Cities Guide for the Southern Oregon Coast

Crabbing on the Oregon Coast


You may crab at the Empire boat dock, the Charleston docks, or from a boat. Bays, estuaries, beaches, tide pools, and jetties are open all year. The Ocean is closed for Dungeness crab from August 15 to November 30. Different rules and seasonal closures apply to sport crabbers and commercial crabbers; check Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife regulations.


The best time of the day for crabbing is one hour before and after high tide. The best time of the year to crab is May through October. In the fall and winter they are molting and are soft shelled. 


You may have three rings, pots, or baited lines per person. Other methods that can be used are by hand, dip net, or a rake. No more that 24 (2 daily catches) can be kept in a trap or live box. To keep the crabs fresh, keep them in ice. Do not mutilate crabs so that sex, size or species cannot be determined before leaving the crab taking site. 


The equipment you will need to crab are: crab rings or pots, baited lines, a measuring gauge, gloves, a container for holding crabs, and bait. The equipment may be rented or bought from a variety of stores. Bat can be bought or you can use your own, keeping in mind that crabs are attracted by odor and almost any type of meat can be used for bait. Fresh fish carcasses (do not use cabezon, their natural enemy), chicken and turkey backs, or animal parts, and cat food can be used.

Laws and Limits

A yearly shellfish license is required and can be obtained by most fish supply stores.. The Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations state that the limits are 12 male Dungeness crabs, minimum size 5 & 3/4 inches measured in a straight line across the back immediately in front of, but not including the points on it's side. Red Rock crab may be 24 of any size or sex. Release other unharmed. Undersized, female Dungeness crabs must be released immediately. If you catch or see a green crab, please notify the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as they are tracking this species. 

Soft Shells

An estimated 50% of crabs caught have a soft shell. To test for soft shells, pinch on of the large walking legs and if the shell gives easily the meat is likely to be mushy. Even if the shells give a little, the crab will not be very tasty because they are holding water and there is little meat. These should be returned to the water. Crab are Arthropods; creatures whose skeletal support is on the outside of the body. Crabs outgrow and shed this exoskeleton frequently. 

Cleaning Crabs

Freshly caught crabs are easily and quickly cleaned if this is done before they are cooked. Cleaning prior to cooking eliminates visceral taste, facilitates salt penetration in the body mean, and increases the keeping qualities of the crab meat. 
  • 1. Remove the carapace or back of the crab by forcing edge of the shell against any solid object. 
  • 2. break crab in two by folding it like a hook first up and then down. 
  • 3. Shake out viscera from each half. 

  • 4. Pull off gill filaments. Nothing remains but shell and edible meat.


Crabs should be cooked as soon as practical after cleaning. Add about 3 to 5 ounces of salt per gallon of fresh water or 2 ounces of salt per gallon of salt water. Bring salty water to a boil, drop crabs in and time for 12 to 15 minutes after the water starts boiling. Remove crabs from water and immediately immerse in cold water until cold. 

Check out these other Crab Facts

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