By Joshua Melvin
Deputies patrolling a popular poaching spot caught nearly a dozen men with 270 Dungeness crabs they had illegally caught off the San Mateo County coast, police said Tuesday.
The deputies found the haul of poached crustaceans with 10 Santa Clara and San Mateo county men as they drove away from the area near Highway 1 and Triple D Ranch Road.
The men were cited for fishing out of season, and nearly all the crabs were released back into the Pacific Ocean, but a handful were already dead, San Mateo County Sheriff's deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt said.
Deputies noticed the men after spotting their flashlight beams moving in the water. The officers moved in to investigate and subsequently pulled over three vehicles, including a van, that was carrying the men away from the beach, according to the sheriff's office. They found the crabs in the vehicles.
While some crabs can be legally caught throughout the year, the Dungeness has a season that typically runs from late fall to late spring. Dungeness crabs are the most common variety found on the San Mateo County coast.
The case will be forwarded to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The men were issued citations, though they could face more serious charges based on the DA's investigation, Rosenblatt said.
Fish and Wildlife as well as sheriff's officials said they were not immediately sure how common crab poaching is on the San Mateo County coast.