Sailing: Crabbing in Moss Landing


Lexi and I have a Pearson 30’ Sailboat from the 1970s that we bought about a year ago. We are still new sailors, and I’ve been overly excited to learn to sail, and enjoying every second of it. But I’ve also been excited to do some fishing from the boat; in particular, crabbing!

I got a round “commercial style” crab trap a month or so ago, and I had been trying to figure out where to put it to actually catch some crabs. You can pick them up from West Marine, eBay or Amazon for about $120-$150, depending on the size, quality and number of entrances. This Promar Stainless Steel Mesh Crab Pot Rubber Wrap Rebar looks like a good one for a descent price. I heard the round ones are better at retaining crabs; the square folding traps are cheaper and have flimsy doors that can sometimes let crabs escape. They also rust a lot faster, and will only last a few seasons. 

Lexi and I dropped our new crab trap in about 80’ of water just northbound from the Moss Landing harbor. We picked it up the next day, and didn’t get anything. In fact, we lost the “bait cup” that was in it, as I didn’t attach it to anything and it seemed to have magically floated out one of the holes. 

About a week later I went out with my friend Scott and a few of his companions on his daughter’s birthday. I dropped the trap again in a similar location at about 80′, but I tied the bait buckets down tight to make sure they wouldn’t disappear. My plan was to pick it up about an hour later and see if it got anything. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the trap! The seas were calm and I could easily see around, but but my GPS waypoint must have been incorrect. We looked for quite a while, and finally called it lost or stolen. Sometimes whales will accidentally move them around or get tangled in the lines. Or, more likely, someone else will see the float on the surface and claim the trap for themselves.

I still wanted to catch some crabs, but I decided that another $120 trap would not be worth it at this time. So, I purchased a KUFA Vinyl coated Crab Trap (24″x24″x12″H) S60 for $25, and rigged it with some of the extra line I had left over. We decided to go for deeper water, and headed to the top of the canyon that sits in front of Moss Landing, about 3 nautical miles due west from the harbor. I instantly knew we were in a better spot, as we saw a bunch of other crab floats in the area. We dropped the trap in about 180’ of water, and sailed around for about 20 minutes before attempting to re-locate the trap. I didn’t want to loose it!  We pulled it up and it already had two small Dungeness crabs! We should have measured them, but figured they were too small, and tossed them back in the water and put the trap back down. The plan was to leave it overnight, so we started heading back to the harbor. 

While we were heading back I kept scanning the horizon. I spotted something in the distance that looked like a crab trap float; but it wasn’t in the “sweet” spot we just discovered, and looked familiar. So, we headed over to it, and to my surprise it was my crab trap float! It had been about 12 days since I lost the pot, and we quickly pulled it up. Inside it had three humungous crabs.


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We did some googling, and weren’t sure if the crabs were edible, so we tossed them back  in the water. Later, we learned they are a type of Spider Crab called Sheep Crab; related to the decorator crab. They are editable, but not really worth the effort. We didn’t set the freshly rescued round commercial trap out, and just brought it back to shore.

The next morning I went out with my friend Tim and pulled up the square trap. It had a small red crab that we tossed back in the water, so I re-baited it and put the trap back in the water. We also set the round trap.  Tim and I cruised around for about an hour, playing with the gennaker for the first time.


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We came back to the traps and pulled them up; the square trap had three legal size Dungeness, and the round trap had a legal red crab. I was excited beyond belief! Tim took home one of the crabs, and I took the three others. Lexi and I feasted on crab for dinner. It was the first time that I had ever had a red crab, and it was really delicious; I liked it more than the Dungeness. 

 One of the Dungeness:

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And the red crab; they have HUGE claws, but a smaller carapace:

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Since then, we have caught three more (24 hour soak), and gotten skunked one time (30 minute soak).


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