If you’re crabbing on the Oregon coast, there is a good chance that you’ll catch a Dungeness or red rock crab, two of the most commonly caught crab species. In 2016, the Dungeness crab was the highest valued fishery in Oregon’s commercial fishing industry at $51.3 million. Red rock crabs are also commercially harvested but are not nearly as much in comparison to the Dungeness.
Dungeness and red rock crabs vary in their appearance, habitats, and behavior. Dungeness crabs are best identified by looking for their large, white-
tippedclaws, ten carapace (the hard upper shell) spines, and a red-brown to purple coloration; they can grow to be 8 inches across their backs. Red rock crabs have black-tipped claws, a wide “fan”-shaped carapace, and are usually a dark red color and a little smaller than Dungeness crabs, usually measuring in at six inches across the carapace.
Additionally, Dungeness crabs prefer the sandy and muddy area of shallow lower estuaries but can be found in ocean depths of up to 2,000 feet. Red rock crabs tend to live in rockier habitats with higher salinities, so they will likely be found in larger estuaries.
Next time you are out crabbing, keep an eye out for these two common crabs and make sure to follow harvesting regulations!