Did you know Oregon has a state crustacean? It’s the mighty Dungeness crab, which is one of the meatiest and sweetest crabs out there — tasty and available on menus year-round, but at its peak-season freshest in winter. December through mid-August (check MyODFW for specific dates), you’ll find Oregon’s commercial fishermen hard at work at Oregon’s coastal ports, catching and supplying restaurants and markets. Here’s how and where to buy fresh crab from three working docks on the Coast — just don’t forget your cooler.

Garibaldi — Garibaldi is one of at least two ports that host free Shop at the Dock classes for the public, designed to teach visitors how to see what’s fresh, high-quality and sustainable, and to purchase seafood — everything from crab to albacore tuna, shrimp, rockfish, whitefish and more — directly from the source. Check the schedule for dates and register to book your spot before attending. Classes run spring through fall in Garibaldi and during summer in Newport.

Newport — Chelsea Rose Seafood at Port Dock 3 in Newport is a historic fishing vessel that operates as a middleman to sell fresh tuna (and canned), halibut, salmon, crab, lingcod and rockfish directly from the dock. This and other floating shops are excellent places to ask questions and purchase seafood since they’re designed to deal directly with the public. Also in Newport, Local Ocean is a restaurant that sells fresh seafood from the dock.

Charleston — Since 1953 the family-run Chuck’s Seafood has been processing, cooking and smoking fresh seafood caught straight from the ocean, just outside their front door. The seafood is so fresh, customers are asked to call to see what’s biting that week — there’s no guarantee that quantities of hand-shucked oysters, scallops, salmon, albacore tuna, halibut or crab will last.

If you go:

When you visit one of Oregon’s docks, make sure to dress for the weather, especially wearing good shoes since the surface may be slick. Bring a chest or cooler with ice in it and cash for purchases in case credit cards aren’t accepted. Be mindful that during the season, there’s a lot of action happening around the boats, so be cautious and alert to your surroundings, including keeping an eye on children. You can take your fresh seafood to any fishmonger and have it cleaned, or you can also buy it already picked and sold as meat at many dockside spots. Looking for ways to prepare your crab when you get it home? Find recipes at OregonDungeness.org.

By Jen Anderson

Photo by Steve Dimock