OLYMPIA - After just one day of fishing, the recreational shrimp fishery is over for the year in Marine Area 11, the portion of Puget Sound extending from the northern end of Vashon Island to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced the closure today, citing catch estimates showing that sport shrimpers pulled an estimated 2,200 pounds of spot shrimp from area waters May 7, opening day.
The single day's catch was more than triple the sport fishery's 600-pound allocation for the season, and also exceeded 1,500-pound allocation for the sport and commercial shrimp fisheries combined, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish biologist.
"Up until this year, Marine Area 11 wasn't really considered a hot spot for recreational shrimp fishing," Childers said. "That has clearly changed."
Childers said WDFW field staff counted 454 pot buoys on the water on opening day, up from 86 buoys last year and just 18 in 2003. State fishing rules allow a maximum of two shrimp pots per person and a maximum of four pots per boat.
High numbers of large shrimp per pot also contributed in boosting the catch well above expectations, Childers said.
An increase in the abundance of shrimp in Marine Area 11 was also detected in pre-season test fisheries conducted last month, said Childers, noting that WDFW plans to discuss raising catch quotas with tribal co-managers next year.
"We're confident the area shrimp population can sustain a higher quota without jeopardizing the health of the resource," Childers said. "What we don't know, given the growing popularity of this fishery, is whether increasing the quota will provide a significant increase in fishing days."
Meanwhile, recreational shrimp fisheries remain open in most areas of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca on schedules announced prior to the season opener. Fishing schedules are as follows:
- Shrimp districts in Port Angeles and Discovery Bay, as well as marine areas 8, 9 and 10, is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Wednesdays until quotas for those areas are reached. The Port Townsend Shrimp District is also open to fishing those days for all types of shrimp except spot shrimp; the spot shrimp fishery there is closed due to extremely low catches in the pre-season test fishery.
- Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Wednesdays until the quota is reached.
- Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla Line), 5, 6, 7 and 13 are open daily with standard fishing hours (pots can be checked only from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset).
As usual, Hood Canal was the most popular shrimping area on opening day of the 2005 season, drawing an estimated 1,650 boats. Recreational shrimpers there caught an estimated 20,000 pounds of shrimp that day, Childers said.
"We're still expecting at least three more days of shrimp fishing in Hood Canal and more in other areas," Childers said. "The season is over in Marine Area 11 for this year, but there are still a lot of other areas to catch shrimp in Puget Sound."