HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Dungeness crab and CA mussel seasons open 11/01

Let a chorus of a thousand angels break forth in song. The DFG Web site confirms that *recreational* Dungeness crab season for the *entire* California coast opens tomorrow. (In previous years, NorCal north of Mendocino had a later opener than the rest of the state.) The site also lists mussel season as "open" as of 10/31 -- although the traditional season is November through May. Time to get out to the coast and earn your dinner .....

Sushi Monster

PS: The definitive post on mussel harvesting was by the incomparable Melanie Wong, some time back. It's a classic -- and still accurate. Use the search function (Wong + mussels) to grab it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yup. They changed the opening date north of Mendocino from the last Saturday in November to the first Saturday in November. It's sitting on my desk being prepped for publication, in fact.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Does this mean that local crabs will be available in the next couple of days?

      1. re: srr

        Only if you go out and catch them yourself (or have a friend who does). That's the date for the recreational aka "sport" season. As far as I know the commercial season still opens in mid-November.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Thanks for this good news. My husband and I will be in SF near the end of the month (coming from the East Coast) and he was just saying last night that he hoped he could get some Dungeness crab while we are there.

          Does anyone have any recommendations for good places to enjoy crab in the city? More casual places where one might eat with their hands and enjoy a beer are our first choice for this particular meal.

          Thanks in advance.

          1. re: concordcourtney

            I don't believe there is any other way to eat Dungeness crab than the hands on way. You might try Swan Oyster depot for simple cracked crab. Thanh Long or PPQ for the messier sauced crab.

            Swan Oyster Depot
            1517 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            PPQ Dungeness Island
            2332 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

            Thanh Long
            4101 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122

            1. re: wolfe

              Crustacean (same owners as Thanh Long) is at Calif/Polk, easier for most visitors to get to.
              Swan: great but closes about 5:30pm and closed on Sunday.
              I went to PPQ once and was not that thrilled with it.

              1. re: walker

                I can't in good conscience recommend Crustacean to anyone. It's overpriced and pretentious, and the food is very uneven.

                Here are some discussions on where to eat Dungeness:


                My choices would be Lotus Garden for Vietnamese style or Great Eastern for Chinese style. I'm not sure who does a really good "American" style Dungeness, since that's something I usually eat at home.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  Thanks to all for the good and fast suggestions. I'll check the other threads as well and report back when we get home.

                2. re: walker

                  I went to PPQ the other night...last time was 6 years ago. While it was a good value -- $52 for set meal for 4 (chicken salad, egg rolls, sizzling pork, 1 large crab and dessert) -- the crab was only okay. If anyone goes, get the garlic crab, the baked one was way too dry/bordering on bad. Perhaps in full season it's better but in full season you're better cooking your own.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    Just clarifying that commercial crab season hasn't started yet. Nov. 15 is the official date, but usually local crab isn't available for a few days after that.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Yes, I assume these crabs were from WA or AK given their size...and thus had to travel a bit. My guess is when the full season comes to SF, the crabs would be better.

              2. re: concordcourtney

                A lot of people like Yuet Lee in Chinatown/North Beach. It's a hole-in-the-wall but the seafood is primo.

                Yuet Lee Seafood
                1300 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

              3. re: Ruth Lafler

                I went last week on an Emeryville charter boat (C Gull II) for their crab/rockfish combo trips. The crabs (and fish) were excellent! Some of the crabs weren't as big as previous years, but the pots averaged about 12-15 each.

            2. re: Ruth Lafler

              "It's sitting on my desk being prepped for publication"

              So, by Monday the 3rd at the earliest, the official word will be out that one can fish for Dungeness on Nov. 1?

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                It was "effective on filing" with the Secretary of State (Thursday, IIRC). So it's official. It takes a little longer to publish it, since it goes out with all the changes to the regulations last week -- if you're curious about the publication process you can drop me a line, as it's both off topic and not very interesting. I believe it's up on the state website, though, and anyone on their mailing list would have gotten an announcement. Plus, interested parties would have known it was in the works, since the Fish and Game Commission actually approved the change in September and completing the regulatory process was basically a formality.

                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  Thankfully the internet has freed us from those things people your age used to use to learn about chow, newspapers ;)

              2. The search didn't bring it up for me. Any chance that you could post the link?

                2 Replies
                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Yes. That's the right article. As far as I can tell, everything Melanie said is still spot-on.

                    Sushi Monster

                1. >*recreational* Dungeness crab season for the *entire* California coast opens tomorrow<

                  What's the commercial Dungeness crab season?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                    commercial season opens tomorrow. and it could be a short one....


                    1. re: susancinsf

                      After reading that article (great read btw), I called the Pillar Point hotline just to see how opening day was going - the recorded message said boats went out but only one came in at 330pm...and there was a line of about 100 people. GAH!

                      Anyone get some locally caught dungeness and have any info to share? How are the crabs looking this year?

                      1. re: Bunson

                        I read that they are selling the crabs off the boats at $5 per pound at PP Harbor.

                        1. re: Bunson

                          I just came back from Pillar Point. I did not buy off the boats, but from the little market near the front of the pier. I saw crabs that were decent sized, maybe two pounds or a little larger. My crab cost a little less than $11. I think the cost was $6/lb. for cooked and $5/lb. for live. There were a ton of people there and lines were long, but I found parking no problem. My first crab of the season, wonderfully fresh and delicious.

                    2. If you want to do something really fun, head to Bodega Bay and go out crabbing with Wills. I have been going for my birthday for about five years and I always bring in Limit, which I believe is 6 crabs per person. I think its only about 40 bucks for two hours. So that adds up to $6.66 a crab and you get to do it yourself. You can camp for $28 bucks right on the bay too. All in all an awesome, cheap fun weekend. They clean and steam for a buck a crab. Get your ice chest filled with fishermans ice from the ice house on the west side of the bay and you are set for crab feast when you get home. Good times.

                      will's bait and tackle
                      1580 Eastshore Rd, Bodega Bay, CA

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: mmerino

                        Nice suggestion. Might be the thing to do next year, though with the weather the way it is this year, it'd be perfect for camping.

                        1. re: mmerino

                          Crab pots are thin now that the commercial guys are out! I went on another crab/rockfish trip out of Emeryville on 11/17--this time aboard the New Salmon Queen. We got our limits of rockfish easily, but the crab pots were averaging only 0-2 legal crabs each. We had to run the whole string of 45+ pots and we got 4 per person for 19 people instead of the limit of 6. The only upside is that there were a huge number of undersized Dungeness crabs (released) which bodes well for the next couple of years.

                          1. re: baron45

                            It also matters how many boats went out on each of the days before your trip and how many pots those boats pulled.

                            My colleagues and I are planning on going out next Wednesday. Only one boat is scheduled to go out both Monday and Tuesday, and our boat is not even close to full, so its likely we'll get our limits of crabs.

                        2. I am a city dweller who is currently without a car, so driving to Bodega or Pillar is not an option for me. What's the best place to pick up the freshest seasonal dungeness crabs here in San Francisco? Swan Oyster Depot?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kenois

                            I would scout out the fish markets in Chinatown or Seafood Center (the best fish place in that neighborhood) on Clement. If you're really lucky, they are still in the box so you don't have to pay for the water. I have relatives who will actually buy an entire crate and are therefore allowed to pick them up superfresh, but that is a LOT of crab.

                          2. Sushi Monster, what fun to see interest in this old topic revived! The bf’s may come and go, but those times of our lives are memorialized on the web. When I met Peter’s soon-to-be wife a couple years ago, she said that when he took her to Pescadero for a mussel excursion, he pointed her to that post to understand what it was about. I’ll add an update to the original thread.

                            I went to Salt Point (Sonoma Coast) on Friday, 11/14, to gather wild mussels for a Tunisian-themed dinner party the next day. The minus tide coincided nicely with my event, and I wouldn’t have thought of mussels for the menu if you’d not posted. I hadn’t been out there for a few years and miscalculated the length of the drive. I pulled into the beach parking lot at 4:44pm when the setting sun was a big orange disk hovering just above the horizon.

                            With no time to spare before dark, I jumped into my splash pants, pulled on my old shoes, and ran down the trail toward the beach. The tide was way out there and I was amazed at the amount of kelp covering the rocks. I’d talked to an ab diving friend who had mentioned the kelp issue this season, yet it didn’t really hit home until I saw it myself. It was hard to find a foothold and I slipped a few times scrambling to try to reach the water. But I was determined not to go home empty-handed!

                            Normally I would harvest from mussel beds in the splash zone, ones that aren’t exposed during a usual low tide. But because the rocks were so slippery and I was running out of daylight, I plucked from an easy-to-access high and dry cluster of mostly small and medium size mussels. It didn’t take long to reach my 10-pound limit. I was back to my car by 5:27pm, making this my fastest foray. At that hour the only light was a thin line of fading golden glow above the Pacific Ocean.

                            Saturday night I prepared the mussels with lamb merguez, harissa, garlic, olive oil, and Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Ten pounds was enough for the 11 non-vegetarians around my table to have four or so mussels each as an appetizer with some crusty bread to sop up the juices. While they tasted fine, really delicious in fact, the bodies were small in relation to the size of the 2” to 3” long shells. I’ll be sure to allow more time and make my way down to the water line next time for well-fed plumper mussels.

                            My expenditures for this harvest were $38.85 for a fishing license purchased at Long’s Drug in Cloverdale, $14 for a hanging fish scale, $7 parking fee at Salt Point, and the 120-mile drive round-trip from Alexander Valley. Hopefully I’ll get to the beach one or two more times to amortize my license before it expires at year-end. If it’s not raining this Friday, maybe you’ll find me at a mussel rock.

                            Other mussel harvest reports to share?

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I've never harvested mussels, though I am not sure why since I love them and it sounds like fun, but I have to say, that Salt Point Beach, assuming it is the one down at the end of the long steep fire road below the parking lot, would be both a good spot but not that easy of a place to do it if you want mussels at the water line: it isn't just that the tide goes way out there at a minus tide (which of course is why it is popular with ab divers in season, along with the fact that entry is fairly easy), it is also shallow very far out, with lots of rocks that are both (presumably) good places to find the mussels, but also a pain if you stumble on them! (and worse when the kelp is heavy).

                              Edited: No Never mind, I have to correct myself, I think you are talking about the rocky beach on the other side of the parking lot...the one I am thinking of is a marine reserve, and no taking is allowed until outside the cove...I just remember the rocks being a pain there, but I wasn't musseling (or ab diving). it is still quite shallow outside the cove but better for ab diving (outside the cove) than musseling because you'd still have to swim a bit to get there...Sorry....my brain is dead today...

                              The kelp issue should take care of itself after a big storm storm or two, however (no idea what storms do to the mussels if anything,) and yes, the kelp has been very thick this year, so be careful out there! Edited: and that will be true regardless of the beach...so it might be a bit easier to get the mussels after it rains...

                              Thanks for a great report!

                              1. re: susancinsf

                                "the kelp issue" ... hmmm, pardon my ignorance, what is it? where can I find more information? environmental danger? health hazard?

                                1. re: intomeat

                                  its both a good thing (lots of kritters eat and live in the kelp) and a safety hazard to free divers, since one can get tangled in it (or in the case of mussel pickers, slip on it if it is wrapped around a rock). Storms tend to wash it away, plus it likes sun, so it is much thinner in winter. For some reason it has been particularly thick this year, and several abalone divers have been caught in it and drowned.

                                  Reminder to anyone who ever gets stuck in kelp; it does break, and y ou can snap it with your hands.

                                2. re: susancinsf

                                  Any ideas for Monterey Bay? A link to my inquiry on the Calif board,

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    hi: just posted a reply on that thread, though I am not sure it will be much help...

                                3. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Ah Melanie! It's great to hear you weigh in on this -- since you were my original inspiration.

                                  I'll just chime in with one thing for people who are inspired to make their first mussel run: Melanie has an annual sport license. You can also purchase single-day licenses for a nominal fee. See the DFG web site for all the specifics and for a comprehensive list of shops selling licenses.

                                  Personally, I'm hoping Melanie starts diving for abs soon and invites me to the resulting feast. I miss that treat a great deal, from back in the years of great abundance. We didn't know how good we had it -- until it was all over.

                                  Sushi Monster

                                  1. re: Sushi Monster

                                    Here's a link to the license page,

                                    Ab diving . . . ha! I don't see free-diving in my future. The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college I got certified in scuba, and then never dove again.

                                4. I had my first local crab of the season tonight at Woodhouse Fish. Usually they run a Dungeness madness week, but the lack of crabs has led to higher prices.

                                  I got a whole crab for $20; in past years they've been larger and as little as $12. Half a crab is $10. They come from Pier 41.

                                  The crab was roughly a pound and a half, and while it was sweet and flavorful, I was pretty worn out by the time I was done.

                                  Woodhouse is a fine place for simply prepared fresh fish, and service is friendly and efficient. The menu is still much better in the seafood department than anything else; I couldn't bring myself to order a side of broccoli for $4.

                                  In a few weeks, I'll be happy to switch over to garlic crab or salt and pepper crab or crab cakes.

                                  I also heard a rumor the fisherman were waiting until tomorrow to go out, so that they'd have enough crab in the pots to sell Wednesday for Thanksgiving.

                                  Woodhouse Fish Company
                                  2073 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                  1. Just got my first crab of the year from the Alioto women at f'wharf. $5.50 lb. but weighed out at 3 lbs. and sweet and good as anything. Served with thin spagetti and lemon butter and toasted bread crumbs. Why eat anything else?As far as price goes, remember Sir Walter Scott about the price of fish, "You're not buying fish, you,re buying men's lives."

                                    1. Mark Twain's 1879 fantasy Thanksgiving menu included mussels from San Francisco.

                                      Where the Wild Things Were -

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        Finally got around to reading that ... very funny comments about European food at that time which resulted in the fantasy dinner.

                                        Twain said he wanted "strawberries, which were “not to be doled out as if they were jewelry, but in a more liberal way.” Made me chuckle about what would say about New American cuisine.