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!”


Newport looks forward to welcoming you! Click here for more info on visiting Newport.



Where to find your crabbing luck

THE BRIDGE BED, a productive clam lair found below the Yaquina Bay Hwy. 101 bridge, can be accessed from the Rogue brewery parking lot on the southeast corner of the bridge or from South Jetty Road. Gapers and cockles are most commonly found in this area with butter and littlenecks sparsely available. A rake works best in this area for cockles; a shovel is most effective for digging gapers.

IDAHO FLATS is easily accessed from several points along SE 35th Street (Idaho Point Rd), S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., or Hatfield Marine Science Center parking lot. Gaper, butter, cockle, and littleneck clams can all be found throughout these areas. For digging, a shovel would be best; a rake works best for cockles.

SALLY’S BEND is easily accessed from Yaquina Bay Dr. Butter, cockle, and littleneck clams can all be found throughout these areas. These mud flats can have soft spots in higher areas where ghost shrimp are prevalent and walking may be difficult. For digging, a shovel would be best; a rake works best for cockles.

UPPER BAY includes some areas accessible by foot (many points along Yaquina Bay Dr and South Bay Road) and other portions of mud flats that can only be reached by boat. The Eastern softshell clam is abundant in these upper bay areas; other commonly harvested bay clams will not be found this high in the estuary. Softshell clams are usually found 8 to 16 inches below the surface.  A shovel or clam gun is most effective for digging in this area.

DUNGENESS CRABS are found throughout the bay, with most legal crab in the lower bay. Peak harvest months are from June through November. Large sandy flats in depths of 20-30 feet found outside the navigational channel are excellent habitat for Dungeness crab. Primary areas for dock crabbing in Newport are the public fishing pier in South Beach, as well as Abbey Street and Bay Street piers on the Newport Bay front. Native red rock crabs, which prefer the complex habitats that docks offer, are a common catch in these areas. Gear may be set anywhere within public areas along these docks, but be sure not to interfere with boat traffic.

For access to more crabbing grounds, you can rent a boat (or, of course, bring your own). Boat rentals often include crab rings. Try the Newport Marine Store and Charters in South Beach ((541) 867-4470 and www.nmscharters.com), the Embarcadero Resort ((541) 265-8521 or www.embarcadero-resort.com), or Sawyer’s Landing Marina and RV Park (4098 Yaquina Bay Rd, (541) 265-3907) for rentals. 

 

Regulations and Licensing

Fishing seasons and limits are subject to change so, before heading out, it's best to check the current Oregon sport fishing regulations, available where you buy your fishing license, to visit the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Web site at www.dfw.state.or.us, or to call the department's 24-hour information line at 1-800-720-6339.

For current fishing season dates and information, please refer to the Sport Fishing Regulations from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Marine Resources Program.

Beginning this year, a fishing license is required for shellfish, including crabs and clams. Dungeness crabs, which are native in the local waters, are available year-round in Yaquina Bay, although ocean crabbing season is closed Aug. 15-Nov. 30 to allow crabs to molt.

See Harvest Restrictions for various marine reserves along the Oregon coast.

Don’t let the Big One get away!

Charter a sport fishing boat from Newport to catch a variety of ocean delicacies

It all starts with a slight tug that quickly turns into an epic struggle…Fish On! Before you know it, you’re trying to catch your breath while inspecting the fresh catch thrashing about on the end of your line! After landing this delicacy from the deep, the only question is deciding which hearty greens and fine wine will fully complement your evening meal.

Everyone knows that Newport is the premier spot on the Oregon Coast for fresh seafood, but it’s also home to many sport fishing charter boats with experienced crew ready to embark on daily deep sea angling excursions. Tuna, salmon, halibut, cod, and a variety of rockfish are available, and local charter captains will skillfully guide you to where these fish can be found. Sport fishing trips are affordable and frequently available, so you will have no difficulty scheduling a day out on the ocean.

Local charters will have all of the equipment you will need for your fishing trip, and some will allow you to use your own rod if you choose, but be prepared to bring some other essential items. In addition to the charter fee you will need an Oregon fishing license; if you don’t already have one, daily licenses may be purchased with your charter package. To insure a comfortable experience, dress in layers, complete with a rain jacket, hat and gloves. Many charters offer food and drinks, but if yours doesn’t, bring a thermos of coffee or tea, a canteen of water and some snacks or a picnic lunch. Also bring a little cash to tip the captain and crew and to pay for the fish cleaning services at the end of your trip, and be sure leave a cooler with ice in your car to transport your fresh fish.

Most likely, you will check-in and mingle somewhere near the docks of the Port of Newport early on the morning of your scheduled adventure. The captain and crew will invite you on board, and will discuss safety, fishing and boating regulations, how to use your gear, and the procedures for catching and handling your fish. The boat will then motor across Yaquina Bay and under the impressive Bay Bridge that looms overhead, through the channel of the jetty, and out into the Pacific Ocean. Some charters offer crabbing options, and your boat may drop crab pots to be retrieved later on the way back into the docks.

Once on the open ocean, the captain will navigate a course to where various schools of sport fish abound. From this distance, the shoreline recedes inland, and you might be able to recognize important landmarks like the Yaquina Head Lighthouse or the sandy beaches that separate Newport from the ocean. The captain and crew will instruct you on how and when to drop your lure into the depths – this is when the magic happens! The anticipation and excitement is immediately heightened when a member of your fishing party cries, “Fish On!”

It’s easy to lose track of the time when the fish start biting, and the intervals are marked by catching fish or reeling in your gear and moving to a new location to find an unsuspecting group of hungry fish! Before you know it, the fish are piling up in the plastic tubs and buckets, and it’s time to return to the Bay. The trip back to the docks is a time for reflection of how satisfying the day has been, and suddenly how tired you feel as the adrenaline subsides. Once back on land, fish cleaning services are available for a small fee, and your only decision will be planning the menu for the night’s feast.

Chartered fishing is fun and exciting, and it’s also a great opportunity to try and catch your dinner, but remember that even sometimes the big one’s do get away. Catching fish is never guaranteed; that’s part of what makes it such a great sport!

Let’s Go Fishing!

Local fishing charter companies are ready to help you catch the big one!

Newport Tradewinds
653 SW Bay Blvd.
541-265-2101
newporttradewinds.com
Captains Reel Deep Sea Fishing
343 SW Bay Blvd.
541-265-7441
captainsreel.com
Yaquina Bay Charters
1000 SE Bay Blvd. (near the Embarcadero Resort)
541-265-6800
yaquinabaycharters.com
Newport Marine Store & Charters
2128 SE Marine Science Drive, South Beach
541-867-4470
nmscharters.com

What to do with the Catch of the Day

To make the best of your hard-won catch, here are some recipes for preparing locally-caught seafood.

Pan-sautéed Rockfish with Capers

From Food.com

24 ounces rockfish fillets
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp olive oil
1/3 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tb capers
¼ tsp dried herbs (like herbes de Provence)
1 Tb butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2 Tb fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Season the fish on both sides with the salt and pepper. Add the fish to the pan, and cook about 2 -3 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily. Remove the fish to a warm plate. Add vermouth, lemon rind, lemon juice, capers and herbs to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the butter to the pan, whisking to incorporate into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the fish, top with the parsley. Makes 4 servings.

 

Crab Bisque

From the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission

2 Tb butter
1 Tb minced shallots
2 Tb flour
2 c chicken broth
¼ c tomato paste
2 c heavy whipping cream
1 pound Dungeness crab meat
2 Tb sour cream
1 Tb chopped fresh parsley

In a stock pot, over medium heat, sauté the shallots in butter for 2-3 minutes, or until soft. Remove from heat and stir in flour until blended. Return to heat and cook until mixture is bubbly (1-2 minutes). Gradually add the chicken broth, then the tomato paste. Whisk until smooth. Add the whipping cream and crab. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 3-4 minutes and serve with sour cream and a sprinkling of parsley. Makes 6 servings.