California crab regulations: the recreational fishery for Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is open from November 3, 2018 through June 30, 2019 south of the Mendocino-Sonoma county border and through July 30, 2019 north of the Mendocino-Sonoma county border. The daily bag limit is 10 crab, and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches.These are the applicable rules for crabbing season in Pacifica, more info here
Beginning of crabbing season in San Francisco
It seems that the fishermen have been waiting an entire year for this day. The night before the massacre experienced crabbers and novices get together their nets and crabbing snares. They have been fermenting slices of most rotten chicken for weeks, to use as a bait for the crabs. The measuring tools checked. The ropes the gloves. The lights! Yes, most importantly the light. You have to come to the Pacifica pier almost at 11 pm the day before to get yourself and the crew a spot.
Crabbing season Pacifica Pier Open
One of the best spots to go Crabbing in San Francisco is at the Pacifica Pier, opening first Saturday in November every year. You can freely crab off of any pier or public jetty without a fishhing license. All the images taken in this post are from the Pacifica Pier.
Address: 2100 Beach Blvd, Pacifica, CA 94044
It is a busy night before the crabbing season opens. And then, precisely at midnight the ropes with nets drop hitting the waves of pacific ocean. The game is on! The active crowds gets rowdy once they see 00:01 on their phones. The smell of smoldering cigarettes and joints that was in the air a minute ago vanishes almost immediately. Everyone is focused on fighting for the best spot for their net.
Below the surface
Down below the surface crabs are crawling one on top of the other, sensing the presence of the rotten fish and chicken – they simply cannot resist. Forcefully crawling on top of one another they are making their way to the banquet, little do the crustaceans know that they are the main course.
The crabs are fighting to get their claws on some of that rotten feast. And then after just a few bites, pleasant meal turns into an unexpected vigorous ascent. The crabs are in panic, the next moment they are out. Crustaceans are lifted out of their aquatic element and into the air followed by few more jerks. A cold cling of a metallic measuring tool on the outer shell, and boom the crab is in the bucket halfway filled with ocean salt water.
On the pier
There is much of the same disorganized commotion above the water. A single person attempted to take a few spot at a time, hoping to save a place for his friends. A group of people physically moving his snares, without saying much, reminds him that the power is of the majority. the space is scarce, the heat is on. If you didn’t see the pillars and the concrete of the pier, you’d think that you’re on Discovery’s show “Deadliest catch.” Joints and blunts smoldering, music blasting, beers untapped, nets dropped.
It is almost nostalgic because you know that only a hundred or so years ago people were doing exactly the same thing on that early morning in November. In the day of ultra cleanliness, advance technology and snobbism it is such a pleasure to watch men work with their hands to put a meal on plate that night. There’s something primitive and simply human about the whole procedure.
It was an amazing fun to take part in this uniquely Californian experience. In addition, on other trips to the Pacifica pier I had a pleasant experience interacting with the local Chinese people (extensively described in Jack London’s Tales of the Fish Patrol), who taught me a few tricks of the fishing trade. As a result of this learning experience, I caught some smelt fish to marinade.
Caution: Catching food in the wild, who are exposed to pathogens can predispose you to acquire hook worms, or w.e. else. Exercise caution while thoroughly cooking your fish.
Fishing at the pier with kids
It was an amazing fun to take part in this uniquely Californian experience. In addition, on other trips to the Pacifica pier I had a pleasant experience interacting with the local Chinese people, who taught me a few tricks of the trade. I was able to catch enough smelt fish to marinade it with vinegar, vodka, spices, laurel bay leaf and freshly chopped onions.
Many families come out to the pier to fish together. It could be a fun bonding activity for you as well. You can freely fish without licence all along the coast of the Pacific ocean from the piers, although it is highly advisable to check the regulations for a specific fish or a marine animal your planning on harvesting (many are seasonal). One of my other favorite places to go fishing is the Santa Monica Pier in southern California where locals often times pull Trasher Sharks.
Note: You don’t need fishing license in California if you fish off of piers and jetties. Check out the California crab regulations atCalifornia Wildlife Fishing website for specific info, here’s the quote from the website.
Anyone 16 years and older must have a fishing license to take any kind of fish, mollusk, invertebrate or crustacean in California, except for persons angling from a public pier for non-commercial purposes in ocean or bay waters. A public pier is defined in the sport fishing regulations as a publicly owned man-made structure that has the following characteristics: is connected, above the mean high tide, to the main coastline or to the land mass of a named and charted natural island; has unrestricted free access for the general public; and has been built or currently functions for the primary purpose of allowing angling access to ocean waters.
Additionally, publicly owned jetties or breakwaters that are connected to land, as described above, that have free unrestricted access for the general public and whose purpose it is to form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor are public piers. Jetties, breakwaters, promenades, sea walls, moles, docks, linings, barriers and other structures that are not the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor, are not public piers.
Caution: Exercise cation while catching food in the wild, you will be exposed to potential pathogens if you don’t cook the sea food properly or decided to consume it raw.