Santa Monica Bay Red Crabs Showing Well

By Jim Salazar | 05/28/2014

In mid March lobster season closes in Southern California. When it does the majority of the hoopnetters in the Southland hang-up their hoop nets until October when the season reopens. Most don’t realize there’s another delicious resource at their fingertips. Known more by tourists than crabbers, Santa Monica Bay offers excellent crabbing and has a season that never closes.


In So Cal, crabbing is fairly straightforward. We drop bait down to the bottom in a hoopnet and wait. I often drop as many hoopnets down as permitted by the number of anglers on the boat with me and try to scatter them. I soak them for 30 minutes, on average, and then start checking them one at a time. You’ll often find loaded crab pots.


For the last year I’ve been using Pautzke’s Crab and Shrimp Fuel, oftentimes without bait (I soak chamois overnight in the fuel) and still get crabs to craw into the hoopnet. If you’re using bait, like most people do, pour Crab and Shrimp Fuel on bait cages and tubes prior to freezing them in gallon Ziplocs. You can pour it on them right before dropping bait down, too.


When I’m ready to go hoopin’, I pull the frozen bags of cages out of my cooler and then snap them on my nets while they’re still frozen. If you aren’t using bait, soaking pieces of leather, chamois or sponges in the “Fuel” and placing them in a Scotty or Promar scent cup works great, too.


In a recent crabbing trip on Santa Monica Bay we tried this scent only technique in addition to bait and sent down a net with only a scent cup and some “Fuel”. We attached a GoPro on the hoop to document it (which you’ll see soon on Pautzke Outdoors). After a half-hour we pulled the net and had a beautiful large red crab. After reviewing the footage, we saw that a few crabs crawled into our net, but left after a few minutes when they realized there was no food in the scent cup.

One of the crabs that visited the Promar Ambush net on the GoPro footage was a sheep crab, more commonly known as a spider crab. These spiders get huge in Santa Monica Bay. In fact, a 6-10 pounder isn’t uncommon. At that size they almost look like an Alaskan king crab. Their meat is delicious and sweet, but the effort and tools required to eat this critter are ridiculous and lots of work.


A framing hammer is more appropriate than some crab crackers and a small wooden mallet (the common crab eating tools). Don’t even try cracking that leg or claw on your tile counter. You’ll crack your tile and not the shell. A concrete slab and that framing hammer are more at home with this critter.

The conical style nets work best for this style of hoopnetting as longer soaks are usually necessary and the conical nets really hold the crabs in them until you’re ready to pull them up. Fortunately, there’s a lot of crabs waiting to crawl in.


Editor’s Note: Anglers don’t need a Lobster Report Card to crab, just a valid California fishing license. Salazar operates Saba Slayer Guide Service. To learn more about Salazar’s Santa Monica Bay crab trips please visit