Last Saturday, November 7th, was the opening day of recreational Dungeness crab season in California. This means that people like you and me can go fishing for our own Dungeness crab as long as we follow the rules! I'll talk about the where and the how in this post. The commercial Dungeness season is expected to open this Saturday, November 14th. Look for crab prices in the seafood markets around San Francisco, including Sun Fat Seafood, to decrease.
Here are some tips if you're planning to catch your own Dungeness crab in the San Francisco Bay Area.
What You Need To Know:
• Taking crabs from the San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay, or any watery estuary east of the Golden Gate Bridge is not permitted. Only take Dungeness crabs from the Pacific Ocean.
• You are not allowed to take more than 10 crabs per person per day; however, if you are on a commercial passenger fishing boat, you can't take more than 6 per person per day.
• If you catch a female, you must release it back in the water. Here's how to tell the difference between a male and female Dungeness crab.
• The minimum size is six inches measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell.
• Unless otherwise specified, you will need a fishing license!
• You can catch crabs by hand, net, or with a crab pot.
• Get a bait cage, otherwise the seals and sea lions will steal your bait.
• Old-timers swear that chopped rotisserie chicken with bones is the best bait.
Some people go out on boats or kayaks and set out traps, but if the charter boat option is too expensive for you and/or you don't have a kayak, your best bet is to go to the fishing pier in Pacifica. if you fish off this pier, you do not need a license as it's a public pier. Note: remember, you can't catch Dungeness east of the Golden Gate Bridge, so don't plan on fishing for it at any of the San Francisco public fishing piers, such as Ft. Point or the Municipal Pier.
In Pacifica, the Rusty Hook Bait & Tackle will rent you all the crabbing gear you need for $35. If this is something you find you enjoy doing after your first try, consider investing in your own crab net. You can buy the necessary crab-catching supplies at Gus' Discount Fishing & Tackle in San Francisco or online. You'll need a net or a crab trap, bait cages, long ropes, and a plastic bucket or cooler to hold your catch.
Not feeling secure enough to go out and do it yourself? The Golden Gate National Recreation Area holds two-hour-long crabbing classes on selected Saturdays. Call them at 415-556-1693 for information and to make reservations.
Other Useful Links
• The California Department of Fish & Game page on Dungeness crab, including all the current rules and regulations
• A really useful how-to on pier crabbing
• Rusty Hook Bait & Tackle, 2130 Palmetto Ave. at Montecito Ave., Pacifica; 650-355-8303
• Gus' Discount Fishing & Tackle 3710 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121 (415) 752-6197
• Seattle Marine - online source for crabbing supplies
• Collapsible crab pots - these look fantastic for ease of storage!
If you are planning to buy your own crab at a market, pick crabs that are vigorously active. Still or sluggish crabs will not yield as much meat.
What To Do With Dungeness Crabs
• How To Clean And Cook Dungeness Crab
• 12 great Dungeness crab recipes from Sunset Magazine
Dungeness Crab Season 2008 - San Francisco
Technique: Roasting Dungeness Crab
Food Science: Why Do Crustaceans Turn Reddish-Orange When Cooked?
Food-Lover's Guide to San Francisco
(Image: Kathryn Hill)