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How to Catch Dungeness Crab with Rod & Reel

Chapter I: How I First Got “Snared”
By Jerry Back
A few years ago I was walking along Fort Point Pier here in my hometown of San Francisco and came across a fisherman who had just begun furiously reeling in his line. His rod was bent over considerably and his level of focus and concentration was intense. I was getting excited with anticipation to see what would soon be emerging out of the water.

He maintained a steady cranking of his reel -- like a machine on autopilot. No unexpected lurching; no rod pumping; no letting out some drag to let whatever monster he had on the line make a final run to tire it out. Instead, it was crank, crank, crank.

Unexpectedly, at least for me anyway, instead of the 25 pound salmon I was envisioning, two healthy-sized crab were pulled up -- one Red Rock crab and one Dungeness crab. Even more surprising was that these crabs were hanging from a tangled mess of monofilament loops that were attached to a tiny box seemingly made out of chicken wire. I had never seen anything like it. I asked what was on the end of his line. He responded with “it’s a crab snare.”

Crab snaring in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge , photo by Jerry Back
Crab snaring in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge never gets old. Photos courtesy of Jerry Back

The fisherman then proceeded to remove the crabs from the crab snare and then untangled and reset its loops. He first measured the Red Rock crab and, after it having passed the 4” minimum size requirement, was then promptly placed into a waiting cooler that had been already filled with at least a dozen crab (I would later learn there is a 35 crab limit for the Red Rock crab species).

First day of the 2012-13 crab season. Golden Gate Bridge in the background as the fog lifts. Photo: Jerry Back
First day of the 2012-13 crab season.

The larger Dungeness crab was unceremoniously thrown back into the water -- much to the disappointment of several bystanders. One asked the fisherman why did he throw back a crab that would have made such a tasty meal? The fisherman pointed over to the nearby Golden Gate Bridge, standing majestically as always, and explained “Dungeness crab can only be taken legally on the other side of that bridge -- the Pacific Ocean side. On this side of the bridge (the Fort Point Pier side), I have to throw them all back.”

Jerry Back, author, posing with Golden Gate bridge in the background
Jerry Back, author of this crab snaring guide, stops to have his picture taken.

Well, I started to do my research and soon began snaring Dungeness crab using my rod and reel, as well; however, I did it on the legal side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The following photos will attest to that! Read on if you, too, would like to learn how to catch Dungeness crab using just a rod, a reel and a tiny little contraption called a crab snare.

Chapter II: What is a crab snare?

By Jerry Back
Standing on Fort Point Pier that day, I was less concerned about the thrown-back Dungeness crab and instead stood fascinated looking at this odd contraption responsible for bringing in the two crabs. It was a crab snare -- a tiny 2” x 3” cage of bait that had six loops attached to it. Each loop, usually made of monofilament line or “weed-eater” line, was a snare that upon reeling would instantly cinch around whatever crab appendage was caught inside.
Two legal-sized crab on one crab snare. Photo: Jerry Back
Two legal-sized crab on one crab snare. Photo by Jerry Back

Nice photo, right? These are the same crab you’d buy at the supermarket for up to $12 per pound, only you got your crab for free. A crab snare gets tossed out past the nearby breaking waves. After waiting five to 10 minutes, the crab snare gets reeled in -- hopefully with a crab or two along with it.

Basic Rules and Regulations for Dungeness Crab
For the complete list of rules and regulations, and for other crab species, you should reference the current California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

The key rules for Dungeness crab, though, are as follows:

  1. Crab must be 5.75” long between the two key measuring points. These are not the actual points that stick out on each side of the crab’s carapace, but just inside those carapace points. Reference the following illustration so that you know exactly how to measure your crab. Incorrect measurements might lead to you keeping a “shorty,” so know how to measure your crab and avoid a hefty fine.
  2. Daily limit of ten legal-sized Dungeness crab.
  3. Can be either male or female. While commercial fishermen (you know, those guys on the boats with crab pots stacked 15 feet high) are restricted to harvesting only male Dungeness crab, recreational sports fishermen (i.e., you and I) are legally allowed to take both male and female crab.
  4. In California, crab snares may be used north of Point Arguello to take all species of crab.
  5. No Dungeness crab can be taken from any place located inside the Golden Gate Bridge. Outside the Golden Gate Bridge is where you need to be -- either up the coast to the North or down the coast to the South. There are exceptions, however, such as in certain protected marine areas. Refer to the California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations manual to find out which areas prohibit crab snares.
Crab, photo by Jerry Back
Illustration and Photo by Jerry Back

Should You Keep Your Female Dungeness Crab?
So, just because it’s legal, should you be throwing into your Homer bucket female Dungeness crab with the same gusto as their male counterparts? During the first two months of the crab season you’ll often be reeling in females loaded with orange eggs protruding from their abdomens. Now, I’ve witnessed a fair amount of questionable behavior from some fishermen lecturing other fishermen for keeping a female “Mama D.” I understand their passion and motivation because they love crab snaring almost as much as I do and they want to try and ensure there will be crab galore in the years to come.

First, however, let’s learn how to tell the difference between a male crab and a female crab. It’s all about the abdomen (the underside of the crab).

If the abdomen resembles the shape of the Transamerica Pyramid building (or a very acute isosceles triangle, for you geometry-types), then you have a male crab:

If the abdomen resembles the Taj Mahal, the iconic Indian structure (technically, it’s a mausoleum), however, then it’s a female crab:

Jerry Back, Crab Snaring with rod and reel, Female Dungeness Crab

My personal feelings on the “keep or not keep female crab” matter can be put into a Pro/Con table:

1. You caught her legally; therefore, you can keep her. The Department of Fish & Game demands that I be fully compliant with every one of its regulations and I am. If my crab is just a fraction short of 5.75 inches, I expect to be given a ticket of somewhere between $500 to $1,000. If it was really critical for recreational sports fishermen to throw back all female crab in order to protect the overall fishery, then it should be written into the regulations. Since there are no such prohibitions, it must be currently considered sustainable and therefore I shouldn’t feel any guilt keeping a female crab once in a while.
2. Unless you’ve got a female or two in the bucket, you might not make your personal goal for that day (mine is always around five crabs).

1. Females are usually not as “meaty” as male crab, tend to be smaller, and, to many palates, not as tasty as male crab.
2. Maybe you ARE putting a dent in the overall Dungeness crab population by keeping that female crab. I would hope the experts in charge of writing the regulations have a handle on this issue because I’m not a marine biologist. I’ve certainly come across a few self-righteous crab snare fishermen out there who certainly THINK they are experts on this matter.

So to summarize, I definitely prefer male crab over female crab for taste reasons and it also makes sense to throw egg-bearing females back into the water. If the first crabs of the day I catch are female, I’ll keep them in my bucket. I’ve got to have something for my mother-in-law and wife guaranteed to eat that night. However, throughout the day, each time I catch a male crab, I will throw back one. I do this until I have in my possession around five legal-sized males, which is a king’s feast for my family. Seems like a sensible compromise between the competing points-of-view on the subject.

What You’ll Absolutely Must Need Before Going
There are three things that you absolutely must have before you hit the beach. Not having one of these items means you simply have to turn around and go back home:
1. Your California sport fishing license.
2. Your photo ID (driver’s license or ID used for official use).
3. Your crab shell length measuring device.

Your measuring device will look like this:

Jerry Back, Crab Snaring with rod and reel, crab measuring device
Dungeness crab measuring device sold in most bait and tackle stores. Photo: Jerry Back

Without all three of these items in your possession, you cannot legally fish for crab. Period. The fines for fishing without any of these three items are hefty and will put you in the doghouse for years to come with your significant other. DON’T DO IT!

With just a license, photo ID and measuring device, I have actually fished for Dungeness crab wading in the surf with just my keen eyesight and my bare hands “survivorman-style”—all done so legally. I like to imagine that our Native American brothers when living in villages along the Pacific coastline were harvesting their crab in the very same way and that I’ve rediscovered a long, lost skill. This is another article for another time, though. Just remember: everything else is a “nice-to-have” compared to the fishing license, photo ID and measuring device.

What You’ll Need to Catch Dungeness Crab
O.k., back to reality. This is about fishing for crab so let’s get serious about the tools you’ll need to start reeling in our favorite little crustaceans. We can divide this up into three sections:

Crab Snares
Called a “loop trap” in the California Fish & Game Rules and Regulations manual, these ingenious contraptions come in a variety of geometric shapes, but basically are made up of a wire-mesh cage to hold the bait and a 2 to 3 oz. lead weight along with six attached snare loops made up of weed-eater line or a heavy monofilament line (80 lb. line is ideal). Six loops is the maximum allowed—you can have less (but why would you); however, you can’t have more.

Some crab snares have a broad, wide surface area. Others are more aerodynamic and “rocket-like,” holding less bait, but probably will cast out a little farther than the more stubby crab snares. Both examples are seen above. Photo: Jerry Back

Since you will be tossing out four to six ounces of weight and then reeling in sometimes two or even three 1.5 pound crabs, you need a strong line. It can be fluorocarbon, monofilament, or braided line. I prefer 30 to 50 pound rated braided line. Braided line has no “stretch” when it comes time to start reeling in your crab. This means the crab will almost instantaneously be snared by a loop as soon as you jerk back your rod and start reeling.

Monofilament and even Fluorocarbon lines do stretch a little so it provides the crab a split second to get off the snare and avoid getting caught in a loop before the snare really starts moving back to shore.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some pier locations frown heavily upon the use of braided line. There have been incidents of braided line cutting into other fishermen's monofilament lines causing loss of rigs, live bait and/or hooked fish. Such boorish reactions are wrong, of course, and you’ll have to decide for yourself if fishing with your favorite braided line is worth it.

Leader (if using braided line)

If you are using braided line, you will need to use a monofilament line leader so your crab snare doesn’t snap off when casting. Attach a three foot leader made up of 40 pound monofilament line to your main line. From the mainline:

* Attach a barrel swivel to the three foot leader line.

* Attach a snap-swivel to the end of the leader line.

* The leader’s barrel swivel will attach to your mainline.

* The snap-swivel will attach to the crab snare.

Jerry Back, Crab Snaring with rod and reel, three-foot leader recommeneded
Three-foot leader illustration: Jerry Back

NOTE: I use a simple Palomar knot for everything. It’s very strong and easy for beginner fishermen to make. Look it up if you aren’t using it already.

If you’re not using braided line, then you won’t need a leader—there should be plenty of stretch in the monofilament or fluorocarbon line to prevent your crab snare from snapping off and sailing off into the deep water.

You will need a rod that is rated to cast between four and eight ounces. Anything less and you’ll risk snapping the rod. A Heavy/Medium or Heavy/Fast rod is ideal. You want strength and stability when throwing out the snare. You also want some distance, so short poles need not apply. A 10-12 foot pole is an ideal length to get your crab snare just past the nearshore breaking waves where most of the crabs are found.

NOTE: Since you are fishing in the ocean, you can use more than one rod when you’re crab snaring. I like to use two rods, which keeps me busy. I cast a crab snare out with one rod and then go check the other rod to see if there’s a crab on top of its crab snare. If there is, I reel it in and then by the time I get that rod cast back out again, it’s time to check the other rod’s crab snare.

I’ve worn out the gears on some relatively smaller-sized spinning reels (e.g., a Penn Fierce 6000). These were reels that I had hoped would be able to handle the load of two or three large crab. They did for a while, but, alas, they failed after 15 outings or so. The reels I’m using now are larger (Penn Sargus 8000; Penn Battle 7000) and seem like mini-winches that easily handle the loads being pulled out of the water.

It’s not just pulling three pounds of crab using a six ounce snare that causes the stress. You have to realize you’re pulling dead weight with large surface areas through waves and water that are flowing back out to sea. All that outgoing force puts stress on the reel. A 15 pound Striped Bass, after being hooked, will sometimes swim toward the shore, tire quickly and then might practically float in on the incoming waves. This is why you can fish for striper using a lighter, 12 ounce reel. You’ll find that reeling in a large 1.5 pound crab almost immediately exhausts all of the oxygen in your blood and it will help having that larger 28 ounce beast of a reel do the heavy lifting for you.


Jerry Back, Crab Snaring with rod and reel, squid for bait
I prefer a three-pound box of frozen squid that you’ll find in most any Asian supermarket. Photo: Jerry Back

A single squid fits nice and snug in the bait box of the crab snare. One box should last you working two poles for at least of six hours. Just don’t forget to let it thaw out the night before the day you plan on hitting the beach!

Some fishermen use raw chicken. I have never used it for bait -- who wants to bring and handle raw chicken at the beach? Also, unlike a chicken wing, a single squid can be made to fit into a crab snare easily since it’s an invertebrate (i.e., “no bones”).

I tell you—it’s helpful to be in good shape when you’re pulling in a heavy load. The adrenaline helps, but wears off after 15 seconds of reeling in the crab. I first thought I needed more arm strength, but a fitness enthusiast of a friend told me that my fatigue was aerobic-related and if I worked on my overall stamina, I would notice a difference. He was right. It turned out my modest arm muscles weren’t the problem—it was how well my heart was pumping oxygen to my whole body. Walking the hills of San Francisco during my lunch break took care of that problem.

Chapter III: When, Where and How to Do It

By Jerry Back
Dungeness crab season in California is from the first Saturday in November to the last day in June. This year, 2015, crab season opens on Saturday, November 7th. Eight months seems like a long opportunity to go out crabbing, but keep in mind that most of the legal-sized crab are caught during the first three months of the season (November, December and January). I’ve caught legal-sized crab in the spring months, as well, but I tend to throw back a lot more undersized crab to get that one keeper. The ratio of undersized to legal-sized might be 2:1 or 3:1 during November and December, but balloons to 10:1 or greater by May, so get out there at the beginning of the season if you want a better chance at filling your pot.

As far as time of day, it really helps to crab from the beginning of the low tide to the peak of high tide. Crab like to float and sidle up to the shoreline using the incoming tide. When the tide starts going back out, the crab tend to hunker down in the sand and aren’t as likely to wander around looking for a meal. When I first started crabbing, I would go out regardless of the tide. It quickly became apparent in my logs that working an incoming tide was productive and trying to work an outgoing tide was much less so -- sometimes even fruitless.

Sun or no sun doesn’t seem to matter much. I’ve crabbed at night, morning, afternoon, but what’s most important is whether the tide is incoming or not. Of course, to combine crabbing with a nice, sunny day at the beach is beautiful thing. It’s also safer since you can better see the oncoming waves. My ideal conditions are to try and work any incoming tide that begins in the early morning -- say 7 AM, or so. You can see the waves; it’s quiet at the beach, the temps. are cool and there might even be some shade before the sun climbs higher in the sky. By the time lunch time rolls around, you hopefully have several crab in the bucket and are ready to go home with something to eat for dinner that night.

Where to Do It
I haven’t fished for Dungeness crab south of Pacifica, but I’ve read their range can extend down past Half Moon Bay and all the way to Pt. Arguello (near the “elbow” of California). The northernmost is all the way up to Alaska. Find a beach that has a soft slope and few rocks that can potentially snag your line. Crabs love sandy bottoms. If eel grass starts to snake up your line as you reel in, you’re in a good place (Dungeness crab love eel grass).

Like any other type of fishing, ask your trusted local bait and tackle shop owner where he or she would go. If you’re in San Francisco, pay Stephanie a visit at Gus’ Bait and Tackle. If you’re in Pacifica, talk with Marque at New Coastside Bait and Tackle. Both of these individuals have given me invaluable advice on gear and productive fishing spots over the years. Bait and tackle shop owners want you to succeed, so come prepared with questions when loading up on gear and fire away.

How to Do It
This is where the magic finally happens. When all the preparation, equipment, and research come together in the form of a perfectly placed crab snare tossed over that breaking wave. Dungeness crab, if there, will soon be enticed over to feast on its squidy morsels.

The Load
In the snare there should already be a flat and rectangular 2-3 oz. lead weight. If you don’t have one this shape, any lead weight that fits in the bait cage will work fine -- just be sure to position it at the end of the cage (i.e., the side that will be closest to the ground when it’s hanging from your line). This will help it throw a little farther out. The weight might be an ounce heavier or an ounce lighter. In rough water, you will want a slightly heavier weight to keep the snare from drifting around.

Now put one whole squid taken from the box shown earlier into the bait cage -- put two smaller-sized ones in there if they will fit. You want that bait cage to be really compacted by one or two whole squid so that the crab can only pull tiny pieces out to eat. Don’t put in small, chopped up pieces of squid, as smaller pieces will tend to fall out of the cage and the crab will more easily and quickly devour your crab snare’s contents.

The Cast
If fishing from the shore, you will want to toss your crab snare past the main breaking wave. In general, try to throw out as far as you can. You DON’T want your crab snare to land where the wave is breaking as it will be unstable and will be washed around the bottom making it difficult for the crab to find and stay on top of the crab snare.

Before casting, the crab snare should hang about three feet or so from the rod tip. This might be just a little longer than your three foot leader (if you’re using braided line).

Fisherman wearing glove on his casting hand to prevent injury when using braided line. Photo: Jerry Back
Fisherman wearing glove on his casting hand to prevent injury when using braided line. Photo: Jerry Back

IMPORTANT: If you’re using braided line, wear a glove on your casting hand. There is at least four to six ounces of weight pulling down on your line. When you throw that line out, all that force pulling out the line can easily have that braid run across your casting finger and zip off a nice chunk of skin from the fingertip. I did it once and that was the end of my crab snaring session at the beach that day. Even putting a Band-Aid didn’t take away the pain when I tried to cast again. Ouch! Never again for me.

After casting, reel in the slack and put your rod in your sand spike. I used to take an old PVC pipe that was 1.5 inch in diameter to the beach and pound it into the sand with a rock. One time while doing this I hit the side of my finger with a rock. Dumb move. Afterwards, I bought a couple of those nice $20 sand spikes that extends to about four feet and can quickly and easily be put into the sand. It’s a worthwhile investment. You may already have one, but in case you don’t, they look like this:

A couple of quality sand spikes for your rods. Photo: Jerry Back
A couple of quality sand spikes for your rods. Photo: Jerry Back

Finally, this is a good time to check the drag on your reel. The drag needs to be set tight so that there is no give at all. You’re about to become a human winch, so you don’t need to worry about using the drag in the same way you would reel in a fish.

The Wait
Crab, if they’re around, are fast to pick up the scent of squid. Give them at least five minutes to find your crab snare. At some point between five and ten minutes, you can check your line to see if a crab is sitting on top of the crab snare or not. I get asked all the time, “How do you know when there is a crab ready to be pulled in?” It’s easy. After casting your snare, you tighten up the slack in the line and may even pull it back toward the shore a foot or two. You know what it feels like to NOT have a crab on the snare. Now, at the five or 10 minute mark, you can reel in the slack line very slowly, but don’t reel in the snare yet. Very gently, pull your rod back slowly and check for any resistance. If it feels like there’s a stone on top of your crab snare then STOP! There’s almost certainly a crab or two on top of your crab snare. Now, it’s time to reel them in!

The Pull
It’s finally showtime. Square off and face the ocean. Look behind you to make sure there aren’t any obstructions to trip over (like a big rock) because you may be walking backwards for part of this operation. Let’s again very carefully reel in any slack in the line and get your rod tip down almost perpendicular to your body. Bring your rod tip up very slowly until you feel that resistance again (like a stone on top of your crab snare). If your rod is still pointed out toward the ocean (and not the sky), you’re ready to pull. If your rod points up to the sky before feeling that resistance, then bring your rod tip down and again reel in that slack.

O.k., your rod is pointed out toward the ocean and the line is tight. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Now, in one quick motion, quickly pull upward on the rod. You don’t need to put your entire body into the pull, otherwise you risk yanking off the crab’s snared appendage and losing the crab. Instead, just make a smooth, fast movement upward on the rod. At the same time, you need to start reeling in the line at a quick and consistent speed.

The author’s friend at the exact moment he begins to reel in his crab snare. Photo: Jerry Back
The author’s friend at the exact moment he begins to reel in his crab snare. Photo: Jerry Back

What’s happening is that as soon as you pull up on the rod and begin reeling in the line, the snares will cinch any crab appendages caught in a loop. If you stop reeling at any point after the initial pull, the loop or loops will uncinch and the crab will escape. It’s an awful feeling -- especially because just a few seconds earlier you were at the peak of focus and anticipation right before pulling up on the rod.

Key points to remember:

  1. Never let your line go slack.
  2. Don’t reel in so fast that the crab snare with a cinched crab breaches the water. If this happens, the line will go slack and you might lose the crab.
  3. Be careful when the crab is near a cresting wave. If the crab falls off the top of a cresting wave, it will be in the air for a split second. That’s all it takes for the loops to uncinch and then you’ve lost the crab.
  4. Be careful when the crab is finally on the sand. If you’re reeling in too fast, the crab is going to be bouncing around on top of the sand. Bouncing means it’s sometimes airborne -- even for a split second -- and again you might lose your crab.
  5. Walk backwards, if necessary, to keep the line tight -- just don’t trip over a rock.

The Measurement
Well, it looks like you’ve pulled up a decent-sized Dungeness crab. Uncinch the crab from the loop or loops. To hold a Dungeness crab, I hold it from the back of its carapace (its large outer shell) using two hands to establish control. It cannot pinch you if you are holding it this way. Find a way to put the crab down on a large rock, keep control by pushing down on the carapace with one hand and then use your measuring device with the other hand.

As soon as you know it’s a legal-sized keeper, you can put it in your five gallon bucket. If the crab is less than 5.75 inches -- even by just the smallest of margins -- you throw the crab back into the ocean. That measuring device will not fit over a crab shell that is greater than 5.75 inches, so if that’s the case, it’s an obvious keeper. If the measuring device cleanly fits over the shell, then the crab is under 5.75 inches and needs to be returned immediately to the sea.

Keeping Crab Fresh
I will fill my five gallon bucket with approximately four gallons of ocean water. This will probably keep the crab feisty for about 30 minutes or so, but remember that oxygen is rapidly depleting and the water temperature is heating up from being out in the sun. I like to refresh the water with new ocean water in between pulls.

A couple of crab just chilling in the bucket. Photo: Jerry Back
A couple of crab just chilling in the bucket. Photo: Jerry Back

I’ve also seen guys with battery-powered aerators that push bubbles into the water. That probably works -- I just don’t want to lug one more bulky item to the beach, so I’m fine with just changing out the water every 30 minutes or so. Besides, it gives me something to do in between pulls.

When it’s time to go home, just dump out all the water before heading back to your vehicle. It’s heavy and you don’t need it. The crab without water will be fine will be fine as long as you keep them reasonably cool and out of the sun. If it’s going to take longer than 60 minutes, though, to get back home, maybe think about putting them in a cooler with some ice in there.

How many crab do you see? Answer: a daily limit of 10. Photo: Jerry Back
How many crab do you see? Answer: a daily limit of 10. Photo: Jerry Back

When you do get back home, I’ll leave it to you to figure out the best way to dispatch and cook them. I will say that if you’re not ready yet to eat them that night and want to wait until the next day, put them upside down in a large brown paper bag (double bag is ideal) and then into the refrigerator (not the freezer!). The next morning they should still be alive, though slow-moving. When they start to wake up, watch out! Some can catch their second wind and put the pinch on you!

For some reason unknown to me, crab, when turned upside down, become more docile and won’t be as likely to fight with each other as they drift off into cryogenic sleep. I’ve noticed that laying them upside down in the palm of my hand has the same calming effect on the beach, as well.

Upside down and docile. The middle crab was in the process of regenerating his right pincer claw. Photo: Jerry Back
Upside down and docile. The middle crab was in the process of regenerating his right pincer claw. Photo: Jerry Back

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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So many places to visit and so little time, but if you scan
these pages you'll know in advance what lies ahead and what
not to miss in the almost-mythical State of Jefferson.
Buddy Photos

You are there! Towering mountains, vast valleys, unique shorelines. Land, water and air bursting with life. Opportunity presents itself. Llghting is right. Click! An image is captured for the ages.

Photo Galleries,

Photo Galleries

A preview of coming attractions...if you are planning a trip to this area be forewarned: What photographers have captured will whet your appetite for what will be an outdoor journey filled with wonders.  

Product & Services Directory

Don't let anything come between you and a wonderful weekend, vacation or or auto tour in this region. The fine product and services providers listed here will have what you need to enjoy your visit.  

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A friend to all who love the outdoors since 2006

Website Design Photo Credits: thanks the following individuals for contributing photographs for use on our Home and Section pages: Anders Tomlinson of, Casey Allen of Bayside, CA; Jason Haley of Medford, OR; Steve Breth of Burney, CA; Tracy McCormack of Eureka, CA; Grant Thompson of Grand Junction, CO; Richard Bott of Shingletown, CA; Ron Loftus of Yreka, CA; Scott Caldwell of Montague, CA; Lorissa Soriano of Alturas, CA and the late Dave Menke, formerly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Website Design by Anders Tomlinson

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