How to ready the crab (step by step)
Crabbing trips require minimal gear, often available for rent in coastal towns, and while boat crabbing increases your likelihood for success, dockside crabbing is easy and very accessible. Before crabbing, be aware of crab regulations. Knowledge of where, when, and how to crab will increase your chances for success.
It is always good practice to review shellfishing regulations before you head out crabbing. Check out the current regulations online or pick-up a current Oregon Sport Fishing Regulation booklet at any ODFW office or sporting goods store.
Time of year
Smaller estuaries and those with more freshwater influence may be good during the late summer through the early winter. Fall is typically the best time to crab. Beginning in September, crabs will tend to be more “filled out,” meaning there is a higher percentage of quality meat. You can tell meat quality by the condition of the shell. Hard-shelled crabs will contain 20-30 percent meat by weight, compared to soft-shelled crabs which can be as low as 12 percent meat. After heavy rainfall and resulting freshets, crab tends to be less abundant in the bays.
Time of day
“Slack water” (the times of peak high or low tide) are the best times to crab. During swift tidal exchanges crab often bury themselves, but at slack water more crabs are walking around foraging, since they are being less affected by tidal currents.
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 Oct. 16 to Nov. 30.
- Make sure you have your shellfish license, crab measuring device, pots or rings, cooler, bait holders and bait.
- Check all the lines on your crab pots or rings for kinks or knots to ensure they are durable and will allow the gear to work correctly.
- Make sure all your buoys are well-marked so you can tell which posts are yours.
Baiting your gear
Many different types of meat are used for crab baits: turkey, chicken, mink, fish carcass, shad, herring, clams, etc… But whatever you use, fresh bait is best.
- There are many ways to secure your crab bait. As long as the bait stays in the gear when crabbing and the crabs can get to it, most methods will work.
- Keep in mind that seals and sea lions will eat any attractive bait that they can get — including bait laying out on a crab ring. You can avoid this problem by using a bait bag, using bait that they don’t eat (e.g. turkey legs), and avoiding areas where they are prevalent.
Setting your gear and soak time
From a boat:
- Remember to set your crab gear outside of navigational channels.
- Set pots far enough apart so that you aren’t competing with your own gear.
- Try to allow 30-45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with pots and 10-20 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.
From a dock:
- Tie the end of your crab line to the dock or pier from where you are crabbing.
- Throw your crab pot or ring in the water to start crabbing.
- Try to allow 30-45 minutes before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with crab pots and 10-20 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.