Photo courtesy of Denis LeBlanc
The pursuit of Dungeness crabs along the Oregon coast is popular with locals and visitors alike. Practically every river that empties into the Pacific Ocean in Oregon has a town nestled at its mouth, and that town likely has a public fishing dock and a marina or bait shop that will provide everything needed for crabbing. The tiny village of Winchester Bay at the mouth of the Umpqua River is a fine example and a great place to try crabbing.
The commercial part of Winchester Bay is not much more than a cluster of restaurants and bait shops supporting the massive Salmon Harbor, the long arms of which provide slips for boats and hundreds of RV camping spots. Here the aspiring crabber can rent a trap or two, pick up some fish heads, sand shrimp, or chicken pieces for bait, and buy the required State of Oregon license ($9 for residents and $26 for non-residents for an annual license).
Just a short drive from the harbor is the Douglas County parking lot for the public fishing pier that juts 700 feet into the river. Almost any time of day there will be someone out on the pier tossing crab traps into the water. Many more traps will be tied up while the owners attend to other things. There is always great anticipation when a trap is pulled up: Are there any crabs? More importantly, any keepers? The crabbing pier is a great place to chat with people, and starting a conversation is easy: “Any luck yet?” Crabbing can be a very social activity with people bringing wine and snacks and sharing crabbing lore and tall tales.
Crabs are very sensitive to the tides, and the best time for crabbing is generally a couple of hours before and after high tide, when the tidal currents are weakest.
Note: There are many other towns that are popular for crabbing on the Oregon coast including Netarts, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Yachats, Charleston, Bandon, Port Orford and Brookings.
Rules, Regulations and Licenses
A shellfish license is required for anyone over 12 years old. Before heading out, be sure to call the Shellfish Hotline at 1.800.448.2474 to confirm seasonal closures, or visit the State of Oregon’s Shellfish Biotoxin Closure page.
- Dungeness crab: Daily limit of 12 male crabs (it is prohibited to catch and keep females), minimum size 5 3/4 inches. Crabbing is open in estuaries (i.e. bays), beaches, tide pools, piers, and jetties year round. Crabbing in the ocean is CLOSED for Dungeness crab from October 16 to November 30.
- Red rock crabs: Daily limit of 24, any size or sex.
- Razor clams: Daily limit of 15.
- Bay clams (gaper, butter, littleneck, cockle, and geoduck): Daily limit of 20 (only 12 of which can be gaper clams). No more than one daily limit per day may be taken per person. No more than two daily limits may be in possession. If unbroken, butter (Saxidomus giganteus), cockle (Clinocardium nuttallii), or little-neck (Protothaca staminea) clams may be returned only in immediate digging area. All other clams must be retained regardless of size or condition.
- Softshell and piddocks clams: Daily limit of 36.
- Purple varnish clams: Daily limit of 72.
- Shrimp and prawns: Daily limit of 20 pounds including the shell.
- Mud and ghost shrimp: No limit.
- Mussels: Daily limit of 72.
- Sand crabs, mole crabs, kelp worms and sand worms: No limit.
Call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1.800.448.2474 for more information.