8 Different Types of Crabs in California

types of crabs in california
Photo by Chandler Cruttenden

Have you ever wondered what types of crabs are in California? There are a variety of crabs that can be found along the California coast, from Dungeness crabs to red rock crabs. 

Knowing which types of crabs in California are worth catching can make for a more enjoyable and successful fishing trip.

This blog post will discuss the different types of crabs in California and which ones are worth seeing.

1. Blue Crab

Blue Swimmer Crabs - types of crabs in Australia
by avlxyz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of California’s most common types of crabs is the Blue Crab.

These types of crabs in California are blue-gray, with dark red and white spots on their claws.

Blue Crabs can be found in estuaries and along the coast from Central California to Alaska, and they prefer muddy and rocky bottoms. 

They are omnivores and will feed on various plants and animals, such as mollusks, worms, shrimp, fish, and other crustaceans.

The average size of a Blue Crab is between three to five inches in width, making them an ideal catch for recreational anglers. 

As tasty as they are, be sure to follow state regulations when catching and consuming Blue Crabs. To sustain populations, it’s important not to overfish these crabs in California. 

2. Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab
by jkirkhart35 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dungeness Crab is one of California’s most popular types of crabs, found primarily in the waters along the Pacific Coast.

Dungeness crabs are light tan or brownish and grow up to seven inches wide.

It’s no surprise that this particular type of Crab is sought after by recreational and commercial fishers, as they are considered some of the tastiest seafood. 

When fishing for Dungeness crab, use baited traps made of plastic or steel so that you’re able to protect the population of these delicious crabs while also enjoying your hard-earned seafood dinner.

Named after Dungeness, Washington, this crab species is characterized by its oval-shaped body and long front claws.

These types of crabs in California are a delicacy highly sought after for their sweet, succulent meat. 

It’s typically cooked whole and served with melted butter or a dipping sauce.

Fishing for Dungeness Crab is highly regulated in California and other areas along the Pacific coast to ensure a healthy population. 

You can find these crabs in shallow waters from late fall to early summer and will typically see them in traps and pots off of boats.

This crab species is quite delicious when cooked and makes for a great meal if you’re lucky enough to catch one!

3. Rock Crab

Rock Crab
by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Rock Crab is one of the types of crabs in California. It is a member of the Decapoda family, also known as Cancer antennas.

It has a light-brown to grayish-brown color, and its body is round. 

Its size can range from 3 to 5 inches wide, and its legs are thick but short.

The Rock Crab is found in rocky intertidal areas and can be seen under rocks during low tide.

It usually feeds on small invertebrates such as clams, snails, mussels, worms, and occasionally small fishes. 

It is a popular target for sport fishing due to its abundance and good flavor.

Some anglers consider this Crab to have the best taste among all kinds of crabs in California.

This type of Crab is versatile since it can be cooked in many ways, including steamed, boiled, or fried.

4. King Crab

King Crab
by Siobhan Leachman is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

King Crab is one of the most sought-after types of crabs in California.

Found in the colder waters of the northern Pacific, they are usually found in deeper water than other types of Crab.

King Crab can grow up to three feet long and weigh up to 15 pounds. 

They have an orange-red coloration with white spots, and their shells are typically complex and smooth.

Although King Crab can be harvested from the wild, farmed King Crab is much more common.

Fishermen must obtain a permit from the state to legally catch King Crabs, so it’s essential to check with local regulations before trying to see them. 

When cooked, King Crab legs can be served boiled, steamed, grilled, or sautéed for a tasty seafood meal.

Many consider this type of Crab a delicacy, and the price reflects that, as king crabs are typically some of the most expensive in California.

5. Spider Crab

Spider Crab
by AMagill is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spider crabs are among the many types of crabs in California waters.

These crustaceans have a unique, spindly appearance and long, thin legs that give them their name.

They can be found in coastal areas and deeper waters near the seafloor, making them a popular target for crabbers. 

Spider crabs are characterized by their reddish-brown coloration and long antennae.

They can reach up to seven inches in size and usually weigh between 2 and 3 ounces. 

Their meat is delicate, sweet, and sought after by seafood lovers. In terms of flavor, it’s said to resemble lobster more than other types of crabs. 

6. Red Rock Crab

Red Rock Crab
by jkirkhart35 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Red Rock Crab is one of California’s many types of crabs. It is a giant, heavy Crab that lives on rocky reefs along the California coast.

The Red Rock Crab can reach up to 10 inches across and can be easily identified by its bright red color. 

The Red Rock Crab is another species found on California’s coastline.

This type of Crab has a deep red carapace with gray speckles on its body, and its claws have red tips.

It feeds on mussels, barnacles, worms, sea urchins, and algae which it finds at the bottom of bays and estuaries. 

These types of crabs in California feed mainly on clams and other mollusks but will also scavenge for anything edible it finds.

It is an aggressive eater and will fight with other crabs for food. 

Commercial fisherman harvests Red Rock Crabs in Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, and Malibu. They are usually sold as fresh whole crabs or steamed and frozen.

7. Yellow Crab

Yellow Crab
by * Cati Kaoe * is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Yellow Crab is one of the many types of crabs in California.

This small, edible crustacean can be found near the coast, primarily in shallow waters, from Alaska down to California.

It has an oval-shaped carapace and bright yellow legs covered in short spines. 

Its claws are relatively small compared to other crabs, and its eyes are set on short stalks.

The meat of the Yellow Crab is sweet and delicate and is most often used in soups and salads.

However, because this type of Crab is so tiny, it is not a particularly sought-after catch for fishermen.

8. Sheep Crab

Sheep Crab
by Ed Bierman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sheep crabs are one of the types of crabs found in California waters.

They are typically found in deeper waters, which can be challenging to catch. They are dark gray or brown and have a flat, rounded shell. 

They have long, spindly legs, making them look like sheep, hence the name.

The average adult size of a Sheep crab is between 1 and 2 inches across the carapace.

They are often seen in kelp beds and rocky reefs, though they can also be found in shallow sandy areas. 

These crabs in California are voracious eaters that feed on small invertebrates, such as clams and worms.

When fishing for Sheep crabs, it is essential to use small hooks as larger ones may be too big for their mouths.


California is home to various crabs, offering recreational fishermen and seafood lovers opportunities.

From the blue Crab to the Dungeness Crab and rock crab, these types of crabs in California are both fascinating and delicious. 

The king crab, red rock crab, spider crab, sheep crab, and yellow Crab provide a unique flavor experience that can make any seafood lover happy.

With careful consideration, planning, and research, fishing for any of these crabs in California can be an exciting and rewarding activity.

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