Fishing for the Best on the Central Coast

By Gretchen Ammerman | Monday, June 17, 2019

For fans of seafood, coming to the coast and not eating locally caught fish and shellfish would be like going to Las Vegas and not interacting with at least one Elvis. Whether you buy it or catch it yourself, the Central Coast is one of the best places to get fresh or smoked seafood, and it doesn’t have to cost a claw and a leg. Here are a few of the top spots for enjoying quality seafood around these towns. 

Seafood Markets

Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Market 

Barnacle Bill’s is one of those places that is a treat to find: good prices, great products and really nice people running it. The Edmunds family, who bought the Lincoln City-based business in 1974, pride themselves in keeping much of it unchanged since it started in 1949, including accepting cash only and selling seafood that’s fresh and local. “The area we consider 'local' stretches from Waldport to Garibaldi,” manager Sean Edmunds, the manager, said, whose parents were the ones who bought the business. “But most of what we get is from between Newport and Pacific City.”

The most popular item at Bill’s is smoked salmon, which they smoke onsite, but crab comes in at a close second. “We always have crab because there are two seasons, ocean and bay, and we load up our live tank too,” Edmunds said. “We cook our crab here so you can take it home right after it’s cooked; you can’t get much fresher than that.”

Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Market is located at 2174 NE Highway 101, and is open everyday. 

Mr. Bill’s Smokehouse

Oregon crab and locally caught fresh and smoked salmon can also be found at Mr. Bill’s Smokehouse, located in the Taft area in Lincoln City. “We have to carry local seafood here,” said manager Dustin Langley. “It’s the number one question people have when they come in.” The Smokehouse creates four different flavors of smoked salmon and carries smoked Albacore tuna, Alaskan halibut, Columbia River sturgeon, thresher shark and Willipa Bay oysters. Mr. Bill’s Smokehouse is located at 2981 SW Highway 101 and is open everyday. 

Robba Gump Smoken Fish Co.

This brand new smoked fish supplier in Depoe Bay is quickly becoming a local favorite. How do I know? Just see how they consistently sell out their supply of Alaskan king salmon and Columbia River steelhead almost every day. Robb Gump is located at 433 Highway 101.

Catching Your Own Clams or Crabs 

Crabbing and clamming on the Siletz Bay in Lincoln City are year-round activities that can be done with little more than a shellfish license and a few simple tools.

The best time of day for crabbing is several hours after low tide, because the crabs are more active and the currents won’t toss around your gear. You will need a crab trap, bait, bucket, gloves and a measuring gauge, which you can get at Bi-Mart or at either of the Ace Hardware stores in Lincoln City. 

Although there are a few varieties of clams in the area, the most abundant are purple varnish clams, a non-native species with a fast-growing population in the area. 

More information about crabbing and clamming on your own, including safety tips, rules and regulations, see the US Fish & Wildlife Service website.

If you want hands-on instruction, there are free crabbing and clamming clinics at the Siletz Bay throughout the summer. These clinics include an orientation to familiarize participants with the state's regulations for catching their own crabs and clams, how to identify certain species and techniques to clean and cook your catches.

Clamming Clinics meet at the gravel pullout just south of the Schooner Creek wayside (underneath the billboard sign). Crabbing clinics meet at the end of SW 51st St. in the Historic Taft District. 

These clinics are free, and no registration is required, but you do need to arrive with a license and your own supplies. Shellfish licenses can be purchased in Lincoln City at Bi-Mart, 1030 SE Oar Ave., Eleanor’s Undertow, 869 SW 51st St., and Scout Northwest Trading Co. in the Lincoln City Outlet Mall.

On the Docks

A unique coastal experience is buying fish straight from the fisherman who caught it. The Albacore Tuna Commission can guide you to many registered fishermen that sell from their boats. A reliable bet during albacore season (usually best between June and August) is to visit Port Docks 3, 5 and 7 on the Newport Bayfront, or in Port Dock 1 in Depoe Bay.

We’re always fishing for compliments, comments or fun suggestions, so feel free to leave us any fish tales of your own in the comments section. For other things to do before or after enjoying fruits from the sea, check out our Daytime Events calendar. For evening entertainment our Nightlife page steers you to the some of the top happenings on the Central Coast.

About the Author Gretchen Ammerman
Gretchen Ammerman received an Environmental Science degree from Humboldt State University and was soon running a state environmental agency in Hawaii. She gave it up for the glamorous life of the freelance writer. This led to steady employment as a newspaper editor in Lincoln City, OR, where she knew she was doing well when the paper was threatened with a lawsuit within a week. Though the work was rewarding, she returned to freelance writing to have more freedom to explore the beautiful state of Oregon with her adopted dog, Scout.