Oregon Coast Crabs at Their Meatiest Right Now
(Newport, Oregon) - It's a crabbers delight in the on the Oregon coast as crabmeat is at its best this time of year.
Crabmeat is at its fullest right about now because the crustaceans have gone through their molting process during the fall months and have now filled out their new shells. Every year, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) tests the crabs, and again have found they’ve filled out a littler earlier than usual.
While crabbing in estuaries and bays is open year round, the season for ocean crabbing started December 1. Brandon Ford, with the Newport office of the ODFW, said it’s too early to tell how the season will fare in terms of numbers of crab catches for the public, but commercial fishermen have been reporting good numbers in some cases and so-so numbers in others.
Ford said members of the public were staying away from crabbing because of the cold weather of early December, so this is delaying any judging of the season’s yield further still.
“But when you get one or two crab it’s still fun,” Ford said.
He added slightly greater numbers might be found on the lower Columbia River this year.
While last year’s crab numbers were a little lower than usual, but there are signs for hope for a better season this time around. The dryness the central coast has experienced possibly bodes well for crabbing because lots of rain can flush the crabs out of estuaries and because they don’t like the drop in salinity. This year, there hasn't been as much rain to do that.
While fall crabbing can yield larger catches, they’re not filled out nearly as much. Ford said it usually takes a couple months after molting for the crabs to really fill out.
“Off the Oregon coast, most male crab are full of meat by about December 1,” Ford said. “This year it was a little earlier; some years it’s a little later. Once they are filled out they stay filled out until they molt again in late summer.”
Opening up deep sea crabbing for the public opens up plenty of new possibilities for all kinds of fishermen.
“When ocean conditions permit, anglers can combine crabbing and bottom fishing in one trip,” Ford said. “I believe there are more people looking for those opportunities.”
Ocean crabbing is more adventurous than bay crabbing, but those hardy souls can be greatly rewarded by heading out.
Newport alone has dozens of crabbing spots along the enormous Yaquina Bay, where crabbing is allowed year round. It’s also known as the “Dungeness Crab Capitol of the World,” partially because the area’s fishing fleet has broken many records for crab hauls in recent years.
Ford stressed that the bay is still the safest place to find the Dungeness crab, especially for those new to the sport. He pointed to one special spot in South Beach where crabbing is prime – the long dock that stretches a couple hundred feet out into the bay.
For the adventurer, however, there are about ten charter boat services running out of Yaquina Bay, many of which provide deep-sea fishing and crabbing opportunities.
Other prime crabbing spots – especially for beginners – are the Nehalem Bay and 12th Ave. bridge in Seaside.
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