Crab for the future. Soft shell crabs yield very little meat and the quality of the meat is very low compared to quality of the meat from hard shell crabs. The meat from soft shell crabs has been described as watery, mushy and lacking in texture. Dissatisfaction with the crab meat from soft shell crabs results with the crab being discarded. Identifying soft shell crabs in easy to do. Soft shell crabs like the one shown on the left in the first photo below weigh less and are lighter in color than their hard shell counterparts shown on the right.
The softer recently molted crabs are the more fragile they are. Handle softshell crab with care because they are susceptible to injury and death. Injury and mortality occur most often when the crabs are casually tossed into the water. If it is at all possible lower the softshell crabs into the water and then release it.
Consider my experience receiving a gift of 1 and 1/2 backed Dungeness crabs. My elation turned to disappointment as soon as I discovered that 2 of the halves contained very little meat because the crabber chose to keep a soft crab. I made a crab Louie but the quality of the crab meat fell well short of expectations. However, it is legal to retain softshell crabs and ODFW promotes the retention of softshell crabs.
We cannot depend on ODFW for guidance when it comes to the question of taking or releasing soft shelled crabs! At what point of the crab's development is a recently molted crab worth keeping? Actually there are some crabbers who like eating recently molted crabs. But! for the rest of us at what stage of the crab's recovery are crabs worth keeping? Some studies suggest that 45 percent mortality rate of softshell crabs occur as compared to hard shell crabs. There are more questions than answers when it comes to the mortality of Dungeness crabs as applied to current harvest practices. There is no reason why ODFW cannot supply the answers.
Their light color is one of the indications that a crab has recently molted and has a soft shell. The cheek Test is one of several methods to identify recently molted crabs. Pick up the crab from the back and turn it upside down. Isolate the walking legs with the right hand. Carefully push the "elbow" of the claw towards the mouth of the crab exposing the shell that is usually covered by the folded claw. “Gently” squeeze the cheek with your thumb and middle finger. If the shell flexes release the pressure and return the crab to the water; or, squeeze the large center section of the first walking leg to determine if the crabs are hard. If the section of the first walking leg gives in, return the crab to the water. If the center section of the first waling leg is hard but the abdominal flap flexes inward when squeezed the crab is full enough to take. Return soft shell crabs to the water.
The Cheek Test is the best method to identify recently molted crabs. Pick up the crab from the back as shown in second photo and turn it upside down and isolate the walking legs with the right hand.
Carefully push the "elbow" of the claw towards the mouth of the crab, exposing the shell that is usually covered by the folded claw as shown in the third photo. “Gently” squeeze the cheek with your thumb and middle finger as shown in the forth photo.
If the shell flexes or bends release the pressure and return the crab carefully to the water. Squeezing the large center section of the first walking leg to determine if the crabs are hard shell crabs is an option preferred by some crabbers. If the leg gives while being squeezed return the crab to the water. Even though the limit of crabs is 12, keep only enough crabs for your immediate needs.
RED ROCK CRAB BIAS
Red red crab bias is based on misinformation of the uninformed. Both species of red rock crabs are native to the Pacific Northwest. Red rock crabs get a bad rap because the are more difficult to pick than Dungeness crabs. But the effort is worth the reward as shown in the photos below. The flesh of red rock crabs taste sweeter than Dungeness crabs. The crab melt shown on the right was made using crab meat from the 7 picked red rock crabs shown on the left. If you are fortunate to get into large red rock crabs take the time to pick them clean and enjoy some fine dinning. Bill
Regulations, limits and/or open areas may change. Call ODFW for current information.License Requirements:
All persons 14 years or older must have in possession a valid Oregon 4. shellfish license to take any shellfish for personal use, Except during “Free Fishing Weekend” when no license is required;
Catch and Possession Limits: The term catch and daily limits are confusing and ODFW seemingly interchanges their use. As far as I can determine the catch and daily limit refer the same thing. They both refer to the taking of the daily limit of shellfish in the field. The possession limit is: 2 daily limits for all species.
Catch and possession limits apply to all waters and across Zone boundaries and apply to all fish and shellfish in possession regardless of condition. This includes fish and shellfish which are fresh, and when lawful, frozen, canned, smoked or otherwise processed. Daily Limit: Maximum number of fish or shellfish which may be legally caught and reduced to possession in one day. An angler may take daily limits of several types of fish per day.
Daily Limit: Daily Limit: Maximum number of fish or shellfish which may be legally caught and reduced to possession in one day.
Possession Limit: Maximum number or amount of a type of fish or shellfish that a person may lawfully possess in the field or forest, or in transit to the place of permanent residence. The possession limit is: 2 daily limits for all species,
Size Limit: It is unlawful to take or have in possession any fish or shellfish that are smaller than the minimum size or larger than the maximum size limits. All undersized, oversized, prohibited species or unwanted fish or shellfish taken must be immediately released unharmed and should not be removed from the water.
In the Field, Forest or Transit: Anywhere other than a permanent residence.
Shellfish:: Abalone, clams, crabs, crayfish, mussels, oysters, piddocks, scallops, shrimp and other marine invertebrates with shells.
Take: To kill, reduce to possession or control.
REGULATIONS FOR SOME MARINE SHELLFISH AND INVERTEBRATES
The following summarized regulations apply to the Pacific Ocean, coastal bays, and beaches. For complete information, Sport Fishing Regulations books may be obtained at ODFW offices and wherever licenses are sold.
OPEN SEASON: Entire year and at all hours. Exceptions are listed under “Harvest Methods and Restrictions” in the table below, and except when any state agency has issued a public health advisory. To learn about current health advisories, contact Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, 800-448-2474.
OPEN AREAS: All areas are open except Marine Gardens, Research Reserves, Habitat Refuges, and Shellfish Preserves. These areas have signs indicating their locations and are listed and mapped in the Sport Fishing Regulations book.
1. Waste fish, shellfish or marine invertebrates.
2. Use chemicals to take fish, shellfish or marine invertebrates.
3. Assist in the harvest of another person’s catch except under a Disabled Clam Digger Permit or a Permanent Disabilities Permit. See the ODFW for regulations governing the responsibilities of the disabled clam diggers.
4. Sell any sport caught fish or shellfish, except the skeletal remains of nongame marine fish.
To give the clams or crabs you have taken to another person you are required to give the other person a Fish and Wildlife Transfer Record of the transfer of the clam and/or crabs.
TRANSFER OF FISH AND SHELLFISH TO ANOTHER PERSON
Fish and shellfish (whole or parts, including fish eggs) which have been taken for personal use and then given or shipped to another person must be accompanied by the following information or you may complete the Fish and Wildlife Transfer Record below:
1. Kind and number of fish or shellfish;
2. Date caught;
3. Name, address, angling license or shellfish license number and Combined
Harvest or Hatchery Harvest tag number (if applicable) of the person who
The above information must also be provided to the wholesale fish or bait dealer when eggs from ocean-caught salmon are sold.