How are Dungeness Crab caught?

In a Pinch - How Dungeness Crabs are Caught

A few hundred yards off the rocky shoreline of the Southern Oregon Coast, Captain Brenden Bates and crew of the Fishing Vessel Kenia Faith are navigating the rolling white caps and fighting the currents looking for what cannot be seen: The elusive Dungeness Crab. The crew, geared up for the cold January air, fighting off the frigid sea spray, are on the lookout for their buoys that mark where they have dropped their squid, clam and fish baited commercial crab gear in hopes of reeling up pots filled to the brim with crabs. Hooking up to the line that stretches to the ocean floor, the whine from the hydraulic pump running the crab block humming. The moment all fishermen live for: hooking on to a line, heart racing with anticipation for the moment the crab pot breaches the ocean waters and reveals the catch.

Captains up and down the coast strategically set out crab pots in lines, tracking over different terrains and depths trying to zero in on where the biomass is hiding. Each year, the nomadic Dungeness Crab moves repeatedly, never seeming to be in the same spot year to year. Of course, each captain has their go to “honey holes” that seem to always be bountiful with crab. But even the tried and true spots that have produced for years can pull up empty.

The idea is simple – and has been altered and perfected over many years and generations of fishermen who have had techniques and trade secrets passed down from fathers to sons: Take a crab pot, tie a long line to it with a buoy on the end that will float on the surface to mark location of the pot. Bait your pot with your preferred concoction of squid, sardines, mackerel, clams etc. And hope the crabs crawl in. Boats big and small have practiced these methods for years to bring in their catch. Today, GPS and radar have helped fishermen improved navigation on the waters and have made finding their buoys much simpler.


Author: Nick Mareno


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