OLYMPIA – Signs of the upcoming sport-crabbing season will begin appearing in the next few weeks at boat ramps and beaches throughout the Puget Sound area.
Three hundred of them, to be exact.
The metal signs, now being produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), list the requirements for participating in the recreational crab fishery that begins July 1 in most areas of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“With more people entering the fishery every year, we want to make sure everyone knows the rules of the road,” said Brad Sele, WDFW shellfish resource manager. “There’s more to it than just buying a crab pot and throwing it off the side of your boat.”
Key requirements noted on the signs include:
- A fishing license: All crab fishers age 15 or older must carry a current Washington fishing license. Options range from an annual shellfish/seaweed license to combination fishing licenses, valid for a single day or up to a year.
- A crab endorsement: All sport crabbers, regardless of age, must obtain and carry a crab licensing endorsement to fish for crab in Puget Sound. The endorsement costs $3 for crabbers age 15 and over, but is free to fishers under age 15.
- A catch record card: All sport crabbers, regardless of age, who fish for crab in Puget Sound must carry, maintain and return a catch record card, which provides an ongoing account of all Dungeness crab they catch.
At least twice during the upcoming season, 6,000 Puget Sound recreational crabbers will be called at random and asked for the harvest totals on their catch record cards, Sele said. Those surveys provide critical information to fishery managers responsible for monitoring the harvest, he said.
“Fishery managers rely on catch-report data to track the sport harvest, just as they depend on fish tickets to track the commercial catch,” Sele said. “That information provides the basis for in-season fishery management, so it’s essential that crabbers accurately record their catch and report it as it appears on their catch record cards.”
As an incentive, crabbers who can cite the identification number on their card when contacted for a phone survey will qualify for a random drawing for 10 free combination fishing licenses. On the other hand, those who actually go fishing for crab without carrying a catch record card are subject to a fine of $80.
Like last year, the daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab with a shell width of at least 6¼ inches, plus six red rock crab of either sex with a shell width of at least 5 inches. All undersized crab, female Dungeness crab and all softshell crab of either sex must be returned to the water.
Crab fishing in three areas of Puget Sound will get under way June 18. Those waters – which include marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge) – will be open seven days per week through Feb. 28.
Eight areas will open to crab fishing July 1, including marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 South (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point), 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal). Crab fishing in those areas will be limited to Wednesdays through Saturdays, with the following exceptions:
- Marine areas 6, 7 South, 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be open to crab fishing every day from July 1-8, before switching to the Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule.
- Marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 will be open July 1-2, close July 3-4, then resume on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule.
- All eight areas with a July 1 starting date will be open for crab fishing the entire Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4, before closing for a catch assessment. Fishing will resume in areas where the catch quota has not been met on dates to be announced by WDFW.
Sele noted that the extra fishing days in July are not reflected in the WDFW Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations), which were approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission after the rule book was published.
“Commissioners heard from a lot of crab fishers that they want to be able to fish those days leading up to and including the Fourth of July,” said Ron Ozment, commission chair. “We agreed that made sense in most areas, so long as everyone understands that it could reduce crabbing opportunities later in the year.”
Two other marine areas near the San Juan Islands, where the crab have a later molting cycle, will open later in the summer. Marine Area 7 East will open from July 15 to Sept. 30 on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, and Marine Area 7 North will open from Aug. 16 to Sept. 30 on the same schedule. However, as with other waters of Puget Sound, both of those areas will be open to crab fishing the entire Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4.