How to Catch Rock Crabs
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Why Catch Rock Crabs?

Anglers who fish in the shallow Pacific waters near breakwaters and wharfs are often frustrated by rock crabs stealing their bait. Rather than getting mad at these plentiful pirates, why not get even by catching and eating? Crabbers work harbors, bays and rocky inlets where good numbers of red, rock, yellow and slender crabs scurry about the bottom in search of food. All of these crabs offer eating in the same league as the famous Dungeness crab.

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Fishing Techniques

Rock crab fishing is simple and leisurely. All you need is a hoop net and about 75-100 feet of rope (nylon or clothesline will do). Rock crab nets are sold in many fishing tackle shops for less than $20. Ask the shop how to attach the rope to the particular net you purchase. The most common bait is a fish carcass or what’s left after a large rockfish has had its fillets removed. They come either fresh or frozen at bait shops (especially those on or near popular public wharfs) and fish markets. Frozen squid are also a good bait.

One rule of the thumb holds true: The more bait in the net, the more rock crabs you’ll catch. Crabs find the bait by smelling it. So more bait gets more smell into the water. The fish carcasses are tied to the bottom of the net. Once out on a jetty or a wharf, simply lower the baited net into the water, all the way to the bottom. With a little experience you’ll realize how often the net should be raised up to the water surface for checking. When a rock crab is spotted in the net, quickly raise it up all the way. Remove it from the net (but avoid the pincers) and place it in a bucket of sea water. Lower the net and haul up some more.

Timing will improve your catch. Crabbing is often best just before and after the peak of high tide. A three-hour period centered around high tide is recommended. Winter months are most popular for sport crabbing.

Rigging and Equipment

You’ll need a hoop net, 100 feet of rope or line (strong enough to lower and raise the net) and a large bucket. Also take a measuring device and fishing regulations. Pay particular attention to the regulations regarding size limitations and possession limits for the individual species.

Where to Catch Rock Crabs

Piers, wharfs and rocky breakwaters or jetties along the Pacific coastline are most popular. Good spots include Moss Landing, Pillar Point Harbor, San Fransisco Bay near Fort Baker, Bodega Bay and Humboldt Bay.

Cleaning and Cooking

Rock crabs are cooked and eaten like lobster. Most of the meat is in the pincers. Cook crabs in boiling water until shells turn red (about 10 minutes).

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