When is Crab Season in Oregon

By Teo Spengler

Preparing for the crabbiest vacation to the Pacific Northwest

When is Crab Season in Oregon

Those traveling to Oregon during crab season can buy fresh crabs at great prices to cook themselves or eat in restaurants. But if you visit outside crab season, it's good to know that, in Oregon, you can crab year round in bays and estuaries. Here are the answers to the most pressing questions about crabbing in Oregon.

Q: When is crab season in Oregon?

A: The crab season in Oregon generally is open from December 1 through August 14. It closes on August 14 through November 30 when crabs are in the process of filling in their shells. It can be altered by the state to preserve crab populations.

Q: So nobody can catch fresh crab in the fall?

A: That's not true. The crab season limits apply only to ocean-caught Dungeness crab. Fishermen can take crab from estuaries and bays all year long. You can stand on the beach, on piers or on jetties. You can never crab in marine gardens, marine reserves, research reserves, habitat refuges and shellfish preserves. These protected areas are well-marked.

Q: Do I need a license to crab?

A: Yes. Everyone over the age of 12 who wants to crab must purchase a marine shellfish license. This entitles you to crab for a year. It also entitles you to take clams, abalone, oysters, mussels, octopus, shrimp and squid under the limits set out by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Q: What kinds of crabs are out there?

A: You'll find two types of crab in Oregon waters, the celebrated Dungeness crab and red rock crab.

Q: Are there different rules and limits for the two types?

A: Yes there are. There is no season for red rock crabs. You can take them year round, up to 24 crabs per day, any size or sex. With Dungeness crabs, you can take 12 male crabs per day. Each must be at least 5.75 inches long. All female crabs and crabs smaller than 5.75 inches (measured directly across the shell) must be thrown back.

Q: How do you catch crab?

A: Under Oregon law, you can catch crab in crab rings, crab pots or on baited lines. You can use only three rings, pots or lines at one time. You can also grab them with your hands, a net or a rake.

Q: How do you tell a Dungeness from a red rock crab?

A: Dungeness crab are deep purple and have white tipped claws. Red rock crab are brick red and their claws are tipped in black.

Q: How do you tell a female Dungeness from a male?

A: Flip a crab on its back and look for a plated abdominal flap in the center of the crab. Females have a wide flap that is rounded, males have a thin flap in a narrow Christmas tree shape.

Q: When is the best time to crab?

A: According to Oregon experts, late fall is the best time to crab as the crab “fill out,” giving them a higher percentage of quality meat. For best results, crab at slack water when the high or low tide peaks. Since there are less tidal currents then, more crab are walking around foraging.

Q: What are the best crabbing bays?

A: The best crabbing bays year round are Coos Bay, Yaquina Bay and Tillamook Bay. In late summer, you may have better luck at smaller estuaries or estuaries with more freshwater influence.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.