Crabbing in San Francisco

First, a huge shout-out to Alex at The Art of Crabbing who hosted an excellent Airbnb Experience which is how I know any of this information. Would highly recommend attending if you want to learn more about crabbing in the Bay Area! #notanad

Location: Torpedo Wharf, SF (where we went, but there are many places to go!)

Process & Best Practices:

Parking is relatively easy (we got there at ~11AM and there were many spaces. Fewer around ~2PM). You can pay for parking via credit card at ~$1.20/hr.

1. Do I need a fishing license to go crabbing at Torpedo Wharf in San Francisco?

At Torpedo Wharf, and any other man made structure in California (e.g. rock wall), fishing licenses are not required. This excerpt from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Beach Fishing FAQ is clear:

Even though a license is not required on a public pier, all other regulations (including minimum size, bag limits and seasons) apply while fishing from a public pier. Additionally, only two rods and lines, handlines, or nets, traps, or other appliances used to take crabs may be used per person on a public pier. If you are in doubt about whether or not a license is needed to fish a particular location, the best way to avoid a potential citation is to purchase a license or find another spot to fish where you are sure that a license is not required.

2. If you're not going with The Art of Crabbing, this is the equipment that we used:

  • fishing rod - instead of a hook at the end, you use a..
  • ...crab snare (we used one Alex hand-made, but it was most similar to the promar 6 loop weighted crab snare)
  • Bait - common guidance is to use raw chicken or squid to put in your snare
  • A bucket or cooler to keep the crabs alive as you catch them
  • OPTIONAL: crab cages which are a lot less active. You can place your bait, lower your cage onto the ocean floor, and just leave it for hours to come back to find it full! (like all belongings, watch out for pirates)

and that's the bare minimum! To maintain comfort, if you don't have to stand on your feet the entire time, you can bring a chair to sit on (e.g. lawn chair); and don't forget warm clothing (ocean breezes can be cold!)

3. Cast your rod out into the water (simple casting guide for fishing, which is about the same for crabbing) and let the snare land on the ocean floor. You can wait a few minutes before trying to pull your rod up and reeling your line in. I found that if reeling feels light and easy, it's likely you haven't caught the crab. Don't worry, just cast your line again and be patient. If the reeling is hard or heavy coming up, you might have caught a crab! Be careful when casting on a pier as it's possible you cross lines with another party. Please do your part and read up on fishing etiquette here and do your own research. Yell "casting!" and try to aim in a clear area of the water.

4. Measure your crabs (easy tool here). The minimum size is 4 inches to keep rock crab. You cannot keep dungeness crabs from Torpedo Wharf! Be careful when holding crabs, as the pincer strength can be very high. I found it easy to hold the two back legs with the ring finger and thumb with index and middle finger holding the top of the shell to avoid the pincers. Keep up to date with California regulations on fishing here (LINK)

Results: We caught two crabs in the first ~hour and none in the next two, but had a blast learning and trying it out! Boil water and drop the crabs in for 8-12 minutes and enjoy as you please.


Art of Crabbing Airbnb Experience: 10/10 for $45/person would go again, thanks Alex!

Crabbing is simply fun and surprisingly easy - doable with just a rod, a snare, bait, and legal without a fishing license on any man-made structure in SF like Torpedo Wharf.