OLYMPIA - Washington's popular recreational shrimp-fishing season begins April 19, but with a reduced number of fishing days in two areas of Puget Sound, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
As in previous years, three fishing areas north of King County (Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9) will be open for shrimping Thursday through Sunday each week until the quota for each area is taken. Most other areas in Puget Sound outside of established shrimp districts will be open seven days per week.
But in Marine Area 10 near Seattle and in the newly formed Port Townsend Bay shrimp district, fishing will be restricted to Thursdays and Saturdays only.
Mark O'Toole, WDFW shellfish biologist, said reducing the number of fishing days in those areas was necessary because of the growing popularity of shrimp fishing in recent years.
"Last year's sport fishery in Marine Area 10 lasted just six days and went well over the quota, as did the fishery in the Port Townsend area," O'Toole said. "With so many people fishing, we need to exert a little more control over the seasons or these management problems will only get worse."
Marine Area 10 includes all waters between the northern tip of Vashon Island to a line just south of Edmonds. In the past four years, participation in the recreational shrimp fishery has increased eight-fold in those waters - from an average of 25 pots fished per day in 1999 to an average of 206 pots fished per day in 2002, according to WDFW records.
In the Port Townsend area, where fishing pressure is also on the rise, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission created a new shrimp district with its own quota this year. That will allow WDFW to manage the fishery in that area more accurately without affecting shrimp fishing regulations in surrounding waters, O'Toole said.
Other areas of Puget Sound are also feeling the pressure. Last year in Hood Canal, the area's most popular shrimp fishery, recreational fishers caught their annual quota of 71,000 pounds in just four days. This year's fishery in Hood Canal, which opens May 17, is restricted to Saturdays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day until the quota has been reached.
Daily limits for all areas are the same as last year. In general, the daily limit is 10 pounds, including heads and tails. However, within that 10-pound limit, only 80 spot shrimp can be taken in a single day.
O'Toole suggested that shrimpers targeting spot shrimp - which are larger than other species - consider using a shrimp pot with a 7/8-inch mesh. That mesh size is large enough to allow smaller shrimp to pass through the pot as it is being pulled up. "This will reduce handling mortality for juvenile spot shrimp and non-targeted species," O'Toole said.
More information about shrimp gear, rules and seasons is available on WDFW's webpage on the Internet. That's the same web address for emergency rule change information. Those without Internet access can call the shellfish rule change hotline, 1-866-880-5431, for the latest information in emergency rule change news.