Our First Time Crabbing
Crabbing for Dungeness crab off the dock in Old Town has been a wonderful experience since our first visit. We originally discovered Bandon while camping at Bullards Beach State Park back in 2004. We rented a crab ring from Tony’s Crab Shack and gave it a try. I was too cheap to buy a fishing license on that day, so the kids who were all under 12, officially did the crabbing.
Using the crab ring provided some pretty non-stop action because every 10 minutes we would pull up the ring and look for a big male crab. Almost always we had the fun of catching a handful of crabs every time we pulled up the ring. The trick was finding a male large enough to keep. We eventually left the ring in the water and walked to fish and chips. Then when we returned a couple nice folks has filled our crab bucket with huge male crabs so we’d have enough for a feast. What a great surprise and generous gift.
This made our day and also our dinner. Dee and I got the kids to bed and then it was around 10PM when wefinally sat down to chow down on fresh crab. We really had no idea how to prepare them, but a nice guy at Tony’s Crab Shack cleaned them for us and we were on our way. Keep in mind, if you ask 10 people on the dock how to cook a crab, you’ll get 10 different answers. Keep reading and you’ll see our favorite way.
How to Catch a Crab
- Consult the tide chart. It’s ideal to go just before high tide so that the tide is bringing crabs in from the salt water up into the river harbor. Then the crabbing an hour or two after high tide can be good as well as the crabs head back to sea. Since the dock crabbing is on the mouth of the Coquille River, it’s not good to crab with a few days after a big rain as the crabs will be washed out.
- Feel free to use the 3 crab rings and other equipment we have at the house. You are also welcome to add to the equipment if you find something that is helpful. In addition to the crab rings, you’ll want to take the bucket, crab ruler and gloves (optional).
- Stop by Tony’s Crab Shack just in front of the dock in Old Town and pick up some bait and a fishing license. We prefer to use both fish and turkey or chicken. Keep in mind that the seals like to steel the fish bait; but that just adds to the sport of it. While at Tony’s make sure they use the drill to put a hold in the frozen bait. There should be a hook on each crab ring for connecting the bait. If it gets lots please replace or use a zip tie to attach the bait.
- On the dock, just tie off the crab rings, attach the bait and give it a toss. Then about every 10 minutes pull up the rings and check for crabs. Use the crab ruler to make sure the top of the shell just behind the points is large enough to keep. Also ask someone to show you how to check for a male vs. a female. Basically the female has a wider triangle on the back underside of the shell, while the male is a narrow triangle.
- There is a crab cleaning station at the top of the dock. My favorite way is to hold the crab by the legs and bang the shell. Then remove the shell and inside keeping the bottom shell and legs all attached. If someone else is up there cleaning, just watch and learn. The reason I like this method is because we do not prefer to cook them live. We’d rather have them all clean so when we cook them there’s unwanted parts in the water. I also like this method keeps them looking like a full crab, just minus the top shell and inside parts.
- Our favorite way to cook the crabs is to boil them for about 8-12 minutes in salty water. We just heavily salt some tap water and use the huge pot. We’ve tried it a bunch of ways and with various spices as well. Feel free to ask around and come up with your own favorite way. Then post it below as a comment.
Bandon Dungenes Crabs are Good Eats! For about $5 of bait and a little luck, you can have a feast of the most delicious fresh Dungeness crab you’ve ever eaten!
We are going to Bandon and I would like to try crabbing….July 22-25th….Is there a season? Is that a good time? Thanks for the info….FUN pictures! Laura
That should be good and the season is year around. The bad times are after a rain as the higher river tide washes the crabs out to sea. So generally, summer is better as there is less rain. I’d recommend starting at an hour before high tide if you were going to crab for about 2 hours.
Enjoy your time!
Thanks for posting this! We’re headed to Bullards Beach State Park next week and I was interested in crabbing. You helped seal the deal!
I recently sent this to a guest asking about crabbing and thought it may be helpful to post here as well.
We love crabbing…and of course eating them.
Go a couple hours before high tide ideally. That way the tide is bringing them in from the ocean past the dock area at the mouth of the Coquille river. This is where the crabbing dock is located in Old Town. We’ve always just used the 475 Madison Avenue, Bandon address for the license and it’s just $5. Chicken or turkey legs are nice as the seals don’t try to steal them, but we typically get some fish and some chicken/turkey from Tony’s Crab shack. They will drill a hold in the frozen bait (you may have to remind them) and then you can attach them to the center of the crab ring.
Then just tie one end off to the dock and toss out the ring as far as you can. Wait 10 minutes and pull it in briskly. You will almost always catch some crab, but you need to measure the shell (measuring tools included) and make sure it’s a male not female.
People on the dock are typically very happy to help.
I like to clean them myself at the dock and cook them at home, but you can take the crabs in the bucket to Tony’s Crab Shack and they will clean and cook them for you if you like. Super cheap and a great meal. Cleaning them feels a bit brutal as you typically smash the shell, pull it off then break of the head and wash out the inside and lungs. Some people break them in half, but I like keeping them looking like a whole crab. Next time I’m up, I’ll take a video of it. My 11 year old daughter is freakishly good and cleaning them…sort of worries me. :)
Thanks for the info! We have a huge family reunion next week. Aug 15-19 and I am looking forward to crabbing. So the best place to get the crab rings is at Tony’s crab shack? I am looking forward to having fun with my family and making great memories crabbing. I used to go with my parents when I was a kid and have very fond memories. What bait was best for you? Thanks!
Sounds fun. We usually a mix of fish and turkey/chicken as bait. The seals steal the fish sometimes so keep an eye on it. Tony’s does rent rings and will clean the crabs for you if you like as well.