Crabbing for Dungeness in Westport, Washington
Dungeness Crab are one of the culinary signatures of the Pacific Northwest. They are a delicious delicacy, they are fun to catch, and they are extremely abundant up and down our Pacific Coast. Westport is arguably Washington’s busiest coastal fishing town and a very good place to catch Dungeness Crab. Shorebound anglers and boaters alike enjoy easy catches in Westport, Washington. Whether dropping a few crab pots along the coastline on your way offshore to salmon fish or spending a weekend with the family on the docks, you can get in on this great fishery.
Catching Dungeness Crab without a boat…
Shorebound crabbers will find plenty of options in Westport, Washington from the jetties to the boat basin. The Westport Boat Basin is by far the most popular spot for land-lubbers looking to catch Dungeness Crab. The most popular place to drop crab rings is off Float 20, which is located on the northwest corner of the basin and is accessed from Neddie Rose Drive (Neddie Rose Drive begins at the western end of the basin at The Islander and dead-ends at the parking lot for Float 20). Float 20 is often vacant of boats, leaving plenty of space for anyone looking to try their luck with Dungies. Float 20 is very close to the entrance of the basin, and many crabs will push into the marina from Grays Harbor, offering a better chance at keeper size crab than on other floats.
Within the Westport Boat Basin, crab rings are preferred to pots. Rings only need to soak for a mere 20 minutes since they lay flat on the bottom; nearby Dungeness simply tap dance over to the bait and begin the feast, whereas longer soak times are required when using traps/pots (Crab need time to work their way around the pot to find the entrance). Many of the shops and charter offices along the main street (Westhaven Drive) offer daily rentals of crab rings. Float 20 offers the only access to the high pier, where anglers catch flounder, greenling and rockfish. I like to throw my rings off the ramp to the high pier, or toss them away from the float just before that. While Dungeness Crab will eat nearly anything, I have found that there is no better crab bait than a filleted out Black Sea Bass, this will usually out produce chicken, turkey legs or anything else! I find that a perfect day in Westport begins with a few hours fishing for Rockfish (Sea Bass) and Lingcod at the Westport Jetty, followed by a few hours of crabbing in the basin with the carcasses from my catch. Expect to throw back plenty of small Dungeness before you find a few keepers, but that is all to be expected in an area that is so heavily fished.
The high pier at the end of Float 20 is popular with anglers but Dungeness Crab can also be caught here. While the rocky rip-rap wall at the base of the pier has claimed many a Crab Ring, those with Crab Snares or Castable Crab Traps do very well casting into Grays Harbor. The Finger Jetties off the west side of Neddie Rose Drive are also a great area to use snares and castable traps.
The Westport Jetty is one of my favorite places to crab from shore. I have found that the distant half of the Jetty offers a shore crabber access to a little deeper water, which usually equates to an abundance of larger Dungeness. While I have done well casting Crab Snares on the Harbor side of the Jetty, if the Ocean side is calm enough, I have found greater success getting a limit.
Dungeness Crab in the Pacific Ocean
Westport has long been home to a thriving commercial crabbing fleet. Many of the finest restaurants in the West Coast’s major cities order their Dungeness Crab from local fishermen. And any boaters trying to cross the Grays Harbor Bar will find themselves carefully watching for commercial crab buoys as they make their way to the open ocean. Crabbing in the ocean can be productive at times, and at other times is not. Westport’s commercial crabbing fleet hits the entrance to Grays Harbor hard! If I were planning on setting a few crab pots in the ocean, I would make sure it was in an area away from the sea of bobbing commercial buoys; while there are plenty of Dungeness in the Pacific I feel that there are certain areas that get picked clean if everyone is fishing nearby. Look for an area completely void of commercial buoys. Ocean currents can be extremely strong, so weighted crab pots are essential. Weighting a pot with 10 or 15 pounds should do the trick. Allow at least a few hours of soak time before retrieving. Most folks who crab in the Pacific near Westport will drop their pots, fish for the day, then pull pots on their way back to port. There’s nothing like a few limits of tasty Dungeness Crab to top off a great day of fishing!
Dungeness Crab in Grays Harbor
Boaters looking to find Dungeness Crab within Grays Harbor should focus on the area around the Ocean Shores and Westport Jetties. The entrance to Grays Harbor is bordered by two large rock jetties and the deep channel between the two offers plenty of Dungeness Crab. I haven’t noticed a huge difference in success rate between the northern side near Ocean Shores or the southern side near Westport. Most boaters will just drop their pots in a convenient location to where they moor/launch. Crabbers will notice that the water gets real deep real quick near the Westport Jetty, and most crab buoys end up just out of casting distance from Jetty bound anglers. Most crabbers drop their pots in 30 to 60 feet of water. There is a huge volume of water that moves through the entrance to Grays Harbor during each tide, so heavier pots are critical.
Good Luck on your next crabbing adventure!