California Crab Season: How To Catch Your Own Dungeness Crab

California crab season is officially open for recreational anglers looking to get their take of Dungeness crab. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to participate in this popular crab season.


The recreational fishery for Dungeness crab is open from November 2, 2019 through July 30, 2020. If you’re wondering when to go crabbing, the best time is first thing in the morning or an hour before sunset.


During California crab season, Dungeness crab can be taken in the state’s ocean waters, excluding San Francisco and San Pablo bays, and in freshwater areas between Del Norte and Sonoma counties only by hand or hoop net during the open season.

Size and Limit

The daily bag limit is 10 crab and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches. Dungeness crab are measured by the shortest distance through the body from the edges of the shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines).


Anglers can fish for crab from the shoreline or from a vessel, however, recreational crabbing is not allowed from vessels licensed for commercial Dungeness crab fishing. They can be taken using hoop nets, crab traps and/or crab loop traps, also known as crab snares, and divers may take them by hand.

Regulations and Procedures

Anyone participating in the California crab season is required to abide by state regulations regarding the crab fisheries and crab trap requirements. Anglers 16 years of age or older are required to have a California fishing license to go crabbing, yet some fishing piers can be fished without a license.

Crabs may be brought to the surface to be measured, but any undersized crabs must be released immediately into the water. Undersize crabs may not be retained or placed in any type of holding device.

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

For more on crab season and how to go crabbing, check out our How to Catch Crab page.

Alycia Downs

Alycia Downs

Alycia Downs is a freelance content creator and avid sportsman who contributes to numerous publications promoting tourism, fishing, and outdoors. Alycia is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and is actively involved with conservation and fishing non-profit organizations. Visit her personal blog at or on Instagram @tideandtale.