Crab the Yaquina Bay

Come experience why Newport is known as “The Dungeness Crab Capital of the World”

If you know much about Newport, then you know that we take Dungeness crab very seriously here! In fact, the phrase “The Dungeness Capital of the World” became a registered trademark of the city in 2007. Newport’s commercial crabbers have been harvesting record numbers of this prized culinary crustacean for over a decade, but there are many opportunities for visitors and locals alike to search for and collect this delicacy directly from the docks of the Yaquina Bay, or by boat in the Bay itself.

Crabbing in the Yaquina Bay requires minimal expense and preparation and provides a great individual, family or group experience. The Bay is open to crabbing year round, although crab are more “filled out” (or contain a higher percentage of meat) beginning in September and continuing through the winter months. The best times during the day to crab are when there is less difference between high and low tides, and during slack tides as the crabs are not pushed around by tidal exchanges. Avoid crabbing after heavy rains, which often swirl crabs around in the Bay and often limit their ability to feed.

Whether you decide to crab from land or by boat, you will need a few simple items to get started. Grab a copy of the current Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, a “crab gauge” measuring tool, and an Oregon shellfish license. Each crabber must only use three pieces of crab gear (either rings or pots) and harvest no more than 12 male Dungeness measuring at least 5 ¾ inches, (although you may keep up to 24 Red Rock crab, either sex and any size). Don’t forget to dress in warm clothes and bring gloves. Choose to bait your traps with turkey, chicken, clams, fish carcasses, small fish, or other meat scraps, but make sure that your bait is fresh.

If you choose to crab the Yaquina Bay by boat, you will need to stay out of the navigation channel and away from boat traffic. Select a location to drop your pots or traps that is at least 20 feet deep; most charter boats are equipped with depth finders, but if you are renting an unchartered boat make sure to check the Bay at low tide for deep spots. Use sinking line (as opposed to floating line) that is at least twice the estimated depth of the water to avoid getting tangled in boat propellers or swept away by erratic tidal currents. Also make sure that your pots or traps are heavy enough to sink all the way to the sandy bottom, and that your floats and buoys can be easily distinguished from other crabber’s gear.

Crabbing from a dock or pier is much easier and less expensive than crabbing from a boat, although the availability of crab is limited to the specific area that you choose to drop your traps. The Port of Newport public fishing pier (located between the Rogue Brewery and the historic Newport Bay Bridge) in South Beach, and the Abbey Street and Bay Street piers of the Historic Bayfront are some of the best spots to crab. Tie off the end of your crab line to the pier, and position your pots and rings so as to not interfere with boat traffic.

If you choose to use pots, leave them undisturbed for at least 45 minutes before pulling them in to examine your catch. With rings, let them sit at least 10 minutes before checking them, and then pull them up consistently and quickly to allow the basket shape to capture all of the crab in the trap. Crab rings and pots are inexpensive and available in many locations throughout the Newport area, and renting them is even less expensive and might be the best choice for your first crabbing adventure. Bay crabbing charters and boat rentals are also readily available on the Bayfront and in South Beach.

Bay crabbing charters, rental boats and pots are available from the Newport Marina Store and Charters in South Beach, and may be contacted at www.nmscharters.com, or call (541) 867-4470. The Embarcadero Resort (www.embarcadero-resort.com (541) 265-8521) and Sawyers landing Marina and RV Park (541) 265-3907 also offer boats and crabbing gear. Crab rings are inexpensive and can be found in the fishing sections of Walmart, Fred Meyer, Englund Marine, and other local stores.

Talk to crabbers out on the piers and docks to find the best location, what kind of bait is having success, and how many crabs are being caught; most are likely to share helpful information with you. Crabbing in the Yaquina Bay from pier or boat is always a great adventure, and eating the fresh Dungeness crab that you caught yourself is an unmatched culinary experience! Come find out for yourself why Newport is “The Dungeness Crab Capital of the World!”


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