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Catching Dungeness Crab with Rod & Reel

[Editor's Note: This is the fourth of four chapters in this "How To" article. Chapter I can be found here, Chapter II here and Chapter III here. The final chapter will be posted here within the week. The entire article will be posted to our "Fishing TIPs" section The entire article will be posted to our "Fishing TIPs" section on October 31, 2015. We hope this helps many of you catch more Dungeness crabs.]

Chapter IV: Final Thoughts to Motivate You
By Jerry Back

  1. Crabs are dumb.
  2. Crabs are always hungry.
  3. Crabs are opportunistic feeders.

10/26/15 -- If you give crab an opportunity to pick at the squid in your crab snare, they will take it. Because they’re hungry and because they’re dumb. It sounds harsh, I know. They’re just not finicky like most fish about bait presentation, water temperature or whether it’s high noon or the break of dawn.

What I’m basically saying is that you can do this. I’m not the most saltiest of fishermen, but over time I learned how to snare crab fairly well through a lot of trial and error. You can avoid a lot of the errors I encountered by reading this guide.

Surf fishing for crab also doesn’t cost a lot to get started and there’s a good chance that the retail value of the crab you catch will eventually cover your startup expenses. For example, five Dungeness crab each weighing 1.25 lbs. is a total of 6.25 lbs. At a $7.99 cost per pound, that’s about $50 worth of crab! Do this four or five times and the fishing gear you purchased is practically free!

Of course, there’s the added bonus of getting fresh air and exercise, tapping into your hunter instinct and hopefully coming back home a hero. Follow this guide and it will start to happen for you, too. And I guarantee you will be thrilled the first time you reel in your first Dungeness crab. If you happen to have any questions, feel free to send me an email (contact info. below)!

Fun Dungeness Crab Facts I Learned while Writing this Guide

  1. The Dungeness’ scientific name is Cancer magister, or “chief crab.”
  2. The crab gets its namesake from a fishing port in the state of Washington.
  3. The Dungeness crab can be found from Point Conception (near Santa Barbara) all the way north to Alaska.
  4. Old age for a Dungeness crab is about 10 years.
  5. The Dungeness crab you buy at the store is around 4 years old and typically measures between 6.25 and 7 inches across its carapace.
  6. Crabs are small juveniles for their first 2 years and may molt as many as 6 times a year to get bigger. Upon maturity around the three-year mark, molting slows down to about once a year.
  7. Dungeness crab can be found in the shallowest of water all the way to depths of 2,000 feet. I know firsthand about the shallow part -- I’ve stepped across a few while walking around in ankle-deep water fishing for striped bass!

And How Does it Look on the Table?
I’m sure you already have thoughts on best you will eat your catch. The following are just a few photos of how the crab I’ve caught looked on our family’s table:

Crab with tofu soup and steamed crab. Photo: Jerry Back
Crab with tofu soup and steamed crab. Photo: Jerry Back
Crab being cooked and tossed in a wok. Photo: Jerry Back
Crab being cooked and tossed in a wok. Photo: Jerry Back
Wok-cooked Crab with ginger, onion and Chinese parsley. Photo: Jerry Back
Wok-cooked Crab with ginger, onion and Chinese parsley. Photo: Jerry Back

Jerry Back is a television research executive residing in San Francisco, California. Other outdoor interests include fishing for Striped Bass (a.k.a., “stripers”) and anything else he can catch on the beaches of San Francisco. Jerry can be contacted at

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