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How to buy fresh dungeness crabs from boats at Half Moon Bay, California – a better Thanksgiving dinner

Posted by on November 24, 2011

Who doesn’t like eating dungeness crabs? Well… actually, there are some people, but yes, it’s currently dungeness crab season and pretty soon, there should be fishermen out on the piers teeming with crabs ready to be sold. Especially on the piers of Half Moon Bay, California. So forget that Thanksgiving Dinner of turkey – get some crabs instead! Or wait after Thanksgiving which is probably just an American thing.

Hell, you can do this on any ocean pier in the US or in the world for that matter (if it’s available). Just have to make sure that the crabs are in season so the boats will be stocked with them for selling to the public (if it’s not in season, it’s generally not sold to ensure freshness and the law). To the fishermen, selling crabs directly to the public generates more profits for them rather than selling them on wholesale level because of that volume discount that they would have to provide to supermarkets, retailers, etc. To consumers, buying crabs from the fishermen directly is actually cheaper and fresher than buying them from the supermarket that bought the crabs days or weeks ago. Remember, the supermarket has to mark them up in price in order to make a profit so the consumer ends up spending more.

Crab holding pot in the water, lasa/lazo para crangrejos en el agua

The fishermen keep the crabs live and ticking in their holding pots

buying/selling dungeness crabs in Half Moon Bay, comprar/vender cangrejos en embarcadero

Live crab sign on boat - flashing news of crab being sold

What I do is simply go to the piers of Half Moon Bay, California (you can also call the Pillar Point hotline at 650-726-8724). I’ll just walk straight to the piers looking for crab sale signs and then go to that boat where generally somebody will be there to sell crabs to people. The price is determined by weight (pounds) of the crabs but generally each crab is about US$5-8. Once you’re satisfied, they’ll bag them up and you pay them in cash, no check or credit card. Just make sure that you have a cooler or an ice chest to keep the crabs cool otherwise high heat might kill them and make crab meat spoil. Just note that these fishermen might also sell other kinds of fish like halibut, rockfish, ling cod, etc. It just depends on the fishing season and where they are coming from (other states have different regulations and even different kinds of fish in that region). You can find these kinds of sales over at San Francisco or Monterrey, California. I’m sure other states have different types of sales too such as Maine having lobster sales, Maryland with blue crab sales, Louisiana with crawfish/crawdad sales, etc.

Bucket of dungeness crabs to be weighed, cubo de crangrejos

Bucket of dungeness crabs to be weighed

Here’s your prize possession of crabs… make sure they’re nice and cold otherwise they might spoil.

Bag of dungeness crabs, bolso/bolsa de crangrejos

Bag of dungeness crabs

It’s all up to you on how you want to cook them as I’ve seen other ways of eating crab meat, but most people just put them in a pot and cook them up in boiling hot water for about 15-20 minutes when their shells turn red. Once done, the crabs are pulled out and then the shell-cracking begins – to eat the meat inside! Make sure to eat the insides too (the white stuff) and not just the legs and claws. I suggest getting a crab/shell cracker to make the eating more efficient and as well as some cocktail sauce or melted butter for the sauce.

cooked dungeness crab, cangrejo cocinado

I liked my crabs steamed/boiled which makes the shells turn red.

But I don’t just come by the pier to buy crabs, I also stop by the restaurants as they tend to be some of the best seafood restaurants around since they’re right by the ocean and the seafood happens to be fresh. There are lots of kinds of seafood available like shrimp cocktails, crab samplers, grilled fish, fried clam strips, but my favorite is getting a bread bowl which is clam chowder in bread shaped like a bowl. Take a look around and see what else might be available.

Bread bowl of clam chowder; sopa de almejas en pan

Bread bowl - it's basically bread filled with clam chowder - damn good eating!