Categorized | Crabbing

How to Catch Crab in California

Below is a clip from California Fish and Game. It is an overview of the crab world as they see it.

In California, the most abundant crab is the Dungeness crab, Cancer magister. Related to this crab are several other species that are caught by commercial and recreational fishermen in southern California and northern California. South of Monterey Bay, the Dungeness crab decreases rapidly in abundance. In southern California, where only an occasional Dungeness crab is caught, considerable quantities of several crabs collectively referred to as “rock crabs” are caught and sold. These are: the yellow crab, Cancer anthonyi, the rock crab, C. antennarius, and the red crab, C. productus. The latter two species also are common in northern California, but only a limited number are caught for sale because of the presence of the larger, meatier, and more abundant Dungeness crab. Sport fishermen do, however, take “rock crabs” for home consumption. In northern California there is one other related species, the slender crab, C. gracilis, small in size, with which the young of the Dungeness crab may be confused. It is with the gross descriptions of the related species mentioned above that this article is concerned, the aim being to aid identification by a few readily observed characteristics rather than by detailed scientific descriptions.
These crabs are all of the family Cancridae and the genus Cancer, meaning hard shell, and are characterized by a carapace that is broadly oval and sawtoothed on the front side. In all, nine species of this family and genus are found in California, but the other four species, Cancer jordani, C. oregonensis, C. amphioetus, and C. gibbosulus, are not described here as they are small and comparatively rare. In California, all the crabs of the above family and genus have black-tipped pincers, except the Dungeness crab and the slender crab which have white-tipped pincers.
Molting of Crabs
Molting is general among crustaceans. The hard shell of the crab prevents growth and so at intervals of about one year the entire hard shell of the crab is cast off or molted. Before the actual molt, a new protective covering is started, but this is uncalcified and therefore soft. During the period when the shell is cast off, the crab is known as a “soft” crab and it is during this interval of a few days that the crab undergoes a period of rapid growth before the new shell becomes calcified and fixes the size of the crab until the next molt. At molting time the old shell slits at the junction of the carapace and the abdomen, or tail flap, and the crab, now in the soft shell stage, backs out of the old shell through this slit. It is during the molting period that missing legs are rejuvenated. Following the first molt, after such a mishap, a replaced leg is considerably smaller than the original, but with succeeding molts it attains its normal size.

Distinction Between Male and Female Crabs
The abdomen, or tail flap, which is folded closely against the underside of the crab, is much broader in the female than in the male crab. This broad tail flap is necessary in the female to accommodate at spawning time the huge numbers of eggs that are attached and receive protection between this flap and the body until hatched. In the adult stage, the comb-like fringe of hair around the edges of the tail flap is quite long in the female but rather short and hardly noticeable in the male (for examples, compare Figures 2A and 2B or Figures 4 and 5) . The average size of female Cancer crabs is significantly less than that of the male crabs in the adult stage. The female Dungeness crab seldom attains a width much greater than 7 inches measured just anterior of the tenth anterolateral spine.
The legal measurement for crabs is defined as the shortest distance through the body from the edge of the shell to the edge of the shell directly from front of points (lateral spines).

Below is a very interesting past posting on Crabbing, somewhat of a first hand crabbing account
This is based out of the Pacifica California area..

Happy Crabbing In Pacifica Saturday, January 1st, 2005
Crabs are hideous sea creatures with cold, shifty eyes, twisted, scuttling legs, formidable crushing claws and warty armor. But the flesh of this barbarous beast is a sweetly delicate meat. Local crabbers are presently ambushing the tasty crustaceans that abound in regional waters Ñ Dungeness season began in November, and red crab and rock crab are legal year-round. William ÒBillyÓ Weeks is a Pacifica Pier regular.
Q. Hi Billy. When did you first start crabbing?
A. When I was a little boy, I used to go crabbing at the beach in Biloxi, Miss. There are different crabs on the Gulf Coast Ñ blue crabs Ñ and, back then, I used a crab net. Nowadays, I use a crab snare on the rod and reel. Crab snares are more fun for me because thereÕs more sport to it Ñ and then thereÕs the thrill of reeling the crabs in successfully.

Q. Do crabs ever get away when you bring Ôem up?
A. Oh, yes. Lots of times, crabs arenÕt really snared, so they let go of the bait and they drop themselves back into the water and get away. With nets, they also climb out of the basket on the way up. When that happens, when you lose them, itÕs just heartbreaking.
Q. What do you use as bait?
A. I use squid, with a secret little something that I canÕt tell you about Ñ my own special ingredient.
Q. You wonÕt tell me what it is?
A. Nope. CanÕt do that.
Q. I hear lots of crabbers use chicken, or salmon heads. Is bait like that effective?
A. Oh, sure. Chicken and salmon Ñ thatÕs fine. ItÕs all about the smell. Crabs go to where they smell the bait. ThatÕs why I give my bait a little something extra.
Q. Where do you go crabbing? And how often?
A. Mostly, I go to the Pacifica public pier Ñ quite often, about three to four times a week. Most weekends, and sometimes, during the week, I take off from work early; IÕm a carpenter. I head to the ocean, and I do some crabbing before dinner. I often go crabbing with my wife, Naoko, and my 9-year-old son, Justice. TheyÕre big crabbers, too.
Q. WhatÕs the biggest crab you ever caught?
A. Oh, about 8 inches. The legal limit is 5 3/4 inches.
Q. How many crabs have you caught in a day?
A. Ten. ThatÕs the limit.
Q. Do you eat them all?
A. I eat everything I catch. IÕve literally had 100 crabs in my freezer at one time.
Q. WhatÕs your favorite way to cook them?
A. I steam the crabs until they turn bright red. It takes about 15-20 minutes. Then I eat them with ponzu Ñ a Japanese sauce made of soy sauce and citrus. I also just eat crab bland, without anything on it. I like the taste. Its definitely one of my favorite foods.
Q. Do you ever eat crabs with melted butter?
A. No butter. Never. I donÕt do that.
Q. Any other recipes you use?
A. Sometimes I make crab cakes. And sometimes I make a seafood gumbo Ñ thatÕs a Louisiana dish. But usually I just steam them.
Q. Locally, there are several types of crab to catch. Do you think they all taste the same, or different?
A. I like them all, but I think the red and rock crabs are sweeter than Dungeness. ThatÕs just my opinion.
Q. Is fresh crab tastier than frozen?
A. NothingÕs better than fresh, but fresh frozen is a close second best.
Q. Who goes crabbing at the Pacifica Pier? What kinds of people?
A. All kinds. Filipino, Vietnamese, Hispanic. Every kind of person. ThereÕs a lot of camaraderie down there Ñ lots of regulars.
Q. Do you ever get bored when youÕre crabbing?
A. No. I just enjoy being on the ocean, away from the city.
Q. Would you like to be a crab?
A. No. IÕm crabby enough as it is.
Q. Have you ever been pinched by a crab?
A. Yeah. A red crab pinched my thumb Ñ theyÕve got the strongest pinch. Extremely painful. My thumb turned blue, and I lost all feeling in it for a week. That red crab almost took my thumb off. It definitely did some nerve damage.
Q. Do crabs have any predators, besides people?
A. Sea lions eat crabs. They often steal the crabs right out of the nets. And, with a rod and reel, seals can get the crab while youÕre reeling it in. Lots of fish also eat the smaller crabs. But I think this is one of the best places in the world to catch crab.
Q. Do you ever catch anything weird in your crab snare?
A. I caught a leopard shark once. And starfish occasionally crawl in.
Q. Do you think people who crab out of season should be fined? What about people who keep undersize crabs, or catch over the limit?
A. Those people should be punished. Absolutely. ThereÕs an environmental impact when people disregard the laws.
Q. Dungeness season just started. HowÕs it going? Are you catching a lot?
A. It seems to be slow. I only caught one crab yesterday. I think it is due to commercial fishermen catching their limit offshore. TheyÕre yanking the crabs out of the ocean, where they breed, before they can be washed closer to land. ThatÕs the opinion on the pier, anyway. But itÕs early in the season. We think it will start picking up in January.
Hank Pellissier Ñ a.k.a. Hank Hyena Ñ has been a columnist for Salon.com (ÓNaked WorldÓ), SFGate (ÓOdd BarkingsÓ), the S.F. Metropolitan (ÓFrisco UtopiaÓ) and the New Mission News (ÓCivic StenchÓ). HeÕs also executive director of the Hyena Comedy Institute and co-director of a preschool called The ChildrenÕs Lab. THIS STORY RAN ON SF GATE
LOAD-DATE: January 1, 2005 Copyright 2004 The Chronicle Publishing Co.

Below is a clip from a great website regarding crabbing in california, especially dedicated to Southern California Pier Crabbing. You should also go and check out the other details that are there, this is just some of it, but its is truly good information.

the site is: http://calicrabbing.com/category/crab-fishing-in-so-cal/#main

So far, I have visited about 8 different piers all over the Southern coast of California. At each of these piers I have been fishing and crabbing. I will be honest and say that i am not YET the most savvy fisherman there is one the pier most of the time but what I do is take a look around, see what EVERYONE is catching and pulling in. This way if I am just having a rough day it wont make my out look on the pier tainted.

The second best pier to crab and fish at in Southern California is the Oxnard Pier. The reason I am saying that this pier is number 2 is for several reasons. When I was there I caught a couple of crab and pulled in some smaller fish. Nothing to exciting for me. BUT, all around me I had people fishing for halibut. Now I have been to sever piers and i always hear that there is halibut but I have never seen any. At Oxnard, i was seeing some fairly large Halibut being pulled up. The largest one I saw was about 26 inches. That was a great part of this pier.

Another reason this is number 2 is because all the people on the pier were very friendly. They were welcoming to everyone on the pier. Often times you will feel like you are in someoneÕs space while fishing but, on this pier its like people wanted you to fish next to them. I liked this part.

Now, the NUMBER 1 pier in Southern California would have to be the Ventura pier. I still have many piers to go to but so far this one is the best. There are many many reasons for this. One is that the water is very clean. It is up north a little compared to the rest of the piers I have been to but I think it is worth the drive.

While I was fishing i caught sever very large dungeous crabs. These crabs are very good if you didnÕt know. Haha. Also I have caught many perch and mackeral. But the best thing I have caught at the Ventura pier was Lobster. I did not go in the prime lobster season but from what I hear from many people is that there are a lot of lobsters in this area.

In one night of fishing i caught over 20 fish and about 10 crabs. This place is a bunch of fun. If you have kids that you like to bring along, they have a little park right on the beach. But I have to say the best part of this pier is that very few people go to it. I feel that many people go to the Oxnard pier which is only 15 minutes away and no one goes to the Ventura pier. This is good because it means you have more room to fish. You donÕt have to worry about getting tangled up in someone elseÕs line.

So if you would like to know where the best pier in Southern California is, I would recommend heading over to the Ventura pier. It is a very fun time.
– Wed Dec 31 9:57:48 2008

Below is a clip from chowhound.chow.com, some local Bay Area Crab talk.  Some good past information about crab here too.

Dungeness Crab Season
My wife and I LOVE Dungeness Crab, but here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, only frozen crab is readily available (at Wal-Mart of all places!). We’re going to San Francisco in mid-March. Will fresh Dungeness still be available in local seafood shops and restaurants? We’re thinking of having lunch at Swan’s and can already taste that fresh crab! Thanks!
14 Replies so Far
1. No, but there will be live crabs brought in from further north, like Washington.
Robert Lauriston Jan 23, 2007 10:09AM 1. re: Robert Lauriston When specifically does the local season end?
Ozumo Jan 23, 2007 07:20PM 1. re: Ozumo I always understood crab season to end in SF/NorCal in May. Who knows now given warmer waters.
2. Although the season lasts for eight months, many crabbers stop fishing after the second or third week, because most of the legal crabs have been taken. During the first week of the season crabbers may take as much as 25-pounds of legal crab in each pot. By the third or fourth week there is often no more than 3 or 4 pounds of legal crab per pot. By the first of next month there will be likely be very few crabbers working the pots. Don’t count on high-quality fresh legal crabs from San Francisco much after the end of this month.
3. Don’t know if this is true but my mother always told us that fresh dungeness crabs were only available during months ending in -er which is basically from September to December. There’s always fresh crab available in the Bay Area but not necessarily dungeness. So was this an old wive’s tale or is my mom right – again?!
1. Sorry, Mom’s got it wrong — the California Dungeness season doesn’t even start until mid-November. As explained above, although officially the season lasts until June, for all practical purposes, by the end of January the Dungeness you find in SF is from farther north (the season opens later and later the farther north on the Pacific Coast they’re harvested). Dungeness is still the predominent crab available, it’s just not local (nor necessarily fresh).
4. There is a HUGE flavor difference between the crabs I ate in November/December and the ones I ate at crab feeds in the past few weeks. The crabs taken in the beginning of the season were so sweet and succulent. The crabs I ate recently at crab feeds — probably frozen crab, definitely not fresh — were stringy and tasteless. It’s too bad — most crab feeds are late in the season, but the best tasting crabs come in November/December.
5. Yeah, I’m hearing a lot about crab feeds planned for March and beyond. Why do they plan it so late in the season? I guess maybe they’re trying to avoid all the winter holidays. But still, doesn’t make sense.
1. re: singleguychef Crab feeds are fund raisers. After the first of the year, the demand for dungeness crab drops off, thus the supply (for crab feeds) increases and the prices are not as influenced by supply and demand as early in the season. The crabs at crab feeds is often frozen, frozen crabs are less expensive, easier to handle than fresh live and fresh cooked. What started off as a way to raise funds using a “surplus commodity” has morphed into a commercial enterprise, and the surplus commodity is now a coveted valuable resource.
1. re: Alan408 wow, thanks for the background Alan. Very educational!
2. re: Alan408 There’s no surplus of Dungeness crab.
6. FWIW, this Sunday, we bought $3.50/lb crab off the boat at Half Moon Bay (Pillar Point Harbor), slightly cheaper because they were headed back out to pull their pots (300 ft., 17 miles southwest of the harbor). We got a mix of jumbos (> 2 lbs) and regulars, a better mix than the first boat we looked at. The crab snobs at home likened our purchases to ‘December crabs’. Call the harbormaster for who’s selling what. If you’re eating there, the fish store at the harbor steams ‘em fresh.
7. Ditto above about Pillar Piont. The crabs we got were great. Most oriental markets sell live crabs but buyer beware. Live does not equal fresh. When shellfish are starved for long periods of time they start breaking down their own muscle for energy. Live and kickin is what you want. ps I love eating crab at Swan’s Oyster Depot
8. greetings, a couple of weeks ago the vendor who comes the the local (Oakland) farmer’s market had two size ranges for $4 or 4.50/lb and the 1.5# ones I got were still sweet-tasting.

Here are some tips on Getting Started Crabbing

Strictly a recreational activity, trapping crabs can be lots of fun and very productive. Since a boat is not required to trap crabs, it is becoming a popular method of crabbing. One method is to crab from a public bridge; you’ll know when you find one because other crabbers will be there. Crabbing from a public pier or dock, say at a marina, is another great way to utilize a trap. Wading out into shallow water and tying off your traps to sticks or poles is yet another way. And of course, a boat makes an excellent crabbing platform!

The great thing about the various kinds of crab traps is that they work well with little effort and expense. You can purchase crab traps at tackle shops and some hardware stores for 8 to 12 dollars, depending on the size and type. Most traps have one feature in common; when they are in the water on the bottom, they collapse so that the sides are open to allow the crabs to enter and leave.

Crab net rings and the different shaped collapsible traps all operate in this way. When the crabber pulls on the cord, the sides are pulled up and if the crabs are eating the bait, they will be trapped inside.

Ring Net traps are the simplest and least expensive trap available. It consists of two rings each of a different diameter connected by netting. When baited and lowered to the bottom, the trap lies flat on the bottom. The crab will then approach and start to feed on the bait. When the trap is pulled up the top ring is lifted first this trapping the crab in the netting. The benefits of this trap are its simple design, ease of use, ease of storage (it folds completely flat), and its low cost. The drawbacks are that it only works in relatively calm water with flat sandy or muddy bottoms and that it must be lowered very slowly straight down.

Pyramid and Box traps work similarly in that they are made of metal and have sides that swing down or open when resting on the bottom. They are more expensive and complicated than the ring net but can be used in stronger currents and bottoms covered with small rocks and marine growth. They can be “thrown” or “swung” into position. The pyramid trap can be easily stored since it folds completely flat but is very cumbersome to use and fouls frequently. The box trap is bulkier an does not collapse, but works consistently and remarkably well. The box trap is the crab trap of choice among recreational crabbers.

Chicken necks and backs are a good bait for crab traps. Necks and backs are inexpensive and easy to find in the meat department of most grocery stores. You may use fish parts for bait, but the bone in the chicken allows for secure attachment to the trap, and it holds up longer against the ripping and tearing as the crab feeds. Tie the bait to middle of the bottom part of the trap with wire or heavy cord. Lower the trap in the water with enough cord or rope so that it sits on the bottom. Then tie the other end of the cord to the pier.

If you are crabbing from some place on shore, it is best if the tide is rising. Wait five to ten minutes, then check each trap from one end of the line to the other. Check each line carefully by pulling it up with a sharp pull to close the trap and pull the trap quickly to the surface with even tension so that the side panels do not open to release the crab. Pull the trap upward; hand over hand, you will see if the crab is in the trap as you near the surface. Once the trap is up keep the sides closed so your catch does not escape.

After you have trapped your crab, you need the proper container to keep it alive. The best container is a wooden bushel basket obtainable at any fruit or vegetable store. Always protect the crabs from the hot sun, cover them with wet burlap or a wet towel and occasionally dip the container in the water or pour water directly over the crabs to keep them wet and cool. A pail or bucket is not advisable because air cannot flow through this type of container and the crabs will die due to lack of oxygen. If you have no other option, then be sure to replenish or change the water often.

Crabs are transferred to the container by moving it over your basket and letting one side panel open. The crab should drop into the container with a little shaking. Sometimes the crab will hold onto the trap with his claws, be patient he will let go in a few moments. Sometimes crabs get loose so you should learn how to handle live crabs with tongs, gloves, or better yet with your bare hands. Always use caution and care and you will keep yourself from being “bitten”.

If you catch a “buster” or “soft-shell” do not place it into the same receptacle with the hard-shell crabs as they will either eat or kill this crab. If you intend to keep these “soft-shell crabs” separate and place them in another container.

Ideas on Hand Line Crabbing
Crabbing is good outdoor fun for anyone. Use a dip net with the basket made of nylon mesh, rather than a cloth mesh net. Crabs fight, bite, twist and turn when they are caught. The nylon doesn’t allow your crabs to get tangled up so easily. Learning to use the dip net to catch a crab takes some patience and practice, but practice will improve your skill.

The simplest method of catching crabs is a hand line and dip net and is strictly a recreational activity. Handline crabbing is simple, inexpensive and provides all-day-fun. All you need is a dip net, a length of string long enough to reach the bottom, and some type of bait. The bait along with a small weight is simply tied to a line and lowered to the bottom. This is a very inexpensive, low-tech, way to catch crabs and is a great way to get the whole family together. Make sure your dip net’s pole is no longer than six feet or it may become difficult to handle.

If you are crabbing from some place on shore, it is best if the tide is rising. Tie several lines to the pier or boat and give the crabs a chance to find one of the lines with the bait

Check each line carefully by picking it up with your thumb and forefinger; this gives you a more delicate feel. You will know if the crab is feeding because the pulling and clawing action will be transmitted up the line to your fingers. Ease the crab slowly upward; hand over hand, inch by inch. The suspense at this point is a test of your patience. Usually, the crab is so busy eating that he is unaware he is being pulled from the bottom.

Keep the line tight. When you can see the crab near the surface, get your net ready with one hand and hold the line with the other, or you can work as a team, with a friend using the net. Maneuver the crab as close as possible, then quickly scoop down, alongside, then under the crab, and up with a wrist-turning motion. Some crabbers prefer to ease the net into the water, somewhat away from the crab, then move in and under it.

If you intend to keep your crabs for longer than a day, then consider constructing a crab box. This is usually a wooden structure made of slats to allow the circulation of water. The crab box is tied to the pier and supported in the water with floats. Feed the crabs leftover bait until you have enough fattened up for a feast!

What You Need to Get Started

The basic items you should pick up are the following:

– 100 feet of rope

– a small circular trap, some shops call them hoop traps, but they are really easy to use, you will be catching crab with them your first time out

– a couple of old rags you can use while at the crabbing sites

– some bait for the trap (chicken drumsticks are an old favorite for many reasons. some fish heads, fish guts, anything that is fresh or somewhat old meat related will usually work well. You are going to need to tie this bait to the inside of your trap, so get something that will help with doing just that. Some people will even go and buy a small metal container which can contain the bait, and also be strapped onto the side of the hoop net. The decision is up to you.

Catching crabs at the seaside requires a little patience but very little investment and If you are taking children crab fishing you must obviously watch them very carefully.
The best places to catch crabs are off the end of a pier and there is no better place to catch crabs than Cromer pier in Norfolk. That said just about any seaside place where you can get your line in the water will do.
To go crab fishing you will need a crab line (as always all the kit you need is linked to at the bottom of the page) and some bait. I recommend bacon. Crabs love uncooked bacon!!! DonÕt forget a bucket with some seawater in it for the crabs you catch, but please be kind and put them back reasonably quickly.
There are usually people around who are happy to offer a bit of advice and it is not too hard.

So where is a good place to go looking for crab???
A LICENSE IS NOT REQUIRED IF FISHING A PUBLIC PIER IN CALIFORNIA!!
So I think a publick pier is a great place for something like this. Please stay up to date on the latest crab regulations, as there are always size and bag limites. This means that the crab must be “so” big before it can be taken.

Here is an old article from the United Kingdom on crabbing:
It is from a gentleman named Keith Elliott who knows a good deal about crabs:

TIME TO stop kidding myself. If I’m really middle-aged, I shall live to be more than 100. Though I haven’t got as far as listening to Terry Wogan yet, the evidence is piling up. As if it’s not bad enough being unable to touch my toes without bending my knees and watching my nose hair outpace the stuff on my head, this week provided further proof of my incipient old age. I bought a bucket of crabs.

It all started when my daughters demanded a day out this weekend. “How about the seaside?” I suggested. Wise to my ways, they replied: “You’re taking us fishing, aren’t you?” Suspicious little wretches. But they’re right. This is a great time to catch flounders on Southend Pier.

Flounders are terrific fish for youngsters because they are greedy. They’re good to eat, too, and I’ve seen them served as plaice (in The Guardian canteen, incidentally). Catching 20 or 30 is fairly easy if you have the right bait – and at this time of year, that means crabs. Not those nasty hard-backed things that rear up like a doberman when you lift their rocky home; bait crabs are those that are just about to moult, or whatever the crabby equivalent is.

At this stage, it is called a peeler (peel off its hard back, and there’s a soft, perfectly formed new crab underneath), though fish gobble them up almost as much just after they have cast their shells. Almost everything with fins goes crabbing when the crustaceans move inshore to cast their shells. It’s pointless taking any other bait for flounders, plaice, bass, smooth-hounds and eels. But the crabs are not entirely defenceless, for their own kind protect them.

It’s amazing to imagine crabs having kind hearts, but that’s precisely what happens. At this time of year, it’s common to find a hard crab with a peeler or softie underneath. Some protect their helpless compatriots so well that they join carapaces. The top crab fights off predators, and will run away clutching its comrade beneath its body.

Traditionally, crab searchers look under rocks and seaweed. But at Southend, most crabs bury themselves in soft mud. The merest discolouration where they have dug themselves in gives a clue to their hiding places. To collect 50 crabs is far from easy, especially when others are looking too.

You can walk three miles to find enough for a day’s fishing. It’s not a matter of splashing through rock pools, either. Southend crabbing means wading through soft mud that has the consistency of treacle and is about as easy to trudge through.

Having gathered the bait, it’s on to the world’s longest pier and time to set up. Using crab is a gory process. It means killing the critter, then peeling off its shell, claws and legs. Don’t ask me why, but kids seem to love that bit. They get quickly bored with the fishing, but they love pulling crabs’ legs off. It’s not my daughters’ bloodthirstiness, either. I used to take parties from a local children’s home fishing on the pier. They were very polite, but constantly asked: “Please, sir, can we pull some more legs off crabs?”

I’ve always collected my own bait. It’s a pride thing, really, a bit like not clinging to the railing when you ride a roller-coaster. But now I have to wear glasses for driving, and I don’t spot those tell-tale clues of concealed crabs like I used to. All that bending down takes its toll. It knackers your back and leaves thighs aching from hauling your feet through that mud. It’s messy, too: that mud seems to get everywhere. And taking youngsters along is a disaster. They tread all over the places where crabs might be hiding, so you can’t spot the hiding places.

All right, I’m making excuses. I have to confess that today, I rang up a bait collector and ordered 30 crabs for the weekend. (“Something for the weekend, sir?”) That’s not enough to supply a day’s fishing for four people, but it will supplement those that I – I hope – gather. But I know that I’m on a slippery slope now. Will there come a time when I need help in pulling the legs off as well?

Here is a commercial crab fishing bit of information and some tips on crabbing:

There are many ways to a crab and you can catch a crab around here with about any kind of bait, but we donÕt want to just catch any crab crawling around down there, we want to catch big legal male crab and leave the rest on the bottom.
The commercial crab season opens December first and is open till mid August. Most commercial crabbers quit before the season is over because they have other fisheries or the volume of legal male crab is less than what it takes to make a profit. This season we left our 300 traps out for for six months and managed to make them pay. In the beginning of the season there were lots of crab so they have to compete to get their share of the grub and they are just fighting each other to get in the traps and on the boat. As the season progresses they get harder to catch as there are fewer crab and more food available for them to eat and so this is when you need to dig into your bag of tricks.
Squid is the mother of all baits. I do not know of a fish or a crab that doesnÕt eat squid, it is like candy to them. All commercial crabbers use it, they put it in chew bags or plastic bait jars with small holes. A chew bag is just a nylon mesh bag that holds the bait. If you are looking for a quick catch or if you are using crab rings use the squid in chew bags. When you use chew bags the crab will stay there longer because they are able to eat. It will also make more crab move in because they can see and hear their buddies chowing down. The big male crab will move in and chase away small crab that are eating something they want. The bait jars are good when using traps because it will last longer, always chop up the squid when in bait jars. When a crab gets in to find out that he can only smell the bait, it is too late.
Clams are another great bait, they have a nice sweet smell that those huge dungies canÕt resist. I always use razor clams and squid in separate jars it is a great long lasting combo. Save up all of your clam trimmings and the shells too they also contain good scent.
Fish carcases work great too, especially when they are fresh. The average weekend warrior may find it tough to find these prime baits so they settle for chicken, turkey, hotdogs or roadkill. Try calling around to local fish buyers, seafood stores, tackle shops or charter boat offices.
If you are fishing off the docks using open ring traps you might see the seals diving down and stealing your bait. This is why a lot of people use chicken or turkey backs for bait because the seals donÕt much like those .. but neither do the crab. If you are getting seals taking your bait you can use the chew bags or bait jars with squid or fish to bring the crab in and use the chicken or roadkill to keep em in the pots. The scent from those squid, clams, or fish in the jars will attract the crab and once they are in the trap, the turkey will keep em occupied till you can pull em.
Other things to consider before planning a crabbing adventure is the moon phase. Crab are always more active during the full moon. Tides are also important when crabbing in the bay. Crab come in and out of the bay with the tides. High tide is usually the best time to crab in the bay because there is more salt water, so lay your traps before then and let the crab come in with the tide.
We hope these tips help you get the most of your time on the water and please share your own É. go get em!!
Harvester and crewÉ.

The Great Crab Bait Debate

What is the best bait to be using on the crabs and what are the reasons for it?

So many people are using chicken these days to catch their crab it is amazing. Not only is it relatively cheap, it is durable and can last a long time in salt water.

My cousin Joe from Alabama thinks chicken are the only way to go, he says, “They also will eat chicken and probably anything else that you can find.”
Here are some tips on crabbing.

Secrets of Crabbing
Crabs tend to feed on the incoming tide. For best results place your traps on sandy slopes in 20~80’of water. Crabs will eat such baits as mackerel, tuna, and squid.
“Always allow at least an additional 25% of rope to the depth of water that you are fishing. Drop a pot in 90 feet of water with only 100 feet of rope and your buoy will be diving under the surface and make retrieving it next to impossible in a fast current. Always use leaded line to keep it below the surface. This keeps the extra line from floating on the surface.
Where to fish your pots is not as simple tossing them over and retrieving a limit. You want your gear on sandy or muddy bottom, not near reefs or rocks. Toss your gear in close to a rocky shoreline and you’re going to catch rock crabs, not Dungeness (whom tend to stay away from a pot with resident rock crabs). Don’t fish your gear in less than 70 feet of water if you are fishing in unprotected waters overnight. Gear fished in less than 60 feet in most cases will “tack” or sink when the swell is up, much like your feet in the surf. Pots fished in the deeper waters tend to drift less and fish better when the weather is tough. In fact crabs feed best during big weather as it churns up the bottom and exposes their natural food sources. Pull your pots no more than twice a day as takes time for the crabs to find their way in.”

Crabbing in Pacifica California:

Crabs are hideous sea creatures with cold, shifty eyes, twisted, scuttling legs, formidable crushing claws and warty armor. But the flesh of this barbarous beast is a sweetly delicate meat. Local crabbers are presently ambushing the tasty crustaceans that abound in regional waters — Dungeness season began in November, and red crab and rock crab are legal year-round. William “Billy” Weeks is a Pacifica Pier regular.

Q. Hi Billy. When did you first start crabbing?

A. When I was a little boy, I used to go crabbing at the beach in Biloxi, Miss. There are different crabs on the Gulf Coast — blue crabs — and, back then, I used a crab net. Nowadays, I use a crab snare on the rod and reel. Crab snares are more fun for me because there’s more sport to it — and then there’s the thrill of reeling the crabs in successfully.

Q. Do crabs ever get away when you bring ‘em up?

A. Oh, yes. Lots of times, crabs aren’t really snared, so they let go of the bait and they drop themselves back into the water and get away. With nets, they also climb out of the basket on the way up. When that happens, when you lose them, it’s just heartbreaking.

Q. What do you use as bait?

A. I use squid, with a secret little something that I can’t tell you about — my own special ingredient.

Q. You won’t tell me what it is?

A. Nope. Can’t do that.

Q. I hear lots of crabbers use chicken, or salmon heads. Is bait like that effective?

A. Oh, sure. Chicken and salmon — that’s fine. It’s all about the smell. Crabs go to where they smell the bait. That’s why I give my bait a little something extra.

Q. Where do you go crabbing? And how often?

A. Mostly, I go to the Pacifica public pier — quite often, about three to four times a week. Most weekends, and sometimes, during the week, I take off from work early; I’m a carpenter. I head to the ocean, and I do some crabbing before dinner. I often go crabbing with my wife, Naoko, and my 9-year-old son, Justice. They’re big crabbers, too.

Q. What’s the biggest crab you ever caught?

A. Oh, about 8 inches. The legal limit is 5 3/4 inches.

Q. How many crabs have you caught in a day?

A. Ten. That’s the limit.

Q. Do you eat them all?

A. I eat everything I catch. I’ve literally had 100 crabs in my freezer at one time.

Q. What’s your favorite way to cook them?

A. I steam the crabs until they turn bright red. It takes about 15-20 minutes. Then I eat them with ponzu — a Japanese sauce made of soy sauce and citrus. I also just eat crab bland, without anything on it. I like the taste. Its definitely one of my favorite foods.

Q. Do you ever eat crabs with melted butter?

A. No butter. Never. I don’t do that.

Q. Any other recipes you use?

A. Sometimes I make crab cakes. And sometimes I make a seafood gumbo — that’s a Louisiana dish. But usually I just steam them.

Q. Locally, there are several types of crab to catch. Do you think they all taste the same, or different?

A. I like them all, but I think the red and rock crabs are sweeter than Dungeness. That’s just my opinion.

Q. Is fresh crab tastier than frozen?

A. Nothing’s better than fresh, but fresh frozen is a close second best.

Q. Who goes crabbing at the Pacifica Pier? What kinds of people?

A. All kinds. Filipino, Vietnamese, Hispanic. Every kind of person. There’s a lot of camaraderie down there — lots of regulars.

Q. Do you ever get bored when you’re crabbing?

A. No. I just enjoy being on the ocean, away from the city.

Q. Would you like to be a crab?

A. No. I’m crabby enough as it is.

Q. Have you ever been pinched by a crab?

A. Yeah. A red crab pinched my thumb — they’ve got the strongest pinch. Extremely painful. My thumb turned blue, and I lost all feeling in it for a week. That red crab almost took my thumb off. It definitely did some nerve damage.

Q. Do crabs have any predators, besides people?

A. Sea lions eat crabs. They often steal the crabs right out of the nets. And, with a rod and reel, seals can get the crab while you’re reeling it in. Lots of fish also eat the smaller crabs. But I think this is one of the best places in the world to catch crab.

Q. Do you ever catch anything weird in your crab snare?

A. I caught a leopard shark once. And starfish occasionally crawl in.

Q. Do you think people who crab out of season should be fined? What about people who keep undersize crabs, or catch over the limit?

A. Those people should be punished. Absolutely. There’s an environmental impact when people disregard the laws.

Q. Dungeness season just started. How’s it going? Are you catching a lot?

A. It seems to be slow. I only caught one crab yesterday. I think it is due to commercial fishermen catching their limit offshore. They’re yanking the crabs out of the ocean, where they breed, before they can be washed closer to land. That’s the opinion on the pier, anyway. But it’s early in the season. We think it will start picking up in January

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- who has written 46 posts on Fishing Reports For The United States and Mexico.


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