OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reminds crab fishers that upcoming closures in several areas of Puget Sound apply to all types of recreational gear, not just crab pots.
Along with crab pots, fishing will be closed to ring gear and star traps – as well as wade and dive fishing – to protect crab when they are in soft-shell condition, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish biologist.
"Like last year, closures will apply to all types of gear and all crab species," Childers said. "Studies have shown that handling is a key factor in soft-shell crab catch mortality, regardless of what type of gear is used."
As announced by WDFW last week, recreational crab closures are scheduled in the following areas:
- North Puget Sound: The recreational crab fishery will close at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 16 in Marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 on the east side of Whidbey and Camano islands.
- Hood Canal: The recreational crab fishery will close at 12:01 a.m. March 1 in Marine Area 12 and the portion of Marine Area 9 south and east of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point.
All other marine areas will remain open for recreational crab fishing seven days per week until further notice, with a daily limit of six Dungeness crab per person.
All areas scheduled for closure had been open since last spring, with high catch rates reported among the 7,200 crab fishers who participated in an in-season survey conducted by WDFW in early September.
"People told us they had no trouble getting their limit," said Childers, noting that a second survey will be conducted March 1. "That's what we like to hear."
But Childers and other WDFW resource managers are withholding final judgment on the recreational crab season until they can analyze crabbers' Catch Record Cards, which must be returned to the department by April 30.
"That information is extremely important to us, and we really want to urge recreational crabbers to return their Catch Record Card," Childers said. "The more information we have, the better job we can do in managing the fishery."
Crab fisheries in the closed areas will be reopened, depending on shell condition, Childers said. Based on past experience, he anticipated the Hood Canal region would open in early June, Area 8-1 in mid-May and 8-2 in mid-April.
For details on fishing seasons and regulations check the fishing section of the WDFW webpage. Or, call the Shellfish Rule Change hotline toll-free 1-866-880-5431.