≈ Crabbing & Clamming ≈


Click here for a crabbing and clamming area map. 
Click here to view our Clamming and Tidal Webcam!

Each spring, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife offers and clamming clinics and seminars in the local area: Call 541.888.5515 for information.

Dungeness CrabFall is typically the best time to crab.  Beginning in September, crabs tend to be more "filled out", meaning there is a higher percentage of meat.  This is determined by the condition of the shell.  Hard-shelled crabs contain 20 to 30 percent meat by weight, compared to soft-shelled crabs which can be as low as 12 percent.

At times after heavy rainfall crab tend to be less abundant in the bays.

Slack water (the time around high or low tide) are the best times to crab.  During slack water, crabs are generally walking around and foraging since they are not getting pushed around by tidal exchange.

Legal Dungeness CrabBusinesses in Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston Oregon rent crab pots and crab rings.  Please see the boating and supplies page on this website for contact information.

Preparing for crabbing:  Make sure you have your shellfish license (people 14 and older require a shellfish license for crabbing), crab measuring tool, pots or rings, cooler, gloves, bait holders and bait supply.  Check all lines on pots or rings for knots or kinks to ensure they are durable and will allow gear to work correctly.  Make sure your pots are properly marked.

Baiting your gear - Many different types of bait are used for crabbing: turkey, chicken, minx, fish carcass, shad, herring, clams, etc.  Fresh bait is best.  Keep in mind that seals and sea lions will eat attractive bait that they can access.  You can avoid this problem by using a bait bag or avoiding areas where they are prevalent. 

Setting your gear and soak time - Tie the end of your crab line to the dock or pier where you are crabbing.  Throw your pot or ring into the water.  Allow between one and two hours before retrieving your gear if you are crabbing with crab pots and 15 to 30 minutes if you are crabbing with rings.

Sorting crabs - Quickly sort through the crab, being careful not to break crab legs off or get your fingers pinched.  An experienced crab handler will sort crabs by keeping them at ease.  They want to get out, but they don't want to be forcefully grabbed.  A quick shake of the pot is often more effective than reaching directly for them.  Be sure to carefully and quickly release the crab, do not throw them from heights as this will often crack their carapace and kill them.  It is illegal to retain only the claws on all species.

Male (left) and Female (right) Dungeness Crab
(Male on left, Female on right)

Making sure your crabs are legal - With a crab gauge, measure all male Dungeness crab retained.  Retain no more than 12 male Dungeness crab per shellfish license that are 5 3/4" across (NOT including points) or wider.  Female crabs are illegal and must be released immediately.

Keeping your crab quality - Store legal-sized (keeper) crabs in a cooler with ice or ice packs or in a bucket or cooler with water.  If you keep your crabs in a bucket or cooler with water, make sure to change the water frequently to keep the water cool and oxygenated.  And make sure the water is seawater - freshwater will kill crabs.  (This information came from the ODFW shellfish section).


The many clams available are listed below as to their abundance and preference. 

Gaper ClamGaper – locally known as the Empire – also known as Blue, Blueneck, Horseneck or Horse Clam. Large size (up to 7 inches long). Large gape (opening between the shells) where the neck protrudes. The large neck - Covered by dark, wrinkled skin – has two leatherlike flaps on the tip.  Shell usually has an eroded dark covering.

When you’re cleaning a gaper, don’t be surprised if one or two small, round crabs suddenly appear from inside the shell.  These harmless crabs take shelter inside the shell and are found in almost every gaper (you’ll find similar crabs occasionally in Softshell and Razor clams).

Scientific name - Tresus Capax 

Daily bag limit - For current bag limits, consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Sports Angling Synopsis (a booklet available at most sporting good outlets).  

Season - Open year around

Habitat - In bays: sand or sand-mud from 10 to 24 inches below surface.

How to locate and harvest - Circular hole up to 1 ¾” inches in diameter.  By sticking your finger into hole, you can feel neck retract downward. Shovel.

Cockle ClamCockle – Shell has prominent, evenly spaced ridges outside.  These ridges fan out from the hinge to the edge, creating a definite scalloped appearance.  When disturbed, the cockle retracts all body parts and closes the shells tightly.  

Common names: Cockerel, Basket Cockle.  Scientific name: Clinocardium, Nuttalli

Relative abundance - Common but heavily dug in lower reaches of Tillamook, Netarts, Yaquina, and Coos Bays. 

Average size - 4 to 5 inches

Cooking suggestions: Digger foot: fry or mince (chowder). Neck: fry or mince.

Daily bag limit - For current bag limits, consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Sports Angling Synopsis (a booklet available at most sporting good outlets).  

Season - Open year around

Habitat - In bays: sand or sand-mud.  May be found on surface or down to 3 or 4 inches below.

How to locate and harvest - Hole is difficult to detect.  Sometimes a very small double hole.  You can often feel the clams with your feet on tidal flats.  Rake.

Softshell The elongate, thin, brittle shell may be partially covered by a gray-brown skin.  The neck looks like the Gaper’s two leatherlike flaps on the tip.  Softshells also occur in many small bays where there are no other clams.  

Common names: Eastern, Mud, Eastern Softshell  Scientific name: Mya arenaria

Daily bag limit: For current bag limits, consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Sports Angling Synopsis (a booklet available at most sporting good outlets).   

Relative abundance - Common on beaches north of Tillamook Head, with heavy digging pressure.  Found in scattered locations south of Tillamook Head, with moderate digging pressure. 

Season Open year round.

Habitat - In bays.  Mud or sandy – mud , from 6 to 14 inches below surface.

How to locate and harvest: Oblong hole can be ½ to 1 inch in diameter.  By sticking your finger into hole, You can feel neck retract downward.  Shovel. 

Mobility - Softshells can only retract neck.

Average size - 2 to 4 inches

Cooking suggestions - Fry or steam.

Butter ClamButter Clams Very thick, oval shell has fine, poorly defined circular lines on the outside; relatively short, black tipped neck.

Common names: Washington, Beefsteak, Quahog  Scientific name: Saxidomus giganteus

Daily bag limit: For current bag limits, consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Sports Angling Synopsis (a booklet available at most sporting good outlets).  

Season - Open year around 

Habitat - In bays: gravel – mud or sand – mud from 6 to 12 inches below surface.

How to locate and harvest - Keyhole – shaped hole, ½ to ¾ inch long.  Shovel or rake.  

Relative abundance - Found in gravel and mud – sand areas of several bays.  Moderate to heavy digging in Coos, Netarts, and Tillamook Bays.

Littleneck Shell has radiating ribs like the Cockle’s (but the Littleneck’s ribs are much less prominent), and concentric lines running at right angles give the shell a crosshatched appearance.

Common names: Steamer, butter, Native  Scientific name: Venerupis staminea 

Daily bag limit: For current bag limits, consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Sports Angling Synopsis (a booklet available at most sporting good outlets).  

Season - Open year around

Habitat In bays or gravelly ocean outcrops: sand - mud or sand – gravel from 1 to 6 inches below surface. 

How to locate and harvest Deflated figure -8- shaped hole, ¼ to ½ inch long.  Rake or shovel.

Relative abundance - Found in limited sand or gravel areas of larger bays and rocky ocean outcrops.  Heavily dug in Tillamook Bay.

Mobility - Littlenecks can only retract short neck. 

Average size - 1 to 2 inches

Cooking suggestion - Steam

Razor Clams - Thin, oval shell has a smooth, lacquerlike, light brown coating that distinguishes it from any of the bay clams.  

Scientific name: Siliqua patula 

Daily bag limit - First twenty-four clams dug regardless of size or condition.

Season - From Tillamook Head south, open year around.  From Tillamook Head north, open    Sept 1 through July 14.

Habitat - Open ocean beaches, from 6 to 18 inches below surface; near the mouths of several bays.

How to locate and harvest - Prominent pits or dimples in the sand.  Shovel.

Average size - 2 to 3 inches 

Cooking suggestions - Fry, mince, or steam

“Dry” digging is done in wet, hard-packed sand that’s neither covered with standing water nor washed by the waves.  You can often make Razors show by stomping your feet on the sand.  Razors are usually found deeper under dry-digging conditions (12 to 18 inches) than wet-digging (6 to 8 inches). 

Dry digging with a shovel - Place the shovel blade 4 to 6 inches seaward of the clam show.  Use your body weight to push the shovel blade straight into the sand. Pull the handle just enough to break suction in the sand.  Don’t pry back on the handle.  Keep the shovel blade nearly vertical to avoid slicing the clam.  Remove sand by lifting the shovel upward and forward. Succeeding shovelfuls expose the clam enough to reach down and grasp its shell.  

Wet digging - Walk slowly through shallow water, tapping the sand with the end of the shovel handle.  A Razor disturbed by this tapping retracts its neck, leaving a pit or dimple that quickly fills with water-washed sand.  Occasionally, the tip of a Razor’s neck is visible at the surface of the sand.  This normally occurs in very shallow water, and usually the only part showing is the small, black double rosette. 

When you spot a Razor clam hole while wet digging, push the shovel blade straight down its entire length, 2 to 3 inches to the ocean side of the hole.  Push the shovel handle toward the beach.  Work it back and forth a couple of times and run your hand down behind and under the tip of the blade.  At the same time, withdraw the shovel and carefully feel through the sand for the clam.

Coos Bay has all species mentioned above and Bandon has the Softshell clam. 


The Coos Bay area provides Gaper or Empire digging primarily along the tide lands across the bay from Empire to Charleston and on an island that appears only at low tide due west of Empire.  The east side of the bay from Empire to Charleston has this clam also but in a lesser abundance.  The cockle clam is found in generally the same area you will dig for Empires.  The Softshell clam is found in the firmer mud flats up the bay from Empire.

In Bandon the Softshell clam may be found on a mud flat about three-quarters of a mile from the mouth of the Coquille river, with the up bay limit being about three miles from the harbor’s entrance. 


Digging is mostly done on the minus tides, and the lower the tide, the more people dig.  At extreme low tide, larger clams are obtained due to the fact that is the only time this is exposed.   

Digging is a warming activity, so warm clothes are not necessary, however, for spectators warm clothes are recommended. 

Once a clam is located, digging should be fairly fast due to cave-ins and water seeping into the hole. Knee boots are almost a necessity and hip boots are better as the digger will quite often find it better to get down on the knees. 

The clam is located by watching for a hole, or in some cases where grass has fallen over the hole, by a slight indentation in the grass.  A pass with the shovel to remove about a half inch of dirt will reveal if a clam is there as it will squirt water up to two feet in the air as it retract its neck. 


You are allowed 20 bay clams per day in the aggregate, however, only 12 of which may be Gaper or Empire clams.  On the Razor clams you must take the first 24 clams dug regardless of size.  Your possession limit is no more than two daily limits.  A shellfish license is required. 


There's no closed season on clam digging for sport.  The only factor is having the tideland exposed enough by low tides; minus tides of 0.4 or more are clam tides, so consult your tide book for low tides.  You must subtract 1 hour and 25 minutes from most tide books to give the right time for the Coos Bay bar.  

Remember many of the best low tides fall on weekdays and will provide excellent digging on less crowded areas.  So check your full tide book which can be obtained from any of our many sporting good stores or bait and tackle shops.  These Coos County merchants will gladly help you select the best area for digging.  


Gapers, Empires and Softshells – Immerse in fresh water until the neck lengthens and the outer skin slips off easily, approximately 24 hours (less time if warm water is used).  With a sharp knife, take the entire clam from its shell, peel off the outer skin from the neck, run the knife through the neck and slit open lengthwise.  Split open the stomach and remove all of the dark material.  Remove the gelatinous rod also.  

Cockle same as above (except there is no neck on a cockle clam).