The crabbing in the Coos River Bay is excellent most of the year round. Recreational Crabbers from boats as well as from shore land good numbers of Dungeness Crab all year long. Start at the mouth of the Coos River at Charleston Oregon for your best bet at large, fresh, Pacific Ocean Dungeness Crabs.
- Boat Launches and Crabbing Locations
- Shore Based Locations -- Crabbing Docks
- Ocean Crabbing
- Cooking Crabs
You are allowed 12 Male Dungeness Crabs 5 3/4 inches, from side-to-side behind the carapace horns, per valid Oregon Shellfish Harvest Permit. Females are not allowed for retention. You can purchase a Dungeness crab measuring device at any of the local tackle stores. Each Oregon Shellfish Harvest Permit allows a maximum of 3 traps or rings to be used. Permits can be purchased at any local tackle store and most department stores. Technically, any person involved in the harvest of the crabs must have an Oregon Shellfish Harvest Permit. You can keep 24 Red Rock and 12 Dungeness crab for up to 36 crabs. Red Rock crabs have no size or sex restrictions but there is very little meat in the crab except for the claw meat so please only keep the big ones with huge claws.
Bait for Dungeness crab ranges from mink to chicken with pretty much everything else in between. We prefer chicken (no turkey, we have never had good luck with turkey) at any given time but if we have fresh salmon, fresh tuna, or fresh shad carcass, that will be our go-to bait. We like to watch for sales on chicken pieces or whole fryers and stock up when the price is right. Bottom fish carcass is yet another fantastic crab bait. Sometimes you can find fresh carcasses at filleting tables like the table at the Charleston Boat launch.
We recently have found that clams and cockles make a decent to good crab bait. You can purchase these at the Boat Basin Tackle Shop in Charleston Oregon or, you can go dig the clams and cockles yourself, but not without your Oregon Shellfish Harvest Permit. See our clamming page for maps, locations, and information on clamming. Some people think that any old rotten fish will catch crab and we agree, but good fresh bait will attract more crab than old nasty bait any day of the week.
There are many places to crab in the Coos River Bay. Some of our favorite locations are along major water depth changes, behind eddy creating structures, and along known sandbars. For example, the shipping channel directly across from the Charleston boat launch is dredged to 50 or 60 feet deep. On the west side of the channel, the water returns to 30 to 20 feet deep. Crabbing along a break like this in 20 to 30 feet of water is productive. Try moving in and out along these areas to determine if the crab are in a little deeper or shallower water. The currents flow fast and strong in the Coos River Bay and be careful to watch your pots and make sure the buoys are not swept under at full ebb and flood of the tide. Crab around tide changes for your best luck.
Boat launches are abundant throughout the Coos Bay area. Launches include; Charleston Marina, the Empire docks, the North Spit BLM launch, the California street launch in North Bend, and the Eastside launch.
Use a strong 3 strand line in a 75 foot length.
Crabbing without a boat can be difficult some days and fantastic at other times. Some of the favorite local crabbing docks are also those visited most heavily, so please be respectful and courteous. Head to the Charleston public docks, the dock underneath the Charleston Bridge, the dock just up the south slough from the Charleston Bridge, the empire docks, the bridge on transpacific highway, and every now and again at the Coos Bay city docks (potentially poor crabbing due to high levels of freshwater). Crabs usually follow the saltwater. Dungeness crabs are a saltwater species and when the river floods the crabs move towards the ocean to avoid the freshwater. Therefore, crab lower in the bay as it floods and when there is a lot of saltwater in the bay then you can begin to crab in other locations.
Ocean crabbing out of Coos Bay is fantastic. Drop the pots on the way to go fishing and pull them when you come back and usually they are full of crabs. Make sure to use a trap so that crabs can’t escape once they enter the trap. Check the local regulations for time closures as the ocean is closed to recreational crabbing for parts of the year. The same size and sex retention restrictions apply to the bay as the ocean. We prefer to crab in 35 to 45 feet of water depending on the swell and how big the surf zone is. Remember, if your pots are light then the swell will move the pot along the ocean floor and it won’t be in the same spot when you come back. It is also a great idea to place a marker, or waypoint, on your GPS where you drop your pots.
Good spots to start crabbing are along Bastendorf Beach, along the beach just North of the mouth, and several miles north of the mouth where the New Carrissa shipwrecked. We crab in all of these locations and where we crab depends largely on the weather. If the weather is from the south then Bastendorf Beach is incredibly protected and if the weather is from the north, we like to be able to grab the pots and run home with the weather. In addition, if we go bottom fishing then the Bastendorf Beach crabbing location can save upwards of 30 minutes of run time. (See the bottom fishing section for more information on rock fishing.)
The Pacific Ocean is a dangerous place and you as the vessel operator must be aware of the weather and tides. Avoid crossing the bar on an outgoing tide if conditions allow. The Coos Bay bar is one of the safest on the Oregon Coast but it can still get nasty so please be careful and never hesitate to contact the USCG on VHF channel 16 for an up to date bar report as well as any potential problems.
Cooking Dungeness can be a long and involved process or just the old fashioned quick and dirty method. The old fashioned method: Bring fresh bay-water to a boil, add the crab and return the water to boil. Once the water begins boiling then cook 12 minutes for whole crab and 10 minutes for cleaned crabs. The long and involved process is bringing saltwater to a boil and adding your favorite crab boil ingredients; from beer to pre-packaged crab boil seasonings.
Afishionados.net suggests that crab with soft shells be returned to the water. The meat is of inferior quality and there is less meat in the crab overall. It is best to return these crab for later harvest. To tell if a Dungeness Crab is soft, pinch one of the rear walking legs and if it depresses easily and has very little rigidity then the crab has just recently molted and should be put back.
Good luck out there and stay safe! Don't forget to take your favorite crabbing buddy from time to time.