Can You Eat Spider (Sheep) Crabs?

Eating Spider Crabs — From the pages of Pier Fishing In California (

A large spider crab taken by SanClementeEric at the Redondo Beach Pier in 2005

Date: September 4, 1999
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Sarcastic Fringehead
Subject: If it’s edible, somebody will eat it….

People eat anything and everything…I’ve seen guys catch turtles out of dirty inner-city ponds and take them home…and I’ll bet ya it wasn’t for a pet. I once saw this guy catch this stinking, ugly looking spider crab. The thing looked like the grandfather of spider crabs…. it was covered with some kind of slimy algae and barnacles…the guy was soooo happy cause it’s legs were like three feet long each… he told me he was going to break out the lemon and butter. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they were hollow. I’m sure mullet is edible… they sell em in Asian fish markets. Let us know how they taste…. couldn’t be any worse than sardines or anchovies.

Posted by Snookie

Dear Sarcastic Fringehead, The big crab you mentioned is quite edible especially that size. Of course you won’t be eating that outer area with the growth on it. Boil the legs for about 10 -20 minutes. You will need an anvil or something similar and of course a hammer. Do not do this in the house. The meat from those legs is delicious and plentiful. When there is a red tide in the area it is wise not to eat the crab or any other shellfish until the tide has dissipated, and the shellfish has had a chance to filter out the dinoflagellates—Just in case. Snookie

A nice spider crab taken by Daniel at the Redondo Sportfishing Pier in 2007

Posted by finkelstien on October 19, 2000
Subject: Balboa Pier

I fished from 6pm till midnight and boy were the small mack’s hitting at one point it took five seconds after the bait hit the water to get a bite — yippee! I put most back but i did have a crab net down and caught 10 spider crabs !!! One was so big that with the legs extended it was bigger than the hoop net (36″) There is going to be a feast tonight !!!

Posted by ghsu

What are the regulations for Spider Crabs? Or can they be caught all year? The ones I ran into are often very dirty looking. Are they any good eating? Thanks.

Posted by zen

You better watch out if ur gonna eat its orange stuff inside the shell, taste kinda good but that’s packed with cholesterol

Posted by asegoria

They are really tasty, but their shell is so thick you need a few good whacks from a respectable hammer to crack it. They also take a longer time to cook. I have never heard of any reg’s regarding them. They can also get incredibly large; I’m sure finkelstein’s description is no exaggeration.

Posted by baitfish

What part do you eat and how do you clean them? I caught one at Santa Barbara Wharf, one time when I was fishing. Reeled him right up onto the pier, guess he really wanted that squid. Anyway, when I looked at him he had a heavy algae coating on top with worms. Not to appetizing! Didn’t think to try and eat one. But when I was leaving I noticed the sold them live at the fish market right on the pier. Maybe I should have sold it to them:-)  So do you just boil them or how do you prepare them? I have a crabbing/ landing net, so I could always through it over and see what happens. any suggestions for bait, technique etc.? Tight Lines, Baitfish


Well, as far as cooking I am not sure, but I was told about 7-8 min per pound; the last spider crab I caught was about 8-9lbs. The technigue I used was tying just the leg of a panty house filled with sardines. Worked great! I have been told by many locals that in the winter Port Hueneme pier is a hot spot for them. Hope this helps.

Posted by finkelstien

Ok, the reason people don’t eat them is they are a lot of work to clean but this is how I do it. 1st clean as much of the “stuff” off of them (i do this while waiting for the water to boil).
2nd drop them in boiling water for 3 mins then remove them and brush them with a stiff brush and remove as much of the debris from off of them. 3rd discard the water and start another pot boiling (always change the water after the first boil); boil four mins per pound.
Be sure to get the meat from the leg joints of the body. It’s a lot of labor but the meat is the greatest oh and get the slip joint pliers to crack the legs open. As for bait I use four large hooks to keep my bait on the net (4/0 or bigger) and I use squid and anchovies mostly.

Spider crab from the Balboa Pier in 2004

Posted by fishfinder on April 16, 2001
Subject: Spider Crabs

Anyone know where I can catch some spider crabs this time of year?  Also what bait? Any DFG regs on Size or Bag Limits? I live in the L.A. area. thanks Pat

Posted by baitfish

Try Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, I’m not sure about the regs, but there is a link below to the DFG site… Adam

Posted by SurFan

Seen them at Balboa Pier. Some people use chicken as bait or cans of fish based cat food(just punch a bunch of holes in the can and use the can as the bait container). Locally caught fish will probably get you the best results as bait. I’ve also seen frozen mackerel in two pound bags at Stater Bros Market for $2.50. Plastic tie downs are useful to attach the bait to the nets. There is probably a good chance you’ll find spider crabs at just about any pier in Southern Califonia. Good luck!

Posted by Snookie

Balboa Pier is a good place for catching spider crabs. They can be all around the pier from past the surf to the end of the pier. This time of year is the best time to get them. I have always caught mine on live bait and a single hook, but your umbrella net or a somewhat flat landing net will do well too. Lace these with dead bait. Dead anything will do however. Do no keep the small crabs. They are only trouble to fix. I usually try to have crabs with a carapace size of from 7 too 9 inches in diameter. These are the tastiest. They are also the hardest to work with. The legs are surrounded with 1/4 inch thick armor, but it is worth the effort. When the crabs are caught, you can remove the legs and put them into a cooler to be cooked when you get home. Steam as you would any crab. They are deeeeelicious. Good luck. Snookie

Posted by fishfinder

Thanks guys. I think I will maybe try for them later this week. Haven’t decided where though. Tight Lines, Pat

Posted by CK

I catch loads of them at Hueneme pier. I was just there and ended up catching about two dozen but only kept the biggest three. I would literally pull up three at a time. They are all over right now.

Posted by anomaly

What type of net or contraption are you using? I have a hoop net. Will that work for me at Hueneme? Thanks Anomaly

Posted by CK

Ya, everyone else uses the hoop nets and they catch alot of crabs. You will find you catch quite a few Dungeness crabs as well. Most are small but every once in awhile you’ll get a nice one.

Posted by baitfish

How do you cook them and for how long? Adam

Posted by fishfinder

I have read that you can cook them whole. Drop them in boiling water for 3-5 min. and then scrub the shell with a wire brush or some steel wool to get all the plant matter and other little creatures off. Then start a fresh pot boiling and cook them 8-9 min. a pound. You can also just ripp off the legs and cook them for 8-9 min. a pound. The shell is very tough so they have to cook a long time. This is just what I’ve read. Never actually done it though. Hope this helps. Pat

Posted by baitfish

Thanks for the info! I have caught a couple of huge ones of of Fisherman’s Wharf in S.B. Just never ate one. I wonder how they taste/texture… Adam

Posted by CK

Baitfish, I use the Pyramid traps. You can pick them up at Big 5 for 8 bucks. They look cheap but if you replace the string they come with, they work great. You boil them for 30-45 minutes. They taste great.

Posted by baitfish

Cool deal! Thanks CK… I have a hoop net, the Big 5′s around me are pretty lame, so they don’t have much. I’ll keep an eye out for them though. TL Adam

Good-sized spider crab taken by Mike Katz at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara in 1997

Posted by mmmmfiiiish on October 20, 2002
Subject: San Clemente Pier

I got to the pier about 3:30pm and caught two jacksmelt that went to waste on a sliding rig in the first two hours. At 5:30, I walked back to my car and grabbed my hoop net, and stopped by the store for a mackerel and some squid. From 6:00-1:30, the squid never even got a nibble. As for the net, all it produced was a big ugly barnacle encrusted crab. Yes, those ARE 12″ planks. Unfamiliar with crab species and regs, I played it safe and released it. Anyone have any idea what kind that is? Also, how long does it take a barnacle to get that big(about an inch and a half wide next to the front right leg)? The only other signs of life were a small white sea bass caught by another angler and a 2′ leopard shark which I unhooked and released for a guy who landed it but was scared to touch it. Conditions were, for the most part, as baitfish described Santa Monica for the 18th. Overcast with a lot of currents and some wind. On the other hand, I think I can thank the World Series for the fact that there weren’t more than 12 people on the pier at any one time. Oh well, I’ll give it another try tonight. Hopefully it will pan out better. Tim

Posted by tombaAtwork

It’s a Sheep Crab and that is a small one. They taste really good, but one that size has very little meat. The shells are so thick you need a ‘real’ hammer to break them. Bigger ones have much meatier claws.

Posted by baitfish

Too bad the conditions were ripping for you to. BTW, it’s a spider crab.

Posted by tombaAtwork

I think Spider Crab and Sheep Crab both refer to the same species on the West Coast. I have heard people call them Spider Crabs.

Posted by baitfish

Interesting, I have never heard of it being called a sheep crab, but spider crab is also the common name for this crab. After doing some searching, it looks like both names are used, but that is a first for me. Adam

Posted by das limpet

Does kinda look like a sheep. baaaaaaaa. A SHEEP FROM HELL!

Posted by kcruise

In England, the spider’s we catch are sheep crabs. They are considered quite good and eaten in France. Lots of crabbing in the Channel for these.. The males tend to weight in between 8-15lbs, with large powerful pincers. Females will weigh up to 5lbs. Thier pincers are smaller. I keep crabs over 3.5-4lbs. The real secret to eating these monsters is in the cooking. I give them an hour minimum in boiling water. They will smell terrible while cooking, but the smell will change to a sweet smell when they are ready to crack. I use an old canning pot, the type used for boiling canning jars. You’ll want to scrub them down with wire bristle brushes before you cook them. To clean them, remove them from the pot and let cool water run on the bodies for a few minutes. Ready two bags, one for the good parts, the other for the guts and whatnot. First, remove the legs. You’ll have to twist them to get them off. Next, you need to remove the bottom flap on the shell. On the females, this is where the eggs are. It should be popped open with you remove them. The trick is to remove it and the piece of shell on the back of the top shell. Once this is off, you can wash out alot of the guts. Now use a butter knife and work your way around the shell to remove the top shell. Once this comes off, you’ll have the bottom of the crab, the mantibles, gills and other gross stuff! Remove the gills and mantibles with you hands. Be careful around the mantibles, they can be sharp. You should now see the meat, which will be an off-white color. Anything yellow or beige needs to be removed. Also, some of the carpice in side can be broken off. I also break the bottom in two, making it easier to clean. Once it’s all cracked, you should have at least 1/2-1 cup of crab meat. You may have to crack the shell with a mallet. Use a dish towel to wrap the crab and give it a few whacks! You can freeze the cooked crab and use it later, or fridge it. My favorite dish is crab pasta in alfredo sauce. Use the crab, pine nuts, alfredo sauce and any style pasta. Cook the pasta, add the crab, pine nuts and sauce, mix and serve. It also goes well with any other seafood dish. Crab salad can be made, and a 8lbs male will have enough meat to feed 5 people, with left overs. This comes from catching crabs almost every weekend in the summer of 2001.

Spider crabs from the Port Hueneme Pier in 2007

Posted by kcruise on February 23, 2003
Subject: Pier Report, Santa Monica

My daughter and I loaded up early in the morning for Santa Monica Pier, our old haunt. The sky was overcast, and the tide was out. I dropped my first crab net in and set the second one up. The first pull have three spiders in the net, and the day went like that from there. We wound up with 6 total that came home, and caught at least 18. Bait of choice was chicken drumsticks, for $3.76 at Vons. One pull came up with 5 crabs in the net at once. See the photo. Fishing was okay, but I spent more time crabbing. The end result of the day: Six well cooked crabs… I had called the wife and warned her what I was bringing home. Kel

Posted by gyozadude

I’ve never had a spider crab… but I’ve always wondered. How are they eating wise? The picture does give them a flattering red hue.

Posted by donblaze420

Are the Spider crabs good for eating? I have only tasted them once and it seemed as if the shells were harder to break and there was little meat. Looks like a nice day of crabbing though! Good fishing to ya.

Posted by anomaly

I think spider crab meat is quite good. Flesh is very firm. Not as sweet as Dungeness, but it has it’s own unique and distinct flavor. Only drawback is getting to the meat. The crab has to be fairly large to get any meat out of the legs since the shells are so thick. If you are fortunate to catch one, give it a try. That’s what I did, and now I’m hooked.

Posted by Anthony

What’s the best why to crack open the shell? They do taste good but the shell is just a pain that why I don’t catch them anymore.

Posted by kcruise

Cooking and preparing spiders… Okay, the question has been asked… Here’s the skinny. Spider crab is really under enjoyed by pier fishermen. Since I’ve got a ton of these beasts before, there are some tips for them. One, I don’t keep any under 4 lbs. The ones in the sink are in the 5 lbs range. Males can come in at 15+ lbs. My rule of thumb is the shell should be as big as my hand from thumb tip to the end of my pinky stretched. The other tip is cooking. My wife tried a new way last night that she got from the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. She cooked them for 20 mins, cleaned them, then cooked the legs and body for another 10-15 mins. When you clean them, the lower body where the legs attach is filled with meat. Not all of it’s in the legs! BTW, I watched the SBSC do this with spiny lobster, then grill them. Yum!! Cracking requires at least nutcrackers. A rolling pin may work. Also, a towel and a wooden mallet will work. The body can be broken easly to get the meat with a fork. Some markets sell crab crackers with picks. Good Cook is one brand. This meat can be used for anything that requires crab. A 5lbs crab should give you at least a cup of meat, provided you’re willing to work a little for it! The wife two favorites are crab salad and crab in alfredo sauce, pine nuts and noodles. Enjoy! Kel

Spider crabs at the Fort Baker Pier in 2003

Posted by Bent Barrel on May 19, 2003
Subject: Crabbing

Back east I would tie a chicken neck to a string and hang it off the boat or either the bank and scoop up blue crabs when you pull the line close to you slowly. I have also used the round nets that you tie or clip bait to and pull it up fast to trap them in the net. I like crabbing and was curious about the various methods employed here. I mentioned it before but I was more or less asking if anyone goes crabbing and catches anything… I’ve read through several things and there seems to not be a lot of info available for it.

Posted by geckomd

If you recently migrated to our neck of the woods up here in NorCal, Ft. Point Pier, Fort Baker Pier and Pacifica (SF locations) all offer some good crabbing action. However, the crabs here are not as “dingy” as the blue crabs. You can still use the ring net, however, you may also want to invest in a $3.00 bait cage (or make your own) to use with it as well since the seals around these parts are experts at stripping tie-on bait off these nets. Be certain to check the regulations for legal takes.

Posted by kds99

I do some crabbing at Balboa, mostly just to pass the time, Mostly it is spider crabs. I use a crab net and will catch 3-4 every time I go fishing.

Posted by Bent Barrel

I can see how the seals/sea lions would present a problem, I didn’t think about that… I like low country boil, put some cleaned crabs (clean them before you cook them) in a pot after the potatoes (whole little red new potatos), corn on the cod, and sausage are done. Put in shrimp, clams, crab legs, or crawfish or whatever you want in there after the longer cooking stuff is boiled… Old Bay or comparative seasonings are added before the water boils with a few good drinking quality beers… Great with blue crabs or Dungeoness or rock crabs (East Coast rock crabs)… Maybe one day…

Posted by joey805

Hooping at Hueneme Pier Last Night – Blah! Last night from 6pm – 9pm me and a buddy tried out our hooping skills from Huememe Pier and to much avail we ended up with a ton of small crabs. Nothing even worth keeping! Does anyone ever do any good here? I heard there are a ton of large spider crabs here. If you manage to catch one of these beasts, are they worth keeping and eating?

Posted by CK

I have taken my wife and loaded up on large spiders. They are definitely worth catching and eating.

Posted by joey805

What kinda bait do you use? Is it better to go during the day or at night? What location on the pier? How long are you leaving the hoops down for? Can you tell I’m new to this? Thanks for your help, Joey

Posted by joey805

Use a big whole cut mackerel. I tried that last night. It the bait bag we had squid, a whole cut mackerel and a handfull of sardines. All we were pulling up were small spiders and some other Dungenous-looking type crab. Everything so small though!

Small spider crab from the Malibu Pier in 2014

Posted by fishnchips

Try this for hooping… since the sharks are moving in, try using smoothhounds for crabs. Keep them in your freezer for future crab bait. I just chop the head 90% off and expose the guts. I dunno, it’s something about their scent, that works well on crabs. A huge plus is also, the sea lions have never touched my hoop net when I used sharks. If there are no sharks around, you seem to be on the right track with the fishy cut bait inside a bag. Remember, crabs will only stick around your net, if they can actually feed off of your offering. Make sure crabs can actually get to some bait too! The spiders are moving in more and more everyday it seems like. When I went to Pier II in Monterey, I could see huge spider crabs in about 10 feet or less of water. So they don’t only stay in deep water. Keep trying, you’ll get fatties soon. It seems like one night you can make a killing and the very next night, nothing. They seem to like full moons too! Hope some of this info helps!

Posted by joey805

Do you just eat the meat in the legs?

Posted by CK

Yes. The knuckle where the legs attach to the body have meat as well.

Posted by pierangler8787

Crabbing is better during the day time. Some like night time, but IMHO, the day time is better, preferebly in the afternoon hours, before sunset. Like Fishnchip said, spiders will ne in shallow water, but the best crabbing is near or at the end. The end is usually packed, but there is still good crabbing 3/4 way down. It seems the right side is a little better (west), I see a lot of mainly small crabs on the other(east). I think THE bait for humongous spider crabs, is by far, chicken legs. Relatively cheap, and last very long(non frozen is the best). You may spend a little more than what you would for a box of squid, but you will get more and bigger crabs. Mackerel is really good, as is squid. If you buy those big macks in bait shops, then it is a good idead to cut of portions of it and use those one at a time. Example, the head, guts, tail, and finally, chunked or steaked body. Try combinations of the two, and try just mackerel at one time and just chicken legs on another. The chicken legs are more effective with the skin on, but Stuffing a head of mackerel with some skin trailing out the mouth, and eyes, is really good. One more note, please lower the net in the water gently without a ruccus, I’m not saying that you did, it’s just annoying to other anglers when people do this, thanks.

Posted by fishnchips

Chicken… .of course… that used to be my bait of choice, and I never had a problem taking a good amount of crabs over by Ghiradelli Square in SF. Also, the side you fish almost always seems to matter. Like in SF, if a harbor is on one side of the pier, fish the opposite side of the harbor. For some reason, the crabs are noticably smaller on the inside as opposed to the outside of the harbor (depth difference)… might want to take that into consideration too. Also, it does not seem to matter how far you throw the net. Lowering it calmly into the water is much better, as it does scare crabs away when you throw it out and let it splash. Often people think too deep about crabbing….my point of view is: when fishing, how pesty can them crabs be?…. Pretty darn frustrating. And, they always seem to find your little piece of bait on your hook, almost right away. So, take that into consideration…. crabs are easy to attract. It’s just getting some big one’s that’s the hard part. Keep trying and don’t give up!

Posted by anomaly

Redondo Pier/Hermosa: I crab these piers several times a year with some decent results. I use mackerel, chicken wings, and raw pork for bait.

Spider crab from the Crystal Pier in San Diego in 2010

 Posted by Sheldon on February 23, 2011

My brothers and I used to make all night trips out to the Santa Monica Pier back in the 80′s. We would get the last bus on Wilshire Boulevard out to the pier and stay all night and fish. I remember on time we got there and there spider crabs all over the place incuding the trash cans. I guess they were getting hooked up by people who didn’t eat them and were tired of hooking them. We had a blast throwing them all back into the water.

 Posted by Mahigeer

If one goes to the trouble of cleaning them and only keeping the males that have arms at least 3/4″ in diameter–one can enjoy a taste similar to lobsters. That is what I have experienced.

Posted by SranW

Spider crab (Sheep crab) are much better steamed vs. cooked in boiling water. The meat taste as if pre-seasoned, with a little bit of sweetness. You need ~20 min of hot steam to fully cook the crab. The purplish roe (cooked) is very tasty, similar to sea urchin roe, except firmer but sweeter. If you which to try this steamed by a restaurant, you could try Quality Seafood at the Redondo Beach Pier (across from the arcade), 130 S International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277; (310) 372-6408

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Green Sturgeon

Order Acipenseriformes

 Sturgeons—Family Acipenseridae

Green sturgeon caught by Matty at the McNear Pier in 2006

Species: Acipenser medirostris (Ayres, 1854); from the Latin words Acipenser (bony cartilage), medi (moderate), and rostris  (snout).

Alternate Names: Golden sturgeon. Called esturión verde in Mexico.

Identification: Green sturgeon have streamlined, shark-like bodies with a pointed head that is longer than white sturgeon (shovel-shaped in young) and small eyes. Instead of scales they have five rows of scutes (bony plates) on the body; one row on the back, one at the middle of each side, and one on each side of the belly). Green sturgeon have 8-11 dorsal scutes, 23-30 midlateral scutes, and 7-10 ventral scutes. There are four whiskers (barbels) under their snout, usually closer to the mouth than to the tip of the snout. Their coloring is grayish white to olive-green, although some are caught every year that are almost golden in color (and thus given the name golden sturgeon). To differentiate between green and white sturgeon (from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife): (1) Dorsal scutes (bony plates) – Green sturgeon have 1-2 trailing the dorsal fin, but on white sturgeon they are absent; (2) Vent – Green sturgeon vent is between the pelvic fins, but on white sturgeon it’s found toward the tail; (3) Belly stripe – Present on green sturgeon but absent on white sturgeon; (4) Scutes along the side – Green sturgeon have 23-30 scutes while white sturgeon have 38-48

Green sturgeon taken at the McNear Pier in 2006

Size: To 7 feet in length and 350 pounds. Most green sturgeon caught from piers are less than 25 pounds; most caught in the ocean are small fish under 10 pounds. Two 36-inch fish were caught off of the Belmont Shores Pier in Long Beach; one weighed 6.6 pounds, the other only 5.1 pounds.

Range: From Ensenada, northern Baja California, to the Pacific coast of Kamchatka, Bering Sea, and Gulf of Alaska, to Peter the Great Bay, Sea of Japan.

Habitat: Anadromous, spending most of its adult life in salt water but ascending up fresh water streams in the winter to spawn. Most commonly found in bays and brackish water (part fresh water and part salt water). Their diet emulates that of white sturgeon with young greenies primarily feeding on insects, worms, amphipods, and other small invertebrates. Adults become more piscivorous, feeding on fish as well as bottom dwelling crustaceans and mollusks (crabs, shrimp, clams).

Green sturgeon taken at the Martinez Pier by John Mason in 2004

Piers: Although less common than white sturgeon, a few greens are still caught each year, primarily from piers in San Francisco Bay-Delta waters. Best bets: Point Pinole Pier, McNear Beach Pier, Paradise Park Pier, Eckley Pier, Martinez Pier, Antioch Marina Pier, and Antioch Pier.

Shoreline: Sometimes taken by anglers in the San Francisco-Bay Delta although now illegal to keep.

Boats: A few are seen each year from boats in the San Francisco-Bay Delta waters but they no longer can be kept.

Bait and Tackle: None since they are now illegal to keep.

Food Value: None since they no longer can be kept! In states where they are still legal they are considered to have mild-flavored meat that contains no bones and cuts up nicely into steaks for broiling, baking or frying. Some people feel the meat of the green sturgeon is inferior to that of white sturgeon since it is somewhat stronger flavored, containing more red muscle. Others say there is little difference.

Young green sturgeon at the Martinez Pier in 2004

Comments: Perhaps endangered and currently illegal to keep in California. It’s amazing that we have let the number of sturgeon reach this crisis point but it’s been happening for the last couple of centuries.

“We tend to dismiss the sturgeon, if we think of it at all, as a primitive fish, and allow that to account for its rarity. In our collective memory we forget that as recently as 1890 the biomass of Atlantic and short-nosed sturgeons in Deleware Bay were in the neighborhood of 48 million pounds; that at the same time fishermen in Washington’s Columbia and Baker rivers were unable to use their gillnets in the spring because hordes of white sturgeon would have burst through them; that in Austria, on the Danube River, members of the Viennese royal court amused themselves by firing cannonballs into fleet-sized squadrons of migrating beluga sturgeons. But the sturgeon is geologic time made flesh, and the length of its tenure on earth is impossible to comprehend. The fossil record presents completely modern forms of sturgeon dating back to the Upper Cretaceous, 100 million years ago.”

—Richard Adams Carey, The Philosopher Fish

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California Scorpionfish

Order Scorpaeniformes

 Scorpionfishes and Rockfishes — Family Scorpaenidae

 Genus Scorpaena

California Scorpionfish

Species: Scorpaena guttata (Girard, 1854); from the Greek word scorpaena (scorpion, referring to the poison spines), and the Latin word guttata  (a form of small drops or spotting).

Alternate Names: Commonly called sculpin although also called scorpionfish, scorpion, little poker, rattlesnake and scorpene. Early records show stingfish and spinefish as favorite appellations. In Mexico they’re called escorpión Californiano.

Scorpionfish caught by KJ from the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon in 2010

Identification: Typical rockfish shape, heavy-bodied and with strong head and fin spines. Their coloring is red (deeper water) to brown (more shallow water) with dark spotting over the body and fins. Fin spines are venomous and can cause a very painful, although not fatal, wound.

Size: To 17 inches, although most caught from piers are less than 12 inches long. The California record was for a fish weighing 3 lb 0 oz. It was caught at the Silver Strand Beach in 1997.

Scorpionfish from the Mole in 2010

Range: Uncle Sam Bank, central Baja California, and the Gulf of California, to Santa Cruz. They are uncommon north of Point Conception.

Habitat: Most abundant in shallow rocky environments such as rocky reefs, sewer pipes and wrecks; frequently found in caves and crevices. Some are also found on sand. Found from fairly shallow water down to 620 feet. May travel over 200 miles in annual spawning migrations (spring and early summer) that see them form large spawning aggregations on or near the bottom (at a variety of depths)

Scorpionfish missing a piece out of its tail — Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon in 2013

Piers: Although scorpionfish are most common around rocky areas and reef areas, I have seen them caught at almost every oceanfront pier in southern California. Best bets: Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Redondo Sportfishing Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Santa Monica Pier, Green Pleasure Pier (Avalon) and the Cabrillo Mole (Avalon).

Shoreline: Occasionally caught by shore anglers fishing rocky areas in southern California.

Scorpionfish caught by Kien at the Cabrillo Mole in 2011

Boats: A common catch by boaters in southern California, especially those fishing at Catalina and the Horseshoe kelp area of Los Angeles.

Bait and Tackle: Scorpions are carnivorous, ambush predators that are primarily nocturnal, feeding at night. Their main diet consists of small crabs, octopus, shrimp, and small fish. A high/low leader with size 4 hooks baited with squid or shrimp seems to work best although they also really like ghost shrimp. Still, I’ve caught them on cut anchovies, strips of mackerel, pile worms, and one on a live queenfish that seemed almost as large as the scorpionfish; they’re not too discriminating as far as food.  

Scorpionfish caught at the Oceanside Pier in 2013

Food Value:  An excellent eating, mild-flavored fish that is best fried (although they are a favorite fish for sushi and command top prices when fresh fish are available).

Scorpionfish caught by KJ from the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon in 2014

Comments: Handle with extreme care. California scorpionfish are the most venomous member of the family found in California. If handled in a careless manner and a puncture wound does occur there will usually be pain (sometimes intense) and perhaps swelling that should subside after a few hours. If possible, soak the affected area in hot water as soon as practical (since the hot water alters the toxin and makes it less harmful). Multiple punctures may require doctor’s attention or even hospitalization. The worst story I ever heard of such multiple punctures concerned a middle-aged angler fishing from a boat near Catalina. This lady had caught upwards of a dozen scorpionfish that were dutifully deposited into her gunnysack. Unfortunately, many of the long spines were protruding from her bag when a heavy wave caused her to lose her footing and to fall, bottom-first, onto the bag. The result was butt-porcupine and a helicopter trip back to a hospital.

Ed Roberts of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and his son Daniel’s first scorpionfish. At the Belmont Pier Kid’s Derby in 2006.

Although studies showed a decline in population before 1980, they seem to have increased and today have a healthy population.

A nice scorpionfish caught at the Green Pleasure Pier in Catalina in 2002

A scorpionfish caught at the Hermosa Beach Pier by Mahigeer (Hashem) in 2006

Scorpionfish caught by Eugene Kim at the Cabrillo Mole in Catalina in 2010

A scorpionfish caught at the Goleta Pier by SteveO in 2003

Not the way I would hold a scorpionfish since even the small ones can inflict a painful sting

Scorpionfish caught at the Coronado Mini Piers in 2003 by OBPier.rat

A baby Scorpionfish caught at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon by Cole in 2010

You look’in at me? 

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Minnow Magnet

Minnow Magnet (Justin Morris) and his dad Rockin Robin (Robin Morris) joined the PFIC family in 2004 and soon after Justin became a regular at PFIC events both in the Bay Area and at Catalina. He also set up his own pier fishing derby at the Paradise Beach Pier. As he grew he branched out—surf fishing, rock fishing, boat fishing, freshwater fishing (including some carp fishing) and boat fishing. However, unlike most of our youngsters who continued to fish, but also moved on to other fields as they got older, Justin has remained with fishing working on both Sportfishing boats and now owning his own commercial fishing boat. Fishing got into his blood — and stayed there.

Minnow Magnet and myself at the 2004 Mud Marlin Derby at the Berkeley Pier

Minnow Magnet and a blackperch from the Berkeley Pier in 2004

Minnow decided to start his own mud marlin derby in 2004 at the Paradise Beach Pier in Tiburon

Minnow Magnet and a small bat ray (mud marlin) he caught at his derby

Some pics from his 2004 derby

Justin at the 2005 derby at the Paradise Beach Pier

Minnow Magnet and a brown smoothhound shark

Justin and his dad Robin, each with a bat ray from the Paradise Beach Pier in 2005

Minnow Magnet and a walleye surfperch from the Berkeley Pier in 2006

Minnow Magnet and Kyle Pease arriving at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon for the 2006 Catalina Get Together — Notice each has his own pier cart

Minnow and his dad Robin looking at some of the raffle prizes at the 2006 Get Together

Justin with a certificate and prizes at the 2006 Catalina Get Together

Minnow Magnet and his 2006 Paradise Pier Mud Marlin Derby

Justin and a small rockfish from the Pillar Point Harbor Pier in 2006

Minnow and a bat ray from the Berkeley Pier in 2007

Justin and a thornback ray from the Berkeley Pier in 2007

Justin and a pileperch from the Berkeley Pier in 2007

Minnow fighting a fish at the Catalina Get Together in 2007

A collage from the 2007 Catalina Get Together with Justin holding a garabaldi

Three amigos at the 2007 Catalina Get Together

Participants (including Justin in  the front) at the 2007 Get Together

Justin and his picture for his 2007 derby

Minnow Magnet at the 2009 Mud Marlin Derby at the Berkeley Pier

Minnow Magnet and his trophy at the 2010 Berkeley Perch Derby

A few years later! Justin serving as a deckhand (left) on the “Golden Eye” out of the Berkeley Marina in 2014

One in a series of PFIC Young Angler articles

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Kyle Pease

Although the majority of anglers attending Pier Fishing In California (PFIC) or United Pier and Shore Anglers of California (UPSAC) events have been adults, many of them have brought along their children and made it a family event. One of our most esteemed anglers, Rita Magdamo, has always made it a point to bring along her son Kyle and it has allowed us to watch his progression from youngster to college student.

Kyle at a PFIC gathering at the Seacliff State Beach Pier in 2004

Kyle with a sheephead at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon in 2005

Kyle and another of our young anglers, Minnow Magnet, arriving in Catalina in 2006

Kyle and a bonito at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon (Catalina Island) in 2006

Kyle with a sheephead taken at the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon in 2006

Kyle, RoosterQueen (Rebecca Cassidy) and Baitfish (Adam Cassidy) at the Cabrillo Mole in 2006

Kyle with mom Rita and some ocean whitefish caught at Pebble Beach near Avalon on Catalina Island

 Kyle and an opaleye from the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon in 2008

Kyle and an ocean whitefish from the Green Pleasure Pier in 2008

Kyle with a trophy at the Catalina Get-Together in 2009

Kyle fishing at the Green Pleasure Pier in 2011

Kyle at the Green Pleasure Pier in 2011

Kyle and a small kelp bass at the Cabrillo Mole in 2011

Kyle casting for bonito at the Cabrillo Mole in 2012

Kyle (now a man-child) and his trophy at the Cabrillo Mole in 2012

The Catalina get-Together group in 2012 (and Kyle is now one of the tallest participants)

Kyle at the Cabrillo Mole in 2014

Kyle fishing at the Cabrillo Mole in 2014

Mom Rita, a triggerfish she caught at the Cabrillo Mole, and Kyle — 2014

Kyle and his trophy at the Catalina Get-Together (and James Liu Memorial Derby) in 2014.

Kyle wins a raffle prize and dwarfs yours truly at the Mole in 2014

The Catalina Get-Together group in 2014

Dinner at Antonio’s in Avalon in 2014 — Back row—Rita Magdamo, Hashem Nahid, Dora Liu, Warren Liu and Kyle; Front row—Steve Barcellos, Elaine Liu and Amanda Liu


Kyle and bonito from the Cabrillo Mole in 2015

Kyle and a horn shark from the Cabrillo Mole in 2015

Fish On! Kyle and an early morning bonito bite at the Mole — 2015

Kyle fishing in the rain — Cabrillo Mole in 2015

Kyle and another award at the Mole in 2015

Kyle and part of the group at the 2015 Get Together

Kyle serving as a judge at the 2015 Marin Rod & Gun Club “Kids Day on the Pier”

Kyle, now a student at UC Berkeley, getting in a little fishing at the Marin Rod & Gun Club pier after the derby. He’s now a man, although still a man-child to Rita, and one of the nicest young men we know.

One in a series of PFIC Young Angler articles

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