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Can You Catch Dungeness Crabs At Night?

dungeness Crab
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Going crabbing for Dungeness crabs at night might sound odd, but there are some unexpected benefits, and you’re sure to come home with a larger bounty than you expected. The only question, then, is, are you able to catch these delicacies at night?

While there are specific Dungeness crab regulations according to each state where they’re native, there is no explicit outlawing of catching Dungeness crabs at night. Catching these crabs at night is also extremely advantageous for crabbers because the crabs become more active and move in groups. 

To learn whether there are extra regulations for catching Dungeness crabs at night in your state, what can help you attract them, and the kind of equipment you’ll need, keep reading.

Is It Legal To Catch Dungeness Crab At Night?

You can almost guarantee there are going to be some regulations with anything having to do with fishing, and crabbing at night is not lawless. The rules that apply during the day are applied to nighttime with equal enforcement, such as 

  • Obeying the crabbing season in your area
  • Catching only the permitted daily number of crabs
  • Releasing crabs that are smaller than the regulated size or female.

In the United States, the bulk of the recreational Dungeness crabbing is in Alaska, California, Oregon, and Washington, so we’ll look at their Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) regulations. 


Southeast Alaska will be the only location to go crabbing for Dungeness in the state. There are no additional regulations for night crabbing for the personal recreational use of Dungeness crabs, and you don’t need a special permit!


You’ll be happy to learn that California doesn’t have any additional regulations for Dungeness for night crabbing. They even encourage crabbing at night by explaining one of the best times to catch Dungeness is an hour before sunsetOpens in a new tab.. So long as you follow the regular rules for the daytime, happy crabbing!


Oregon also doesn’t have additional night crabbing rules for you to worry about, and you have the benefit of being able to go crabbing for Dungeness all year round in the estuaries. 


Not too long ago, Washington state had one rule: you could not tend crab pots from your vessel at night. Now, the Washington DNR seems to have removed the regulation. Lucky you!

Should I Go Crabbing At Night?

Now that we’ve established crabbing for Dungeness at night is legal, are there any real results from crabbing at night? 

Absolutely! Crabbing at night is easier because the sun isn’t blinding or sunburning you on the water, but you also catch many more crabs because the Dungeness, like most crabs, is nocturnal. 

Crabs don’t like being out in the heat of the day, where predators easily see them, so most of them prefer to wait until it’s dark to mate and hunt. 

What Attracts Dungeness Crab?

Like other animals, there are two primary things that attract crabs: 

  1. Females during mating season
  2. Their favorite foods

We can only use one of these options with any degree of success. The Dungeness crab’sOpens in a new tab. natural diet includes snails, mussels, worms, clams, sea urchins, and occasionally each other. However, crabs aren’t picky, and there are a number of good baits to use, including,

  • Albacore tuna that doesn’t come from a can
  • Raw chicken or turkey legs
  • Sardines that don’t come from a can
  • Salmon carcasses
  • Fillets of bottom-feeder fish
  • Squid

Having the right bait and rig is usually enough to catch these crustaceans, but do lights serve as an extra advantage when crabbing for Dungeness at night?

Are Dungeness Crabs Attracted To Light?

Unfortunately, it does not give you a huge added advantage to fish for Dungeness at night with added lights. It’s true that baby Dungeness crabs, called megalopae, exhibit positive phototaxis, where they are attracted to light and move toward the source, but it doesn’t seem the adults care one way or the other.  

Plenty of other crabs seem to be attracted to white lightOpens in a new tab., like the snow crab, but the Dungeness isn’t attracted or is just so easy to catch that special lights aren’t necessary.

This doesn’t mean having lights won’t help you, though. After all, you need to be able to see where you’re going and what you’re catching. If you are fishing for your crabs, the only light you need is enough to see where you’re going so that you don’t fall off jetty rocks.

If you intend to net your crabs or use crab pots, lights are very helpful. You can attach glowsticks to the dry side of your buoys attached to your pots to avoid losing sight of where they are.

You can also attach a waterproof light to the pole of your dipnet pointed toward the head of your net so that you can put it underwater and have a better chance of catching the crabs.

Finally, if you don’t want the hassle of attaching a light to your equipment, you can ask a partner to hold an extremely powerful flashlight that can penetrate the water at least 4ft so light up enough area for you to see.

Are Dungeness Crabs More Aggressive at Night?

Yes, dungeness crabs can be more aggressive at night, potentially leading to dungeness crab finger injuryOpens in a new tab. for those who handle them. It is essential to be cautious when handling these crabs, especially during the nighttime when they are more active and possibly more defensive.

What Do I Need To Catch Dungeness Crabs At Night?

If you’re an experienced crabber during the day, you already have most of the equipment you need. If you’re new to crabbing, Dungeness crabs are so numerous during the night that you can catch your daily limit with ease having nothing but a net, your bucket/basket, and a light.

If you need more equipment, essentials include,

A Final Word

Now you’re fully prepared to go crabbing at night without worrying whether you can. Remember that even though you are crabbing at night, you can expect to see game wardens around your area, so be a responsible fisherman. 

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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