Crabbing on the Oregon coast? There’s a good chance that you’ll catch a Dungeness or a 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 valued nearly as much in comparison to the larger Dungeness.
Dungeness and red rock crabs vary in their size, color, habitat, and behavior.
Dungeness crabs are best identified by looking for their large, white-tipped claws, ten carapace (the hard upper shell) spines, and a red-brown to purple coloration. They can grow to be eight-inches across their backs (or carapace).
Red rock crabs have black-tipped claws, a wide fan-shaped carapace, and are usually a dark red color. They are also a bit smaller than Dungeness crabs, usually measuring in at six inches across the upper shell.
Dungeness crabs prefer the sandy and muddy areas of shallow lower estuaries. Even so, they are sometimes found in ocean depths of up to 2,000 feet. Red rock crabs tend to live in rockier habitats with higher salinity rates such as a larger estuary.
Next time you are out crabbing, keep an eye out for these two common crabs and make sure to follow harvesting regulations!