Last Minute Crabbing, Clamming on the Oregon Coast
(Newport, Oregon) – The central Oregon coast is about to be the epicenter of crabbing and clamming for a while.
Late spring means there’s still time to catch crabs and clams at their tastiest on the central coast before several conditions change, and there are other aspects, like runs of low tides, that make this time of year especially inviting for these activities.
Crabbing season draws to a partial close in the fall, clamming gets a little hazy over the summer months, and some of these critters get scarcer during the summer. So now is the time to get out while the gettin’s good. Especially the central coast and the Newport area provide prime catching and digging throughout the spring and summer, where other areas may not at that time.
Bay crabbing is allowed year-round, but the ocean-crabbing season will close in the fall. While razor clamming is open year-round on the central coast, it closes during summer due to spawning on the north coast.
This leaves everything south of Tillamook Head open for clams during the high-season months – which means Newport is a prime digging area.
Meanwhile, both clam meat and crabmeat lessen in quality a bit over the summer and/or become scarcer.
Much of this has to do with mating, spawning and molting.
Summer means a kind of underwater singles bar for crabs and clams, and that’s when their attention is elsewhere and their flesh is not as thick and yummy as other times of the year.
“Their energy goes into spawning and their growth slows down,” said Brandon Ford, with the Newport office of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For crabs, molting begins in late summer and ends in early fall. By late fall, they’ve filled out their new shells and their meat is at its prime during the winter months. Mating also makes them scarcer, and their meat is not as thick or juicy.
But before the summer mating and molting happens, they’re still pretty darn tasty. The combo of bay crabbing and ocean crabbing with lesser crowds (except Memorial Day Weekend), makes this time of year especially inviting.
If you’re a scuba diver, the mating season gives you some extra incentive to head down deep, however. The big male crabs (males are all you’re allowed to catch), are easily visible when clutching the females and waiting for them to molt, said Ford.
For clams, spawning season means less fat content, less meat and their shells are thinner.
During the summer, they become more dormant and harder to find, again leaving the late spring weeks prime last minute clam hunting, but they’re still legal to catch on the central coast throughout summer.
Bay clamming actually improves during the summer.
Razor clams, cockles, gapers and other soft shell clams are a big attraction at places like Newport’s Yaquina Bay.
Late spring will provide some excellent conditions for other reasons as well.
“Bay clamming is really good at minus tides,” Ford said. “There’s a whole set of really low minus tides coming up in late May.”
The north coast has seen record numbers of clams this year. Ford didn’t know the detailed numbers of clams on the central coast, as the counting there hasn’t been as exact as north of Tillamook Head, but the population there seems to be also quite good.
“I’ve talked to a lot of clammers and they seem to indicate they’ve been getting their limits,” Ford said. “People have been fairly successful in that area too. You have to do this when the surf conditions are low, however. You have to watch the tide.”
Among the reported good spots for razor clams is Agate Beach in Newport, Ford said.
Call the ODFW at 541-867-4741 for more information.
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