All about Dungeness crab
Meet the Oregon State Crustacean—the Dungeness crab. This species is found all along the West Coast of North America in a range that extends from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to Point Conception, near Santa Barbara, California. It is occasionally found as far south as Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Oregon is right in the middle of prime Dungeness crab habitat. As well as being prolific in our region, Dungeness is a valued food product. Dungeness crabs produce more meat per unit than any other crab —25% of their body weight is meat.
When is Dungeness crab in season?
Oregon’s Dungeness crab season typically opens sometime in December of each year. The season extends until August, but most crabs are harvested in the first eight weeks of the season. Commercial fishers operate under a limited entry (set number of permits) and pot limit up to 500 pots. Fishers use crab pots to harvest the crabs, relying on the 3 S’s: Size, Sex, and Season. Crab carapaces must be over 6.25 inches. Only males can be kept, allowing females to carry eggs and reproduce. These balances are what nakes the harvest sustainable. Dungeness live up to 10 years and are harvested at four years. Oregon fishers land a whopping $70 million pounds of Dungeness crab each year!
Where can I find Dungeness crab?
Dungeness crab turns up for sale in season in seafood markets, on menus in restaurants, and directly from the fishers on docks up and down the Oregon Coast. Dungeness can be frozen, but the high demand and delicious nature of this product means it is most often purchased and consumed quickly after it is caught. Dungeness is excellent on salads, in sandwiches, and in any variety of meals. Dungeness crab mac and cheese is a fan favorite! The time-tested, classic approach is to crack the crab meat right out of the shell, dipping the meat in melted butter. Expect Dungeness to sell out quickly wherever you find it.
A few places to find fresh crab in season: Local Ocean is a great place for a view of the Yaquina Bay in Newport, and fresh cooked crab from local boats. Their roasted garlic crab bisque is a local favorite too. Fisherman-owned Luna Sea Fish House in Yachats and Seal Rock both offer steamed crab in-season. In downtown Coos Bay, visit Shark Bites Café for local Dungeness crab cakes.
Where can I experience Oregon Dungeness fisheries?
The opening weeks of the Dungeness season can be a whirlwind of activity. If you’re anywhere near a port, you might see dozens of boats with lights blazing as fishers go out for the daily catch limit. As the boats come in, you might find the fishers selling crab directly from the dock or see the fruits of their labors pop up in local seafood markets nearby.
Care to catch your own? The state crustacean can be found in bays and the ocean near Seaside, Garibaldi or Newport. Tackle shops will help you buy a license and gear and show you which crabs you must throw back. Toss a crab pot, ring or lightweight folding trap from a boat or right off the dock.
Fun facts about Dungeness crab
- After a planktonic larval stage, crab settle to the bottom.
- They are scavengers.
- They molt to grow larger and can molt up to six times a year when young.
- A female crab can carry up to 2.5 million eggs.
- Crabs walk sideways, and if they lose a leg, they can grow a new one.
More to know
It’s likely you’ll find Dungeness crab on menus and in markets in just about any community on the Oregon Coast while it’s in season. Simply ask your chef, server or grocer where you can find sustainable and local Dungeness crab, as well as other sustainable seafoods available to you as you travel the Oregon Coast.