The Oregon Coast is a popular destination, with many visitors trying their hand at catching shellfish of all sorts, including crab. While usually open year-round, the sport had closures in 2017 that prevented locals and visitors from being able to catch the flavorful Dungeness and lesser-sought red rock crabs.
Crabbers must obtain a shellfish license before attempting to catch crab, clams or other type of shellfish. The ports along the coast generally have the license and equipment for those who are interested. Unless a restriction arises, folks can go crabbing in the bays throughout the year, though fall is ideal. Better crab can be found by boat, though ocean catch is restricted from mid-October through the end of November.
The first restriction to hit crabbers during 2017 was on the first day of February. From the north jetty in Coos Bay to Heceta Head, the bays and oceans were closed, with the restrictions in effect until the tenth. On the second day of the month it was announced that the closure was due to high domoic acid levels. This toxin causes amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans and other species who consume the neurotoxin-contaminated fish.
While ocean closures always occur along the coast on October 15, that was not the only restrictions that struck the coast during the last part of the year. The same toxin that was found earlier in the year had reached dangerous levels once again, causing new closures. In addition to the ocean, crabbing was restricted from bays, beaches, docks, estuaries, jetties and piers.
Top HotSpots and Locations for Dungeness & Red Rock Crab
- Columbia River
- Alsea Bay
- Port Orford
- Nehalem Bay
- Netarts Bay
- Nestucca Bay
- Siletz Bay
- Yaquina Bay
- Siuslaw River
- Umpqua River
- Coos Bay
- Coquille River
- Gold Beach (Rogue River)
- Brookings (Chetco River)
The new closures began on October 23, with time extensions added on November 1 and 15. During the announcement in the middle of the month, new portions of the coast were added to the list as concerns about the neurotoxin spread. The following day the Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the commercial season for Dungeness crab would also be delayed due to the toxin.
A week later, on November 22, part of the coast reopened to crabbers. Additional portions were reopened on December 5 and 20. While not every calendar year has two separate closures like this, the restrictions are not uncommon due to the diligence of the DFW. The regular testing and restrictions are there to ensure that recreational and commercial crabbers are able to provide safe, high-quality crab meat to those who eat their catch.