The Dungeness crab is an important species on the West Coast, where it thrives in chilly Pacific Ocean waters. This species is a major driver for the fishing economies in California, Oregon, and Washington.
These crustaceans have eight walking legs and two claws and prefer sandy bottom habitats in the intertidal zones to a depth of approximately 750 feet.
Dungeness crab have been harvested commercially on the West Coast since the mid-1800s when San Francisco fishermen began the fishery. For more than 100 years, the fishery has been regulated by size, sex, and season in order to preserve this important resource.
The commercial Dungeness crab season typically begins in early December and continues through the spring. Recreational crabbing is a popular, year-round activity on the Oregon Coast.
Just make sure you’re aware of the regulations next time you head to the beach or the docks. Knowing how to play will help ensure this animal continues to provide a delicious food source and an important economic opportunity for coastal communities in the region.
Many coastal bait and tackle shops along the coast will help you get set up for an enjoying crabbing experience!
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!
Oregon estuaries are rich with many species of clams, although only a few of these species are commonly harvested. Gaper, butter, cockle, littleneck, and softshell clams are primarily harvested due to their abundance, size, and taste.
A wide variety of other bivalve species are found in Oregon estuaries, but are not commonly harvested due either to their scarcity or lack of palatability.
Clamming is a great family activity and you can get started with tools you already have in the garden. Successful clamming does require some knowledge and preparation.
Before clamming, harvesters should be aware of weather, regulations, closures, responsible harvest, and techniques. This video produced by Travel Oregon provides important information about how to clam in Oregon.
Associate Professor - Tourism and Business Development
College of Forest Ecosystems & Society
Oregon State University Extension - Oregon Sea Grant
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