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Crab ‘n Go: Seizing Vancouver’s Best Crabbing Spots

Best Crabbing Spots in Vancouver
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One sunny morning, my curiosity led me to the rugged shores of Jericho Beach, where I found myself captivated by the casual rhythm of recreational crabbers. 

As they cast their traps into the cold, pristine waters, I couldn’t help but wonder about the simple joy they found in this maritime pursuit.

If you’re curious about the secrets to a successful crabbing experience, dive into our article and learn about the rules, best time for crabbing, and discover the best spots for crabbing in and around Vancouver.

What license do we need to catch crab in Vancouver?

What license do we need to catch crab in Vancouver
Image by auremar on Adobe Stock

The license necessary for crab fishing is a Tidal Water Fishing License. The individual crabbing or transporting the catch should possess this license, or 

From April 1 2023 to March 31, 2024, residents of BC and non-residents can get the following types at the specified rates:

License typeAgeResident feeNon-resident fee
AnnualAdult CAD 22.59CAD 108.64
SeniorCAD 11.83CAD 108.64
Under 16 years oldFreeFree
5 day license
16 years and older
CAD 17.21CAD 32.35
3 day licenseCAD 11.83CAD 20.44
1 day licenseCAD 5.66CAD 7.53
Information from Canada.ca

For many anglers and crab harvesters, the annual license is the most practical to purchase.

When Fishery Officers ask to see your license, you can show it in electronic form as long as you have an image of all pages and they are all clear. 

Note however that if you’re retaining the crab (or fish in other cases), you have to record your catch on your National Recreational Licensing System (NRLS) online. If you can’t access the internet right away, you need to write it on your paper copy.

What are the rules for crabbing in Vancouver?

Aside from acquiring and keeping the Tidal Water Fishing License, the other rules for crabbing include observing the restricted fishing areas and harvesting only four male crabs a day, each passing the minimum harvest size.

If your catch does not match the description, you have to release the crabs gently into the water. All in all, the rules in Vancouver follow the rules in BC and the whole of Canada.

It’s illegal to catch female crabs 

It’s illegal to catch female crabs 
Image by AshleyBelle on Adobe Stock

It’s illegal to catch female crabs in British Columbia (BC) in order to protect the crab population. Female crabs are responsible for reproducing the next generation of crabs, so it is important to protect them so that the population can continue to thrive.

Female crabs have a wider beehive shape on their abdomen compared to male crabs.

There’s a minimum harvest size

There’s a minimum harvest size
Image by GalinaSt on Adobe Stock

Using a caliper, measure each crab from one end to the other of the widest part of the shell. Dungeness crabs should be at least 165 mm and red rock crabs are 115 mm.

Release soft-shell crabs back into the water

Release soft-shell crabs back into the water
Image by pkproject on Adobe Stock

If you happen to catch a soft-shell crab, rest assured you’re not breaking any rules, but it’s highly encouraged to release it back into the waters. 

This practice supports the development of their meat, allowing them to mature for a more substantial harvest in the future. 

What equipment and gear do we use for crab fishing in Vancouver?

Crab Traps

Crab Traps
Image byLarry D Crain on  Adobe Stock

Crab traps, also known as crab pots or cages, are essential tools for crab fishing. Their primary purpose is to entice crabs within and secure them, employing bait as the alluring agent to achieve this. 

Rectangular traps, constructed from coated wire or stainless steel, offer a more budget-friendly option. But opting for these affordable traps doesn’t compromise their ability to capture crabs efficiently. 

On the flip side, round traps come at a higher cost and weigh more than their rectangular counterparts. However, their effectiveness lies in their swifter descent to the ocean floor.

Trap Harness

Trap Harness
Image by shorex.koss on  Adobe Stock

A trap harness is a crucial component for securing crab traps to the mainline or trap rope. Its primary role is to thwart the loss of traps, ensuring they remain steadfastly connected to the main fishing gear throughout the expedition.

When selecting a trap harness, it’s imperative to prioritize durability and size compatibility with your traps. Ensuring that the harness is both robust and appropriately sized is a fundamental step toward a successful and reliable crabbing experience.

Trap Rope

Trap Rope
Image by The World Traveller on  Adobe Stock

Trap rope is the strong, durable line that connects the crab traps to the mainline. It should be resistant to wear and have adequate strength to withstand the pressures of crab fishing. 

A standard consideration is a 100-ft length of leaded rope, preventing the excess line from floating to the surface and potentially impacting other boaters in the vicinity. If you’ve opted for a poly rope, be prepared with a line weight to counteract its buoyancy.

Crab Trap Floats

Crab Trap Floats
Image by David J. Shuleron on Adobe Stock

Crab trap floats are buoyant devices attached to the trap rope to keep it afloat and visible on the water’s surface. Brightly colored floats make it easier to locate and retrieve your traps.

Ensure the floats are sturdy and secured to prevent loss. Attach your name and phone number to identify your crab traps and prevent adding to ghost gear or those that continue to catch and trap marine creatures without a fisher or harvester minding it.

Bait and Bait Bag

Bait and Bait Bag
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Popular baits include fish heads, chicken parts, or other strong-smelling options like herring. Salmon heads are the most effective in luring crabs.

Now, bait bags hold the bait within the crab trap, attracting crabs to enter and be captured. Secure the bait bag inside the trap to maximize its effectiveness. 

If the bait disappears, then you can’t attract any more crabs inside the trap, and those already trapped won’t have anything to be distracted with.

Crab Caliper

Crab Caliper
Image by kanurism on  Adobe Stock

A crab caliper, or measuring tool, is used to ensure caught crabs meet the legal size limits. Carry a reliable crab caliper to accurately measure the carapace width of the crabs you catch.

Cooler or Bucket

Cooler or Bucket

Image by SPP on  Adobe Stock

A sturdy cooler or bucket is essential for preserving the quality of your crab catch. If you’re only starting to learn the art of crab fishing, you may also use tongs to prevent being pinched – just make sure to use it gently!

What’s the best time to go crabbing in Vancouver?

The best time to go crab fishing or harvesting in Vancouver is in the spring and summer months. Dungeness crabs are the more popular species in the area and they’re typically productive during these months.

Spring (April to June) is often considered prime crabbing season in Vancouver. Dungeness crabs are more active and abundant during the spring months as they come closer to shore for feeding and mating. 

Summer (July to August) can also be a good time for crabbing, especially during the earlier months when the crabs are mating. Warmer water temperatures may encourage crab activity, and it’s a popular time for recreational crabbers.

Where can you go crabbing in Vancouver?

Jericho Pier

Jericho Pier
Image by StandbildCA on  Shutterstock

Jericho Pier in Vancouver is a scenic wooden structure extending into English Bay, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and ocean. 

A popular destination for anglers and sightseers alike, the pier provides a tranquil atmosphere for enjoying sunsets and engaging in recreational fishing. 

Crabbing enthusiasts frequent Jericho Pier, taking advantage of its accessible location to try their luck at catching Dungeness and red rock crabs while soaking in the coastal ambiance. 

Pro tip: In 2021 to 2022, the Jericho Pier was damaged by natural disasters and only recently, the Vancouver Park Board agreed to repair this 80 year old pier instead of demolishing it.

Belcarra Regional Park

Belcarra Regional Park
Image by Joanna Szypulska on  Shutterstock

Located north of Port Moody (Port Moody), Belcarra Regional Park sits by the mouth of Indian Arm. To access the prime crabbing spot, hop on the C26 community shuttle from the city centre of Port Moody.

There’s a dock area from where you can crab from shore. It’s near a small beach, washroom facilities, and a picnic area. 

Now, the crabbing scene here leans more towards lively red rock crabs rather than the Dungeness variety. 

Weekends and holidays tend to bring a bit of a crowd, but on your regular weekdays, fewer folks go to Belcarra Regional Park for crab fishing or harvesting.

Pro tip: Opt for brightly colored floats on your crab traps to enhance visibility and minimize the risk of entanglement with other boaters.

Ambleside Park, West Vancouver

Ambleside Park, West Vancouver
Image by Arc Rajtar on Shutterstock

Located in West Vancouver (west vancouver beach), Ambleside Park is a good spot to view Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge from. It’s one of the recommended spots to see the fireworks from.

When it comes to crab fishing or harvesting, Ambleside Park is not as crowded as Belcarra. Another difference between the two spots is that Dungeness crabs seem to make more appearances here than red rock crabs.

Pro tip: When crabbing at Ambleside Park, take advantage of the stunning views and serene ambiance. Early mornings or late afternoons can be ideal times, and using chicken or fish heads as bait often proves effective. 

Sydney, Vancouver Island

Sydney, Vancouver Island
 Image by alanhasgari on Shutterstock

Now, a little further away from the Lower Mainland, Sydney is a great place to catch large red rock crabs. The Dungeness crabs are mostly undersized, so you’re required to release them into the water after catching them.

Sydney is situated around 20 kilometres north of Victoria. To get to it from Vancouver, you have to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, and take the correct bus for a few minutes.

From there, you only have to walk to the crabbing area. While immersing yourself in the activity, look around and appreciate the views too!

Pro tip: Venture out during the spring and summer months for prime crabbing conditions. Dungeness crab is a common catch, and using salmon heads as bait can be particularly enticing.

Sunshine Coast

 Image by Lienka on Shutterstock

The Sunshine Coast in Vancouver Island is also excellent for crabbing. It has mild climate, with long stretches of rocky shoreline and shallow bays, which are ideal habitats for Dungeness crabs.

Located on the eastern end of the Sunshine Coast, Gibsons is one of the popular areas for crabbing. Davis Bay Pier, located just north of Half Moon Bay, is another popular spot for casting or crabbing.

Pro tip: Consider exploring areas with seagrass beds and rocky bottoms, as they tend to attract crabs. Utilize round traps for a quicker descent to the ocean floor. 
Experiment with different baits, such as herring or chicken, and be patient – sometimes, the best catches come to those who wait.


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