General Regulations

OH NOOO! This is arguably the most boring section of this site, and if you plan to go crabbing, you better remember most of this stuff, and obey them. Of course, you won't get punished for violating the regulations if you don't get caught. If you choose to catch crabs the illegal way, there is no point to reading this section, but be warned: Fishing inspectors are always near. You usually won't see them, but keep a careful lookout, because when you are doing your best to violate all the regulations and not paying attention to your surroundings, a voice will suddenly come from behind you, saying in a polite tone, "May I see you fishing license please?" You are really screwed at that point.
The lesson: Don't try the illegal way because fishing inspectors appear when you don't expect them to and seemingly out of nowhere. Believe me, it is very likely that you will get caught.
There are many fishing regulations. I am just going to list the ones that apply to catching the Dungeness crab and red rock crab, the two species of crab you would want. For a more comprehensive listing, visit the DFO Pacific's regulations page and/or the DFO's page on crabbing. The regulations are split into the following sections:

Illegal Things
Size and Limits of Crabs
Gears Regulations
Transporting Someone Else's Catch
Consuming Your Catch
Packaging Your Catch
Other Things

Illegal Things

Illegal things

These are the most straight forward regulations. You should never do these things if possible. Here are the rules.

It is illegal for you to:

-sport fish without a license

-possess, except at ordinary residence (where you usually live), fish/shellfish(crabs included) packaged in a way so that the fish/shellfish cannot be easily identified or measured

-engage in field canning (putting into can) of any species of fish/shellfish

-buy, barter (trade), sell, or attempt to buy, barter, sell fish/shellfish caught by sport fishing

-molest, injure, or kill fish/shellfish using stones, clubs, firearms, explosives, or chemicals

-use spears or other sharp, piercing instruments to fish for shellfish

-tend another sport fisher's gear without your own license

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Size and Limits of Crabs

green cartoon crab

Here are regulations that are more tricky. These regulations apply to what size of crabs you can take and how many you can keep. The limits for the two species of crab you want to catch, the Dungeness and red rock, are listed in the table below:

Species Minimum Procession Size Daily Limit Season Open
All Year
Red Rock
All Year

Table Explanation:
Minimum Possession Size: You can only keep crabs that are over this size in carapace width. Carapace width is measured as a horizontal line between the widest part of the carapace. It is illegal to keep undersized crabs. Undersized crabs must be returned to the water immediately. The limits are set at that width for both species because crabs over that size are sexually mature and have at least mated once. This is to insure that there is enough crabs left over to support fishing.
Daily Limit: The maximum number of crabs you can catch and keep in a day.
Warning: A special rule applies to the daily limit in Fishing Areas 28 and 29 (The Lower Mainland). The rule states that the daily limit of Dungeness crabs and red rock crabs are aggregated (combined). This means that you can keep a maximum of 4 crabs a day (crabs can be Dungeness or red rock), not 4 crabs per species for a total of 8 crabs. This is perhaps the trickiest rule there is for fishing regulations. The reason behind this is probably to conserve crabs, and to make more money off crabbers by giving them fines for keeping too many.
Season Open: Period of time during a year you can catch these crabs.

One more thing to remember: the possession of female crabs is prohibited. This is implemented to protect the crab populations. Click here to find out how to distinguish between male and female crabs. As the regulations tend to change quickly due to population conditions, you should visit the DFO's limit list for the most up to date regulations. Make you check out DFO's site before you go on your trip!

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Gear Regulations

A cage

There is a set of regulations for crabbing gears too. I'll list all these complicated items. Hope all these info haven't made your brain lag yet. There is more to come.

-A person with a valid fishing license may deploy up to two traps.

-All recreational traps or rings must be marked with the name of the person fishing the the gear, ie: the operator (the name must be printed in solid black, capital letters, at least 75 mm high).

-If fishing from a dock or from shore, attach a tag marked with the operator's name to the line that has the trap or ring attached to its other end.

-If you are not fishing from a dock or from the shore, the operator's name must be marked on or securely affixed to a float or buoy that is on the surface of the water and has a line attaching it to the trap or ring. Only one name can appear on the float or buoy. It is recommended you include your telephone number.

-Floats used to mark crab gear must remain floating on the surface of the water and be adequately visible so as to pose no navigational hazard. Use non-floating line, or attach a weight to the line, as floating lines create navigational hazards. Household plastic jugs, bottles and styrofoam chunks tend to deteriorate and sink and are not recommended as floats.

-If only two crab traps are attached to one ground-line, you may mark the ground-line with only one buoy. All single traps must be marked with a buoy.

-It is illegal to use more than two rings, dip nets or traps or a combination of these to fish for crabs.

-It is illegal to use a jig, gaff, spear, rake or any other sharp-pointed instrument to take crabs.

-Do not set gear in navigation channels.

-Mechanical devices may be used to recover traps.

-The carapace (shell) must remain attached to the crab until it is consumed or it arrives at your ordinary residence.

You can also visit DFO's web page on this subject.

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Transporting Someone Else's Catch

If you encounter a situation where you have to transport someone else's catch caught by sport fishing, you will need a letter from that someone with the following in the letter in order to legally transport that catch:

-the fisherman's name (who caught the catch)

-his/her telephone number

-his/her complete address

-his/her fishing license number

-when and where the catch was made

-the number, species, and size of the catch

-name of recipient (person transporting the catch)

-address of recipient

-date of receipt (when the catch was received by the recipient)

-reason for transport

You can also visit the DFO's web page on this subject.

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Consuming Your Catch

Lucky for you, this is a simple rule. Any fish/shellfish you cook or prepare outside of your ordinary residence is considered part of your possession limit. Of course, the fish/shellfish doesn't count after it has been eaten.
Also visit the DFO's web page on this subject.

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Packaging Your Catch

In most cases, there is no need for crabbers to package their catch. If you really need to package the crabs, you will need to follow the guidelines set by the DFO. You can see them on DFO Pacific's packaging guidelines. The important points of the guidelines are that you can't package your catch in such a way that the species, number and size of the catch can't be easily determined.

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If you get caught by a fishing inspector for violating any regulations I have listed, you may get voluntary ticket fines of up to $1,000, or court-imposed fines up to $100,000. You also may have your gear seized and your license suspended or cancelled. If it is your first time crabbing and you forgot to do something necessary and got caught, the fishing inspectors usually let you off the first time. Fishing inspectors are mostly nice people. You can also view the penalties on the DFO web page. It is at the bottom of the page.

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Other Things

Remember everything I listed above and obey the regulations if you plan to go crabbing. I know it's a lot of things to remember. I didn't remember everything when I went crabbing. Most of the regulations are not terribly confusing and just use your common sense. A lot of the things that are listed as illegal are things most people won't do.
Here is another reminder for you. Before you go crabbing, visit the DFO website and look for recreational fishery notices, especially for notices reporting closures to certain areas. This saves you an unnecessary drive to the place and find out there that you can't catch crabs at that place.

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