Crab Fishing at China Beach

San Francisco China Beach

  • Activities:


  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

Family Friendly

It's legal to catch highly-coveted Dungeness Crab outside of the San Francisco Bay. Crab season lasts from Nov 2, 2013 - July 30, 2014. Catch a great feast and cook it up at home or at the bbq stations at the beach.

It's illegal to catch Dungeness Crab inside the bay, but once you reach Baker Beach and China Beach, it's legal to catch 10 per valid fishing license. When you're ready to start your crabbing adventure, head to Gus' Discount Tackle. They'll get you set up with the right equipment (a crab trap, zip ties, rope, and buoy, bucket to keep crab and bait in).

Once you're equipped with all the basic gear, head down to China Beach. You'll park in the lot above the beach and take a quick hike down the stairs. On the beach, prep your trap by adding your bait (squid, fish, etc) to your trap and secure it to the trap with zip ties.

Now, you're ready to take your trap out in the water. If you're lucky and have a paddleboard or kayak, you can take it pretty far off the beach ~800 meters or more. If you're floating it on a boogie board, surfboard, or swimming it out, look for the closest buoys and try to go past them. Remember to be polite and not place your trap right next to someone else's. You can leave the trap for several hours or a couple days if you prefer. When you're ready to bring in your haul, head out to your buoy and drag it back to the beach. When you take each crab out of the trap, carefully grab them from the back and keep your fingers away from their pinchers. Measure each crab to make sure they meet the requirement of 5.75" in diameter.

Once you've picked your keepers, pack up and head to the bbq or take them home with you and prepare them following your favorite recipe.

Key points to note:
  • Dungeness must be 5.75" in diameter - see the Department of Fish & Game for proper way to measure
  • The daily limit is 10 dungeness crab per valid fishing license
  • You can't keep female crabs (check for eggs)
  • Rock crab (red top) is really tough to eat, so you may want to put them back

Pack List

  • Crab Trap
  • 100 feet of rope
  • Bait (squid, fish, etc)
  • Zip Ties to keep the bait in the trap
  • Ice chest or bucket filled with salt water to keep the crabs in
  • Fishing License
  • Stand Up Paddleboard or Kayak (Optional)
  • Wetsuit (Optional)
Read More


Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

One the of best things you can do if you live in SF/Bay. Make sure to mark your buoy with something you can spot from a distance to make the retrieval quick!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Wow! Thanks for sharing this new adventure.

almost 4 years ago
almost 4 years ago

Love seafood? Grab your trap and some bait and head to china beach. If you have a kayak or SUP, all the better. It helps get your trap further from shore and gives you some space from your neighboring fisherman.

almost 4 years ago
almost 4 years ago

This is a super fun, local adventure that not too many people know about. Try to drop your trap early in the morning and swing by to pick it up in the evening. Or, just hang at the beach and make a day of it. Also, be respectful of the locals who have been crabbing here for years.

almost 4 years ago
almost 4 years ago

Nearby Adventures

Explore Navarro Beach

San Francisco / Navarro Beach

Northern California beaches are not your typical soft sand, warm water, grab a surf board type of spots.

65 Saves

Hike Along Mendocino Cliffs Trail

San Francisco / Mendocino Bay

The town of Mendocino is as charming and quaint as one can find. It is no wonder why it was pegged as the perfect location spot to film the series Murder She Wrote.

47 Saves

Camp at Clear Lake State Park

San Francisco / Clear Lake State Park

Clear Lake State Park is only two hours from downtown San Francisco and Sacramento.

45 Saves