Posted on October 1, 2012
This document is general information; sport crabbers are strongly encouraged to contact WDFW for the most current and complete regulations.
- Types of Crab (ID & Biology)
- Crab Fishing VIdeo
- Crabbing Equipment & Photos
- Crabbing Quiz
- Harvest Techniques
- Identifying Soft Shell Crab
Several species of crab are found on the Long Beach Peninsula, though only a few are large enough to be of any commercial and sport interest. Crabs are crustaceans, having an exterior skeleton or shell. Two crab species (Dungness and red rock) are harvested locally. Crabs are commonly harvested with crab pots, but also caught using ring nets, dip nets, and by wading in shallow water during spring and early summer.
Dungeness Crab (Cancer magister)
The shell is purple-tinged, grayish brown on the back, with white tip claws. The Dungeness crab can reach ten inches across the back, with six to seven inches being more common. The Dungeness crab prefers sandy or muddy substrates. Crab caught in the bay must be at least 6″. Limit: 6 males. Crab caught in the river must be 5 3/4″ with a limit of 12 males. Must retain back shell while in the field. Must release all soft-shell, females and undersized crab. Catch record card required.
Red (Rock) Crab (Cancer productus)
Another species similar to, but smaller than, the Dungeness is the red crab, rock crab, or red rock crab. Since this crab usually measures less than six inches across the back, it is less meaty than the Dungeness. It does have delicious meat, however, and is characterized by large claws. It can be distinguished from the Dungeness by the presence of black on the tips of its pinchers and by its red coloration, and it prefers rocky substrates. Crab must be at least 5″. Limit: 6 crab of either sex. Must retain back shell while in the field. Must release all soft-shell.
Each fisherman may use two (2) pots or nets per day.
Crab pots – Sport fishermen can purchase mesh pots or use their ingenuity to rig up pots of netting or wire mesh over an iron frame. Crab pots must be closed using untreated 100% cotton or other natural fiber no larger than thread size 120 or l/8-inch. This cord must be able to rot away and allow crab to escape freely if the pot is lost. Crab pots are generally set in 20 to 150 feet of water and are located by an attached buoy. Sport crabbers must use red and white buoys marked with their first and last name as well as permanent address.
- Ring nets – This is basically a basket made from two iron hoops and cotton or nylon mesh. The bait is anchored to the bottom meshes. The rings lie flat on the bottom allowing the crab easy access to the bait. When the net is hauled quickly to the surface, a basket is formed temporarily, trapping the crab. These nets are increasingly popular with sport crabbers fishing from docks. The nets are checked every 15 to 30 minutes.
- Wading with short-handled dip nets – This method involves wading through shallow water at low tide and searching for legal-size crabs. The wader generally tows a small tub or gunnysack to hold his catch so that both hands will be free to use the dip net.
Generally used are herring, rockfish carcasses, salmon heads, or clams.
All persons 15 or older must wear their current shellfish/seaweed license while harvesting crab. Licenses provide year-round crabbing (although the crabs are best eating during the winter) and may be purchased online through WDFW or at the following locations on the Peninsula:
- Ilwaco: CoHo Charters, Ed’s Bait & Tackle, and Pacific Salmon Charters
- Seaview: Short Stop Store, Deli & Shell Gasoline
- Long Beach: Dennis Company, Pioneer Market
WHERE TO CRAB
The jetty at Cape Disappointment State Park, off the dock at the Port of Peninsula in Nahcotta and off the dock at the Port of Ilwaco in Ilwaco are all excellent spots for dropping a crab pot or using a ring net. Check with your favorite local bait shop for additional locations and seasonal hot spots. The Port of Peninsula is located in Nahcotta at the end of 273rd Street and Sandridge Road. From the blinking light in downtown Ocean Park, travel east to Sandridge Road and turn left. Proceed approximately 12 blocks and turn right onto 273rd. The marina is on your left. Cape Disappointment State Park is located in Ilwaco at 244 Robert Gray Dr. From the stoplight in Ilwaco, travel west to North Head Rd and follow the 100 loop road to the Park.
Read a Seattle Times article on Oystering and Willapa Bay [html] [pdf]