Originally published 2020; updated June 2021

On a recent trip to Rockaway Beach, our family tried crabbing at Kelly’s Brighton Marina. Although my kids, ages 12 and 9, had never eaten crabmeat before, they were excited for the chance to catch their dinner!

The view from Kelly’s is beautiful. It’s located on Nehalem Bay, and the day we went was warm and sunny. Pelicans and cormorants were resting and diving for fish all around us. None of us had been crabbing before, and the staff members at Kelly’s were friendly and gave clear instructions. 

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Kelly’s charges $15 per crabbing net to cast off from their docks. We rented two — and they each had very big, stinky fish attached to them to attract the crabs. In addition to the nets, you will need a bucket to collect your crabs (you can bring your own or rent one for $3).  

The basics of crabbing are pretty simple. We tossed the net into the bay, waited about fifteen minutes, then pulled the net up as fast as we could so that we didn’t lose any crabs on the way up. Once the crabs were on the dock, we measured them (before they walked off). In order to keep a crab, it must be male and at least 5 ¾ inches. Kelly’s provides an illustration of how to tell if you have a male crab, plus the ruler to measure them. 

Our goal was to get four crabs and it took us about three and a half hours to catch them using two nets. Most of the crabs we caught were either female or too small. Although we were out there for a long time, the kids enjoyed being out on the dock, watching the other people crab and taking in the scenery. Pro tip: The best time to crab is when the tide is out and then coming back in —  for us it was from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. 

After we finished catching crabs, we brought them up to the cooking area where an employee checks over your catch to make sure you can keep them all and then cooks them for you. Then we brought our cooked crab to the cleaning station, and the staff showed us how to clean them before we ate them. You have to pull off the front shell, remove the organs from inside, and then some of its other appendages (my daughter loved this part!).

You can either eat your catch at Kelly’s or bring them home. We took ours home, and at dinner the kids were a bit nervous about breaking off the shells to get to the meat. But after the first try, they thought that part was fun and said that the crab meat was delicious. They even said they would eat it again! Overall, it was a great experience for the kids to catch, clean and then eat the crabs. 

Melissa Light
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