Puget Sound crabbers should expect a normal season

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comJune 30, 2013 

  • CRAB FISHING BASICS

    Dungeness crab: Fishermen can keep five males that measure at least 61/4 inches across the carapace. Fishermen are required to keep the back shell while in the field and must maintain a catch record card. All females, softshell and undersized crab must be released.

    Red rock crab: The daily limit is six crab, measuring at least 5 inches wide. Anglers can keep either sex, but they must retain the back shell while in the field. All softshell crab must be released.

    Fishing license: To fish for crab in the Puget Sound, all persons 15 years or older must carry a current Washington fishing license. Options include an annual shellfish/seaweed license and combination fishing licenses, valid for a single day or up to a year.

    In addition, all recreational Puget Sound crabbers, regardless of age, must get a crab endorsement on their license, and carry and complete catch record cards to account for all the Dungeness crab they catch. They also must return their catch record cards or report on their catch online, even if they did not go crabbing or catch any crab. If a person fails to report his or her effort, there is a $10 penalty before that person can purchase another crab endorsement.

    Shellfish managers use catch record card data to estimate the harvest and set future crabbing opportunities.

    You can learn more at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov.

    Measuring crab: Dungeness crab smaller than 61/4 inches are needed to reproduce and maintain the population. Crab are measured across the carapace inside the tips using a crab gauge, not from tip to tip. Such gauges are available at most sporting goods stores.

    Escape cords: A lost crab pot without proper escape cord can attract and kill crab for years after the pot has been lost. Rot cord used must be untreated 100 percent cotton or other natural fiber no larger than thread size 120. The cord must be able to rot away, allowing crab, shrimp, crawfish and fish to escape freely if the pot is lost.

    Clear your gear: All fishing gear must be removed from the water by one hour after sunset on the last day of any fishing period.

    Rule changes: For updates on season closures or rule changes, call the toll-free hotline at 866-880-5431 or go online to wdfw.wa.gov

    Learn more:Go to wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab

Crab anglers should have their pots ready, ropes and floats checked, baits prepared and fishing licenses purchased. The Puget Sound summer crab fishing season opens Monday.

That means fishermen will be setting their pots in hopes of bringing home a limit of Dungeness or red rock crab.

In the South Sound, marine areas 10-13, crabbing will open at 7 a.m. Monday, followed by a two-day closure. Crabbing then will reopen Thursdays-Mondays each week through Labor Day on Sept. 2.

Anglers heading out this season should expect an average season in most places, said Don Velasquez, a fish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The exception could be Hood Canal, Marine Area 12, where the numbers could be above average.

“Based on the test fishing that has taken place so far and the tribal commercial fishing that has taken place, it should be similar to last year,” Velasquez said.

That holds true for the South Sound waters, Marine Area 11 (Tacoma) and Marine Area 13 (Olympia).

“I wouldn’t expect anything above an average year based on what I’ve seen so far from test fisheries,” Velasquez said.

While there has been no extraordinary rush to buy gear, expectations have been building among anglers visiting local tackle dealers.

“Everyone hopes it will be as good as last year. We had an awesome season last year,” said Walt Harvey at Verle’s Sports Center in Shelton. “It was good in terms of sizes and numbers.

“So even if it’s half as good as last year, it will be a good year.”

Catching crab is one of the most popular fisheries in the Sound. In 2010-11, sport fishermen caught more than 1.85 million pounds of Dungeness crab, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The state expects 235,000 people to participate in the Puget Sound summer crab season.

With so many participants, education remains a focus for the department and its recreational fishing group partners, Velasquez said.

The biggest rule compliance issues are not properly immediately recording the catch on a catch record card, not reporting the catch after the season, keeping undersized crab, not having a biodegradable escape cord on the crab pot and not properly marking buoys with the angler’s first and last name, and address.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure Source: State Department of Fish and Wildlife

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