The Miracle of Crabbing

Have you ever fished at the mouth of a river, where fresh water meets the salty sea? Imagine dropping a crab pot filled with raw chicken into the depths of the seemingly bottomless lake until the rope gives way to the buoy and then just walking or motoring away for a couple of hours. Miraculously, when you return you discover that the chicken has been replaced with delicious, fresh crab! If this sounds like your kind of dinner, head to the Oregon Coast where you can experience this miracle with some exciting hands-on techniques.

Sunset on the Oregon Coast
Sunset on the Oregon Coast

Raw Chicken and a License

Whether flying into Portland or Eugene, check out the Car Rentals so you can drive the couple hours out to the coast after you land and don’t forget to bring essentials like personal care items, cleaning supplies, and snacks to stay fueled on the drive. Once you are there, arm yourself with knowing the daily limit in your fishing area, size of crab allowed, and high and low tides. Some things you will need are:

  • A fishing license and crab gauge
  • At least 1 crab pot with rope and a buoy
  • Raw chicken
  • A cooler with river water
  • A boat (optional)

You can get all of these at the local shops when you arrive at the coast.

Stack of crab pots with a seagull perched on top
“Crab pots” are not used to cook the crab, they are used to catch ’em

A Pot of Fresh Crustaceans

Once you pick your spot or rent your boat, prepare your crab pot by placing a whole, raw chicken inside and then slowly lowering it down deeper and deeper until your float buoy is setting on the water. After you have “set” your pot, leave it alone and have a fun few hours motoring around the lake or exploring the river’s edge. After you return to your buoy, it’s time to see what’s happened while you were away.

Carefully, pull up the pot. This entails bracing yourself and steadily bringing up the rope that is now connected (you hope) to a full cage of fresh crab! It’s heavier than you’d think.

As you gaze at the full crab pot, your eyes may grow large while you contemplate all of that delicious fresh Dungeness crab on your dinner plate. The work, however, is not done.

Crab on the beach
Mmmmmmmmmmmm crab

The Claw and the Hand

First, you have to determine the sex of each crab. Yes, you have to touch each one. Reach into the pot of angry creatures (hopefully large ones) and grab one so you can turn it over and look at its abdomen. If the flap that covers the belly is large and round, it’s a female and must be returned to the water. If it’s small and shaped like a lighthouse, it’s a male. In this case, turn it back over and measure the width of its body to check the size. This is where your handy crab gauge comes in. If it meets the size limit, gently place it into your cooler of water. As you continue through the stack of climbing crabs, you will soon find a rhythm of assessing and discarding (or keeping) your collection of crustaceans and the pain will subside. Now you can take your catch in for some delicious fresh seafood!

Crab dinner
Nothing is more satisfying than eating food you caught yourself 😉

Experiencing the Pacific Northwest by fishing for fresh Dungeness crab off of the Oregon Coast is one of the best treasures this area has to offer. Get your supplies and learn how to gingerly handle your haul for some of the freshest and most delicious seafood you have ever eaten.


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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

2 thoughts on “The Miracle of Crabbing”

  1. After reading your article, I can’t wait to start a journey! Renting in EasyRentCars you can find more options and deals to choose from. Moreover, the Price Drop Protector feature allows you to get the best deals without the risk of losing your car.

  2. Drop lining will work pretty well on Dungeness crabs if you’re on a pier or around shallow water but it’s hard to beat dip nets or simple two ring crab nets, both of which are pretty cheap. As far as baits, I recommend chicken necks as they’re cheap and the crabs go nuts for ’em.


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