Fishing and Crabbing

Crabs ‘R’ us!

Crabbing is a favorite year-round pastime at the Central Coast, but it is at its best in months which contain an “R”!

There are two ways to fill your cooler with succulent Dungeness crab. The sure-fire method of sailing with a local charter operator on a crab-fish combo will deliver a limit of superior Dungies plus baskets of ocean-fresh rock fish.

Brave crabbers who strike out on their own will find rich and productive crabbing spots hidden along the bays, estuaries, beaches, tide pools, piers and jetties that dot the area’s coastline.

With these secret tips from old-timers, you can fill your kitchen sink with limit amounts of Dungeness and Red Rock crabs akmost anytime.

It’s a sport all can enjoy, whether from boat or dock. There are as many rules for crabbing as there are crabbers on how long to leave a crab ring in the water, what kind of bait to use and the type of trap which is most effective. There is one rule, however, which is firm: you can only harvest male Dungies measuring at least 5-3/4 inches from inside the points on the crab’s back. The gender is established by checking the breast plate  — check the ODFW regulations for an explanatory diagram

Most who practice the sport check the bottom depth at low tide to see where the shoals and holes are in Yaquina bay. Others have boats equipped with depth finders to aid in finding the spots where their quarry is likely to hole up. Most of those with depth finders are friendly toward the novice and are happy to share their secrets. There’s plenty of crab down there to go around.

Bait shops such as Newport Marina Store & Charters Inc. in South Beach are helpful in advising the type of bait to use. In waters thick with seals and sea lions like Newport Bay, most old-timers recommend chicken. Some crabbers, however, feel that fish carcasses are more productive in spite of the seals stealing them nearly as fast as the ring can be rebaited. Give a fish filleter a couple of bucks at the dock for some fish entrails.

Most crabbers are watchful of the tide and prefer starting out about two hours before high tide. But others make the case that an hour or so before low tide works best.

Crab pots and boats can be rented at Newport Marina for $60 for four hours $80 for all day. Crab rings are cheap and abundant in the fishing sections of Walmart, Fred Meyer and Englund Marine, among other retailers. Most tackle shops have several ingenious set-ups for crabbing with a fishing pole. In fact, Red Rock crabs are often caught while rockfishing with hooks.    

The Newport docks are usually productive. But remember: the hardest places to get to are the best spots. 


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, the Embarcadero Resort ((541) 265-8521 or, 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, 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.

Fishing Charters:

A Reel Adventure in Newport

If you’re a real DIY kind of person, you’d rather catch your own fish than buy it at the market or order it in a restaurant. No boat? No problem. It’s easy to reserve yourself a spot on one of Newport’s many charter boats, and chase after delicious quarry from rockfish to salmon to tuna. 

While charter fishing trips go out year-round, summer weather is usually a bit more calm and comfortable for heading out to sea. Depending on the target species, trips can range from three hours for bay crabbing trips to more than 24 hours for offshore tuna in mid-summer and fall. No experience is required; in fact, beginners are sometimes the captain’s favorite clients. Dell Wilkison, a commercial and charter boat captain for more than 36 years whose boat can be chartered through Newport Tradewinds, explains, “You can’t beat women, children, and newbies – they don’t have any bad habits to break!” 

Captain Dell and lots of others are ready and waiting to take you fishing. Here are some basics to keep in mind. 

There are seasons and limited windows to fish for some species, so not every fish is available for the taking all the time. For all of the details on the types and lengths of trips available at a given time, be sure to call the charter company. Bottomfishing trips, which focus on rockfish and lingcod, generally leave the dock year-round. Most outfits run five-hour and ten-hour bottomfish trips, depending on the time of year and how far offshore you’re interested in venturing. The five-hour bottomfishing trips in particular are extremely family-friendly. In season, you can often find 8- or 10-hour combination trips that will take you fishing for both bottomfish and salmon. One-day licenses that will cover you for the trip are generally available from the charter companies; boats will inform you of limits on various species.

Salmon is the Pacific Northwest’s iconic fish, and by many accounts they are bouncing back from some tough years. Summer salmon trips target either coho (mid-June to mid-August) or Chinook (June – October). You will need licenses and tags for salmon fishing, but both are available from the charter companies (usually annual licenses are not available for purchase, though).

Halibut “openers,” short windows of time during which anglers are allowed to fish for these giant flatfish, are scattered throughout the year, and vary depending on assessments of how many fish there are. They are fished until a set total quota is reached, so later halibut dates might not be fished at all. Remaining proposed spring halibut opener dates are July 4, 5, 6, 18, 19, and 20 (if spring quota remains), and summer halibut dates are August 2, 3, 16, 17, 30, and 31. There are more dates planned (every other weekend until October 26), but only if the quota has not been reached, which is considered unlikely. 

Albacore tuna usually show up in June or July and stick around close enough to shore to catch until mid-fall. These gorgeous and delicious fighting fish are caught with either rod and reel or a hand-line. Albacore is a delicacy, whether barbecued, canned, or eaten raw, sushi-style. Newport Tradewinds runs a marathon tuna trip: 33 hours at sea to cover multiple bouts of fishing. Captain Dell says, “If we’re out far enough at night we can put lights out for squid on these trips too.” Sushi and calamari in one trip -- sounds like heaven to me.

Finally, if it’s crab you’re after, you can catch them, too, either on a dedicated bay crabbing trip (for example, Captain’s Reel offers a three-hour crabbing trip) or by adding on ocean crabbing with most of the other types of trips mentioned here, for an extra fee. An Oregon shellfish license is required for crabbing (available from the charter companies), and again, note there are fishery restrictions that the boats will enforce onboard.

Weather can be stunningly variable at sea. Even the rare warm summer day at the beach can translate into cool temperatures offshore, so dress in layers and in appropriate footwear. Coffee is usually part of most charter deals, but bring your own food and drink. Most charters offer fish cleaning and crab cooking services back at the dock (for a fee). For prices and more specifics, get in touch with the charter companies directly – they’re happy to help find a trip that’s right for you.

Always remember, while Newport-based charter boats are usually highly successful, it’s called “fishing,” not “catching.” Just being out on the ocean can be treat enough. Even Captain Dell, with his decades of experience on the water, marvels, “I’ll see new stuff every time I go out, especially on the offshore trips. Forty miles or more offshore, and the critters there are just not the same as the ones we see close to shore.” Gray whales, Japanese tsunami debris or glass fishing floats, bizarre jellyfish, sharks – he’s seen it all, and he can’t wait to share it with visitors.


All Aboard!

Charter Companies in Newport

Newport Tradewinds
653 SW Bay Blvd.
Captains Reel Deep Sea Fishing
343 SW Bay Blvd.
Yaquina Bay Charters
1000 SE Bay Blvd. (near the Embarcadero Resort)
Newport Marine Store & Charters
2128 SE Marine Science Drive, South Beach

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


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.