How to Catch Dungeness Crab on the Oregon Coast

  • Posted on

They say crabs are like underwater spiders. Land spiders used to terrify me and I’d freeze at the mere sight of them. But mainly, it was the movement of all those extra legs that really gave me a funny feeling in the back of my neck that shivered through my entire body.


Once, a Hawaiian centipede on the ceiling of my office had me screaming - running out of the room to the laughter and eyerolls of my co-workers. 


Another time, I placed a towel under a hotel’s bathroom door, sealing in a multi-legged creature until The Guy came back from work to conquer the demon for me. 


“Don’t you have to go to the bathroom?” He asked, as I impatiently hopped from one foot to the other as an affirmative.


This was all before I earned any country stripes. Things have since changed after moving out into the forest where spiderwebs appear overnight on the regular. 


This summer, I asked my cousin to help me clean the Pontoon Boat for a guest rental. I had to commit spider genocide while she stood on the dock screaming and pointing at ones I’d missed.


“I hate spiders! Why would you invite me to my worst nightmare?” she said as I whacked one with the end of my cleaning towel. Ironically, we were having crabs for dinner that night so apparently her worst nightmare was a catered event.


Over the years, I’ve tasted many a crab in my life (King, Kona, Snow, Blue, Softshell, Atlantic Rock) but Dungeness is by far the tastiest. If you want to catch some for yourself, here’s how.

Tips for Dungeness Crabbing in Florence

First, you’ll need a shellfish license, which you can get off the ODFW website or at Tru Value or Bi-Mart. Pick up a crab ruler too while you’re at it.


The best place to crab without a boat is off the docks behind Mo’s Restaurant. Numerous people around us have maxed out in record time this year.


September is the best time for crabbing because they’ve finished molting, meaning their shells have hardened and are filled with more meat. The season continues until it starts raining heavily, which is usually near the end of October.


Ideal times to crab are at slack tide, meaning peak high or low tide when the water slows and the crabs move around to forage. Arrive about 2 hours early and leave once the water starts moving quickly again.


For bait, use chicken legs/thighs instead of something from the ocean because the sea lions are clever and playful water dogs who find it hilarious that humans keep bringing them food locked inside a tiny little basket. But because they don’t eat chicken, your traps will stay safe.


There are other bait tricks but you’ll have to befriend a local to uncover such coveted fishermen secrets. If not, simply chicken will do just fine.


Once you’re on the dock with your bait set, toss the entire trap into the water. 


  • For rings, let them sit for at least 15 minutes. When it’s time, make sure you pull fast in the beginning as you don’t want to startle the crabs and give them time to scatter.


  • For pots, leave them for at least 30 minutes


You can keep male crabs that are at least 5 ¾ inches across the back (not including the spines) and the daily limit per license is 12. 


So there you have it - all the information you need to catch Dungeness crab legally in Florence from the docks. If you’re staying with us and would like to borrow our crab traps, just let us know!


And whether or not you’re afraid of (land or water) spiders, just know that gradual exposure eventually removes all fear. As my friends and I sat overlooking the lake, my cousin pointed at a spider on her RV and told me to get it. 


I took off my shoe and gingerly reeeeached for it but fell short. Despite my terrible hand-eye coordination, I threw the shoe at the spider and landed a direct hit - eliciting loud cheers from the group as I raised my arms up in triumph. 


Because sometimes, you have to go through some tough stuff to get to the good stuff. And as uncomfortable as it can be, it’s all worth it in the end.