California’s sportsmen and women are preparing their crab pots and hoop nets for the statewide recreational Dungeness crab season opener this Saturday. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds sport crabbers that traps and nets for Dungeness crab may not be set before 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 5.
“Crab populations appear to be robust this year, especially in Central California, coming off a record harvest during the 2010-11 season,”
said DFG Senior Environmental Scientist Pete Kalvass, who oversees the Invertebrate Management Project. “This could mean another great season for recreational crabbers.”
Crab pots (or traps), loop traps and hoop nets are all popular methods for catching the tasty crustacean. New regulations this year require hoop netters to raise their nets to the surface to inspect the contents of the net at least every two hours. Any undersize crabs and incidentally caught fish and invertebrates can then be more quickly released. The main purpose of the new regulation is to ensure that each fisherman closely monitors his or her gear and does not allow any equipment to be abandoned in state waters. Trap fishermen should also closely monitor their traps because lost trap gear can continue to fish and adversely impact the fishery by becoming a self-baiting crab killer.
Recreational crabbers may keep up to 10 Dungeness crabs per day, or six crabs if fishing from a party boat south of Mendocino County. Dungeness crab may not be taken within San Francisco or San Pablo bays, which are important crab nursery areas.
The recreational size limit for Dungeness crab is five and three-quarter inches measured across the shell, directly in front of and excluding the lateral spines. Crab taken from party boats must measure at least six inches across. For a measurement diagram, see the DFG website at http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=36325.
Dungeness crabs generally prefer cooler northern and central California waters and are uncommon south of Point Conception. They are usually found on sandy or sand-mud bottoms at depths of less than 300 feet, although they can be found in almost any sea floor habitat, and have been documented at depths of 750 feet or more.
For more information regarding recreational Dungeness crab fishing regulations and other crab species, please visit the DFG Marine Region website at www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/invertebrate/crabs.asp.