Crabs Make for Fascinating Finds Now on Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – If you like catching crab there is OK news right now, but finding parts of them may be a series of stunning surprises. (Above: crab molt graphic from ODFW)
Experts at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) say crabbing has been good in bay along the Oregon coast rather than in the ocean, but early molting of male Dungeness crab is making them not as good for culinary uses as they could be.
It's been happening on both the north coast and south coast, ODFW said.
“A recently-molted crab has a softer shell and the meat, while still good to eat, is watery and less dense,” ODFW said. “You can tell if a crab has recently molted if the section of shell just behind the crab claw gives a little when you pinch it. Many crabbers return soft-shell crabs to the ocean so they can fill out.”
Rainy periods tend to chase crabs out of bays as that decreases the amount of salt water.
Recreational harvest of Dungeness crab in Oregon’s bays and estuaries is open year round.
ODFW said ocean crabbing has not been bad, however, although not as productive as in the bays.
If you're looking to find crab shells along the beaches, now is a good time because of that molting. ODFW said crabs tend to molt all at the same time, resulting in large numbers of shells showing up on the beach around the same time as well.
“It can look like a major disaster occurred to the crab population, but it’s as natural as kids outgrowing their old shoes,” ODFW said.
You can tell the difference between a shell from a molt and a dead crab by looking at the molt line.
Parts of this, by the ODFW's descriptions, sounds like something out of an alien movie. Crabs sometimes molt by losing a lot of their bodies – old gills, antennae and even parts of the mouth. This larger kind of molt is called a whole exuvia
“Every detail is there except the crab,” ODFW said. “In summer months, when Dungeness crab molting activity peaks, ODFW usually receives calls reporting “many dead crab on the beach” which are almost always these molts.”
Bays good for crabbing include Siletz Bay (Lincoln City), Nestucca Bay (Pacific City), Alsea Bay (Waldport, near Yachats), Necanicum Estuary (Seaside, near Cannon Beach), Nehalem Bay (Manzanita, Wheeler), Newport's Yaquina Bay and Tillamook Bay near Oceanside.
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