California Crab Season: How to Catch Your Own Dungeness Crab

California crab season is officially open to recreational anglers keen to try Dungeness crabs. Here’s what you need to know if you want to join this popular crab season.


Recreational fishing for Dungeness crabs is open from November 2nd, 2019 to July 30th, 2020. If you’re wondering when to catch crabs, the best time is in the morning or an hour before sunset.


During the California crab season, Dungeness crabs can only be caught by hand or with a hoop net during the open season in the state’s marine waters except for San Francisco Bays and San Pablo Bays and in freshwater areas between Del Norte and Sonoma counties.

Size and limit

The daily pocket limit is 10 crabs and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches. Dungeness crabs are measured by the shortest distance through the body from the edges of the shell just in front of and without the dots (side spines).


Anglers can fish for crabs from the shore or from a boat. However, recreational crabs are not permitted from vessels licensed for commercial dungeness crab fishing. They can be caught using tire nets, crab traps, and / or crab loop traps, also known as crab snares, and divers can handpick them.

Rules and procedures

Anyone participating in California’s crab season must comply with state regulations regarding crab fishing and crab trap requirements. Anglers under the age of 16 require a California fishing license to catch crabs. However, some fishing piers can be fished without a license.

Crabs can be brought to the surface for measurement, but undersized crabs must be placed in the water immediately. Undersized crabs should not be restrained or placed in any type of holding device.

Crab trap buoys must display the “GO ID” number of the trap operator. This 10-digit number will appear on your fishing license. All crab traps must have a destruction device in place that prevents organisms from being captured in lost or abandoned fishing gear. The destruction device can be made from a strand of untreated cotton yarn of size 120 or less. Crab traps must not be used during the seven days prior to the opening of the Dungeness crab season.

For more information on crab season and crab fishing, please visit our How to Catch Crab page.