It is important to know the crabbing laws before heading out. Fish and Game often come out to enforce their laws, and the fines can be hefty. We’ll summarize the major California crabbing laws here to help you avoid the fines.
First off, please review the laws and regulations for yourself. I’ve posted California’s laws below, but make sure to check out your own state’s regulations:
The laws change every year, and it is important to make sure they haven’t changed from the time of this post.
California Crabbing Season
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the season for recreational fishing changes depending on where you are physically located:
- South of Mendocino-Sonoma county border: November 2nd to June 30th
- North of Mendocino-Sonoma county border: November 2nd to July 30th
You can get an up to date list of which season is open here: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Regulations/Fishing-Map/San-Francisco
Types of Crabs
Depending on your location and date, you can only catch certain types of crabs. Dungeness crabs cannot be kept within the San Francisco Bay at any time of the year. Outside of the bay, they can only be caught during Dungeness season, which typically runs from November to July. All other types of crabs are legal to be caught.
Size of Crabs
All crabs must be at least 4 inches from tip to tip on their shell. Use a crab gauge to accurately measure the size of your crabs.
You can keep up to 35 of most crabs per day. However, there are exceptions, such as sand crabs, where you can keep up to 50. Another exception is Dungeness, where you can keep 10 in most counties. Make sure to check the rules for your specific location.
You do not need a license of any sort to catch crabs off of a municipal pier. For most recreational crabbers in California, this means you want to find your local municipal pier. You can see a list of California piers here. If you crab off of a boat, you need to have a license, and your allowable limits and types of crabs change. Make sure you check the regulations before heading out.