Howdy everyone! We are continuing to get some great fishing days mixed up with some nasty weather days so I guess it’s really just typical Oregon coast weather. We are continuing to see some good deep water lingcod fishing and keep in mind our season for that has been extended to the end of April. Our longleader fishery seems a bit slower as of late but the quality of fish remains stellar. Nearshore the rockfish fishing is picking up and lingcod are slowly making their way to shallower water to spawn. The beaches are littered with surfperch waiting to be caught and rockfishing in the bay is on fire again!
Crabbing has slowed some but the bay and ocean will still provide you with enough crab to make the quest for them worthwhile. Off the dock the amount of red rock crab we are seeing caught is pretty impressive. While not nearly as large or containing as much meat as the coveted Dungeness I personally prefer the flavor of the red rock crab over all others.
Let’s spend some time talking about these animals. Let me start off by dispelling some rumors that are quite tightly held. The red rock is not an invasive species, is not from Japan, and you really shouldn’t kill them when you catch them because they are “bad” crab. In fact the red rock are a native species and are a sign of a healthy eco-system. The red rock are an extremely aggressive crab and will often work as a first line of defense against true invasive crab species such as the green crab, so if you kill one just for the sake of removing it from our system you could potentially be opening a gap and allowing in a critter that would be detrimental to our area.
Red rock crab range from Kodiak, Alaska to Baja California and while their range is extensive their density isn’t necessarily the same all across. An example of this would be Coos Bay/Charleston vs Bandon. In speaking with Tony from Tony’s Crab Shack in Bandon (you need to stop by and get the divers plate, oh my…) in 25 years of having his business he has only heard of one red rock crab being caught in their system, lots of Dungeness but no red rock, yet here in Charleston there are days when you can catch limits of red rock with ease and at a healthy limit of 24 per day that’s a lot of good eating. The main reason for this is their inability to tolerate low salinity. The red rock does not have near the edible meat contained within their shell that Dungeness do but a lot of folks, myself included think the red rock is a sweeter tastier meat.
Red rock crab inhabit intertidal to mid-intertidal waters from shallow estuaries out to depths of 250 feet, preferring mostly rocky bottoms but will tolerate some soft bottomed habitat. Predominantly a nocturnal creature by nature they are aggressive feeders and waste no time staking claim to a piece of food and chasing off potential interlopers. Here at Basin Tackle we have seen proof of this with our underwater cameras and hours upon hours of underwater video of red rock crab chasing off Dungeness and smaller red rock from the bait in our traps .
The female red rock crab mates in the summer shortly after molting while the male will stand by and protect her through this process up until her shell is hard again. The females will carry from 150,000 to 600,000 eggs and most of these small larval crab will fall prey to greenling and smaller rockfish after hatching. The red rock crab has no commercial value locally and a few attempts have been made to start a small commercial market with limited results.
So if you’re out crabbing and the pickings are slim with the Dungeness crab don’t discount the larger red rock, there’s a little more effort required to pick out the meat but you just may find it worthwhile.
Whether you’re crabbing or fishing I hope to see you out there.
Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle www.basintackle.net in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at (541) 888-FISH, by Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or e-mail at email@example.com. Robs fishing reports can be heard daily at 6:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. on KRSB Best Country 103 out of Roseburg and his Basin Tackle Outdoor Show can be heard Wednesdays at 3 p.m. on kwro.com. In addition to all this he sometimes actually gets out and catches a fish or two.