Succulent, sustainable crab is easy to find on the Oregon Coast
By Rachel Bucci
While the Pacific Northwest’s Dungeness crab is prized for its sweet, delicate flavor, Oregon’s Dungeness — the official state crustacean — also tops among eco-conscious diners. That’s because the state’s crab fishery is the only one in the world that’s certified sustainable.
Thanks to a monitoring program introduced by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife referred to as the three S’s — size, sex, and season — only mature male crabs measuring at least 6.25 inches across the shell can be kept during the commercial crabbing season that typically runs between December and August. Females are returned to the water, thus ensuring future harvests.
Recreational crabbing is allowed year-round in Oregon’s tidal bays, estuaries, and coastal rivers. If you’d like to try your hand at crabbing, it’s easy to get started, and a novice has as good a chance of landing a keeper as a salty old-timer does.
You can rent or purchase equipment — a crab pot or trap — at just about any fishing shop along the Coast. Pick up a shellfish license, familiarize yourself with the limits and regulations, and then head for one of the state’s many crabbing hot spots. These include the jetties along the Columbia River in Fort Stevens State Park, the waterfront docks in Charleston, the Yaquina Bays docks in Newport (which claims the title “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World”), and the Jetty Fishery in Nehalem Bay, where would-be crabbers can rent a crab ring for the day and have their catch cooked dockside. Alsea Bay near Waldport, with boat access and a public dock, is another great spot for pulling up the Dungy.
Feeling lucky? Each September the Winchester Bay Crab Bounty Hunt makes crabbing very rewarding. Crab is numbered with metal tags, and one lucky crab is good for a cash prize of $1,000.
If you’d rather let someone else do battle with these clawed creatures, visit one of the many seafood stands that dot Highway 101. Or check out the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival in February; the Astoria Warrenton Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival in April; or the Charleston Seafood Festival in August.