We Take Crab Very Seriously Here!
Newport is “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 Crab Capital of the World” became a registered trademark of the city in 2007. The Port of Newport is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet on the Oregon Coast, and has been harvesting record numbers of this prized culinary crustacean for over a decade. Because so much crab is gathered locally, residents and visitors alike are able to purchase fresh crab right off the docks, from area fish markets, and may enjoy crab in many local restaurants. Newport also offers a variety of opportunities for you to catch crab directly from the docks of the Yaquina Bay, or by boat in the bay itself.
Commercial crabbing is a way of life in Newport, and many residents work in the industry harvesting, processing and preparing the popular shellfish. Commercial crabbing from Newport is hard work, and it’s dangerous. During crabbing season, fishermen brave the rough and potentially deadly seas, and extreme weather to collect crab by passing through the Yaquina Bay Jetty, an area simply known as “the bar.” The Yaquina Bay bar is an invisible horizontal barrier, where the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean meet with the much shallower waters coming from the mouth of the Yaquina River, causing extremely perilous conditions for boats leaving and returning to the bay.
Out to sea, beyond the Yaquina Bay bar, commercial crabbers must work along the edge of the Pacific Northwest coastline known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific,” where jagged, unforeseen rocks and severe and rapidly changing weather create hazardous crabbing conditions. The Discovery Channel has even chronicled the life-threatening work environment faced by Newport’s commercial crabbers in the reality series, Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove. In addition to the difficult and harsh working conditions, crab fishermen often have to negotiate the price of crab to get fair payment for their yield.
If you want catch your own crab, the Yaquina Bay is perfect; it requires minimal expense and preparation and provides a great individual, family or group experience. Crabbing in the bay is open year round, although most crab is harvested between June and November. The best times to crab are when there is less difference between high and low tides, and during slack tides. Pick up a copy of the current Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations, a “crab gauge” measuring tool, and an Oregon shellfish license. Examine the regulations closely for instructions on gear to use, limits, and measuring and determining the sex of the crab. Don’t forget to dress in warm clothes and bring gloves. Choose to bait your traps with fresh turkey, chicken, clams, fish carcasses, small fish, or other meat scraps.
If you choose to crab the 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 your own boat make sure that you are crabbing in deep water. 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 can be 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 Pier on 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 and gear rentals, are also readily available on the Historic Bayfront and in South Beach. 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!
If you don’t want to harvest your own Dungeness crab, that’s ok, because local crab is available for purchase. You can often buy crab right off the docks in Newport’s Historic Bayfront on Port Docks 3, 5 or 7, and from specific boats in the South Beach Marina. When you go to the docks or the Marina, look for signs that advertise crab for sale. You may also buy fresh crab from local fish markets that have purchased them the same day from select fishing vessels. Additionally, most local restaurants feature fresh cracked crab, or entrées and dishes that contain the savory shellfish. No matter how you acquire Dungeness crab, you’re sure to love this coastal delicacy if you like crab. Come find out for yourself why Newport is “The Dungeness Crab Capital of the World!”
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