squeeze them into a small pot or inadequate amount of water. Add salt to the water and bring the pot to a rolling boil on the stove or campfire.

Depending on the size of your crab pot, drop the live crab into the boiling water, one at a time. This is the most humane method to kill your catch (death is instantaneous), and the safest for human consumption (no potential toxins are released into the crab meat). Allow sufficient room for each crab to boil freely. If the pot is overcrowded, the water will cool resulting in cooking conditions that are less than ideal.

Cook the crab for about approximately 10 minutes, starting the elapsed time after the water has returned to a full boil. Overcooking will yield crabmeat that is dry and stringy. Once cooked, the crab shell will turn pink. Remove the cooked crab from the water and let cool before cleaning.

Cleaning Crabs

Cleaning the crab is easy, once you have the know-how. Snap off the outer shell; place your fingers under one edge and give it a tug. It takes neither great coordination nor Herculean strength. Remove the gills, and the yellowish organs with your fingers under running water. If you let the water do all of the work, some of the delightful flavor will be lost. Just dig in and do it! A gentle rinse with water is a good idea.

Crab meat is extremely perishable. The crab should be kept alive until it is cooked, cleaned immediately after cooking, and kept on ice until ready for eating. Plan your crab feast typically within 24 hours of your catch. If you would like to eat your crab hot, simply place the cleaned crab into boiling, salted water for a moment or two.

Suggestion: Dungeness crab has a mild, delicate flavor. Although it would enhance practically any seafood recipe, try eating the crab just by itself cold, right out of the shell, or hot, dipped into drawn butter.

Setting your traps and soak time

Remember to set your crab gear outside of navigational channels.  Set pots an adequate space apart from each other so that you aren’t competing against your own gear.

Try and allow between 30-45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with pots and 10-20 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.

daitLocate your buoy and approach slowly along the side of the boat. Grab crab line just below the buoy with hand or gaff. A “crab davit” makes retrieval much easier on your back.

When using crab rings, be sure to pull quickly at first to allow the ring to set up in a basket shape to retain all the crab feeding.

Quickly sort through crab, being careful to not break crab legs or get your fingers pinched.  An experienced crab handler will sort crabs by keeping them at ease. They want to get out, but they don’t want to be forcefully grabbed. A quick shake of the pot is often more effective then reaching directly for them.

Learn the difference between male and female crab.  With a crab gauge measure all male Dungeness crab retained. Only retain the male Dungeness crab that are 5 ¾” inches across the back (NOT including the spines) or wider.  When measuring make sure you measure in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but NOT including the last points.  Store legal sized “Keeper” crabs in a cooler with ice or ice packs or in a bucket of cooler with water.

If you keep your crabs in bucket or cooler with water make sure to change the water frequently to keep the water cool and oxygenated

Releasing “soft shell” crab is strongly recommended. Soft shelled crab are newly molted and are essentially a small crab in a big crabs body. Meat pick out can be very low (as little as half that of a crab in good condition) and the quality of the meat is usually stringy and less palatable.

Dock Crabbing

Dock crabbing is open year round, requires little gear, and is easily done.  Make sure you have your shellfish license, crab measuring implement, pots or rings, cooler, bait holders and bait supply.  Many different types of meat are used for crab baits: turkey, chicken, mink, fish carcass, shad, herring, clams, etc…fresh bait is best.

There are just as many ways of securing your crab bait.  As long as the bait stays in the gear when crabbing, and the crabs can get to it, most any method will work.

Keep in mind that seals and sea lions will eat attractive bait that they can access (e.g. laying out on a crab ring). You can avoid this problem by using a bait bag, using bait that they don’t eat (e.g. turkey legs), or avoiding areas where they are prevalent.

Bait Bag

  1. Attaching a bait bag to a crab trap
  2. Setting your gear and soak time
  3. Tie the end of your crab line to the dock or pier from where you are crabbing.
  4. Throw your crab pot or ring in the water and start crabbing.
  5. Try and allow between 30-45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with crab pots and 10-20 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.

Sorting Crabs

Quickly sort through crab, being careful to not break crab legs or get your fingers pinched.  An experienced crab handler will sort crabs by keeping them at ease. They want to get out, but they don’t want to be forcefully grabbed. A quick shake of the pot is often more effective then reaching directly for them.

Be sure to carefully and quickly release crab, do not throw them from heights as this will often crack their carapace and kill them.

REGULATIONS

  1. A shellfish license is required for people age 14 and alder.
  1. 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.
  1. Bays, estuaries, beaches, tide pools, piers and jetties are open all year. The ocean is closed for Dungeness crab October 16 through November 30.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Undersized and female Dungeness crab and unwanted red rock crab must be immediately released unharmed.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Regulations are subject to change. Contact ODFW for further information.

 

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This entry was posted on April 23, 2018 by .