Dungeness Crabbing in Oregon

3 Jan

Our catch of Dungeness Crab for the day

One of the finer things about living in the Pacific Northwest is the bounty of food you can catch for your dinner, whether it’s a glistening rainbow trout from the deep cold lakes of the Cascade mountains, or hauling in bustling pots full of meaty Dungeness crabs from the bays and jetties of the Pacific Ocean. Commercial crabbing season is in full swing right now in Oregon, but you can privately catch Dungeness crab year round if you have a license, crab pots, and a tolerance for getting wet!

Crabbing can be seriously fun if you have the right combination of weather, tides and luck. We’ve had several friends go crabbing with us on the Siletz Bay and say it was the best time they’ve ever had on the coast! While we don’t limit out every time we head to the bay to crab, it is rare that we don’t bring in at least a few crabs for dinner.  To me, the entire experience of crabbing make the sweet, delicate meat of the Dungeness even sweeter at the end of a long day on the water.

Today’s recipe is not so much a recipe, but a guide to catching, cooking and cleaning (and eating!) your own crab for dinner.

Dungeness Crab A to Z

First things first. Buy your crabbing license and read the rules in the ODFW Sport Fishing Regulations guide that you can pick up free when you buy your license. The fines are hefty and you could buy a lot of crab dinners at the finest restaurants if you are caught deviating from the regs. If you don’t own any crab pots, not to worry! They are available for rental at hundreds of marines and local businesses up and down the Oregon coast. No boat? Not a problem either. You can also crab using a specially rigged fishing pole, which you can cast into the water right from the shore, or throw your pots off one of they many public piers and jetties.

Next you will want to buy some bait for the pots. The stinkier the better. We like to pick up some mink from a local fishing camp on our way out, the crab seem to really go for it. Chicken is another good bet, but if we use chicken we like to leave it out overnight (away from the critters) so it’s nice and smelly the next day.

Good-sized crabs in this pot!

If you are using a crab ring instead of a pot, only leave them out for about 10-15  minutes at a time, as the crab will just move on after having their fill. And once you start pulling it up, pull it up quickly and don’t lose any tension on the line or the crabs will get away! For this reason we only use one crab ring, the rest are pots we can leave out for lengths of time to go fishing up the river in the hopes of catching a salmon too.

Make sure you measure the crab carefully and check to see if they are male or female before tossing into the live well. Dungeness crab must be male and 5 3/4 inches across the shell, not including tips, to be legal to keep.  How can you tell them apart? Let’s just say the male crab has a long, narrow abdomen, while the female abdomen is wide and rounded. You can keep up to 12 males per day, with no more than two limits in your possession.

Keep the crab alive until ready to cook by using a live well on your boat filled with ocean water, or you can use a bucket or cooler. If you’ll be out for a long time, refresh the water a few times throughout the day. Once you have your limit or daylight is running out, head back to camp and fire up the crab pot! Fill the pot full of fresh water that would cover the crabs several inches. Pour in about a half a can of Old Bay Seasoning and bring to a rapid boil. Carefully toss in the live crab, bring back to a boil, and cook for 15-20 minutes. Drain the pot, and let cool enough to handle the crabs for cleaning, or you can use special crabbing gloves to handle them while steaming hot.

To clean the crabs, pull out the apron (the abdomen) of the crab. This will allow you to pop the shell off the top, which is called the carapace. Just put your thumb in the back of the hole left by the apron and pry it off. Now break the crab in half, and shake the two halves as hard as you can a few times to clear out the gills and other innards. Rinse the crab thoroughly at this point. Melt some butter and garlic in a pot. Put the steaming crabs in front of you and sit down with a sturdy fork to crack open the legs. You are now ready to feast on the sweetest most succulent crab meat you will ever taste. Now wasn’t that all worth it?

Cooked Dungeness crab for dinner

5 Responses to “Dungeness Crabbing in Oregon”

  1. Becky January 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm #



  2. anotherfoodieblogger September 21, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Reblogged this on anotherfoodieblogger and commented:

    My husband and I just spent a fabulous week of fishing and crabbing on the Siletz River and Bay, so figured it would be a good time to reblog one of my very first posts about crabbing in Oregon. We pulled in 31 Dungeness crab between three of us in just a few hours! Sadly, no salmon were interested in our lures/bait the entire time we fished all week, although we saw others bring some in. The water is still a bit too warm for them to be running hard upriver. But a big storm is heading that way this week, so hopefully on our next trip I’ll finally land “The Big One.”


  3. Pat September 21, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    I am solo jealous! Haven’t had dungeness crab since we sold our seafood business. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

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