Dungeness crab season opens, with limitations

Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA

Dungeness crab season opens, with limitations
Recreational and commercial crabbers have to wait to soak crabpots this year. Too many whales? Here’s a shot from last year’s opening week on the Miss Beth out of Santa Cruz.

by Allen Bushnell

Dungeness crab season opened for 2022 on Saturday. Sort of. Usually, this is cause for annual celebration in all Monterey Bay ports. Dungeness crabbing is second only to king salmon fishing in terms of sport angler involvement and excitement. This year, the crabbers have been hamstrung by results from a California Department of Fish and Wildlife risk assessment study that delayed a full opening of the recreational crab season as well as a postponement for the commercial crabbing season. Apparently a large number of humpback whales remain along our coastline feeding, and the DFW is committed to preventing whale entanglements that can result in injury or death. The DFW included concerns for blue whales and leatherback turtles in explaining this delay in a full season opening.

Recreational anglers can still go crabbing, but the use of crab traps is not allowed for now. Hoop nets or crab snares may still be used for Dungeness crab at this time. Both these techniques ensure that long crab lines, set and unattended overnight or for a few days in a row, will not pose a danger to the whales still in our area. The commercial Dungeness season was scheduled to open November 15. That opening is now postponed. Another risk assessment is expected by November 23. It is a possibility that recreational crab pots will be approved at that time and the commercial opening could be set for December 1. Otherwise, the bag and size limits for Dungeness remain the same as last year. The DFW posted,”The daily bag limit is 10 crab, and the minimum size limit is 5¾ inches. Recreational crabbing is not allowed from vessels licensed for commercial Dungeness crab fishing.”

There’s still plenty to fish for in the bay. Rockfishing remains strong with limits being the norm. Lingcod catches are on the rise as they move towards their shallow water wintertime spawning areas. Halibut are still in the mix with the best spots being DelMonte Beach in Monterey, the Capitola/Pleasure Point area near Santa Cruz and outside of the bull kelp beds off the North Coast towards Davenport.

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