OLYMPIA – Most waters of Puget Sound will reopen to recreational crab fishing Nov. 1, based on summer catch assessments by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) that show more crab are available for harvest.
Starting Nov. 1 at sunrise, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days a week through Jan. 2, 2008.
Crab fishing will also remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2 in marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), and 13 (south Puget Sound), where the fishery has continued uninterrupted since June 18.
Two other marine areas – 8-1 and 8-2 east of Whidbey Island – will reopen for crab fishing on a daily basis Nov. 22-25 during the Thanksgiving holiday. The late season in those areas is limited to four days, because annual catch quotas for those areas were nearly reached during the summer season, said Rich Childers, WDFW crab policy coordinator.
Sport crabbing will not reopen this year in Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where the summer catch slightly exceeded the annual quota.
“Our goal is to give crabbers as much opportunity to fish as possible, while remaining within the catch quotas,” Childers said. “Catch assessments for the summer fishery indicate we’re right on track in most areas of Puget Sound, and the crabbers deserve a lot of the credit.”
That’s because this year, for the first time, those catch assessments were based largely on direct reports of catch data by crabbers themselves, Childers said. Under a new approach initiated this year, WDFW asked all 210,615 crabbers licensed to fish for crab in Puget Sound to report their catch – as reflected on their personal catch cards – through the Labor Day weekend.
More than 66,000 complied, including 32,373 who filed their catch reports on a new website created for that purpose. In calculating the catch-to-date, WDFW considered the direct reports from crabbers as well as phone surveys with 5,000 others who did not submit catch reports by the Sept. 15 deadline.
“The good news is that the new reporting system has given us a lot more catch data, which has improved our estimates of the catch-to-date,” Childers said. “At the same time, though, we’re going to need more crabbers to report their catch before we can do away with the phone surveys entirely.”
Childers noted that all crabbers who submitted catch reports on time will be entered into a drawing for 10 free 2008 combination fishing licenses.
After Sept. 3, crabbers who fish for crab in Puget Sound should use their winter catch cards to record their catch, Childers said. These winter cards are valid until January 2 and the late-season catch reports are due to WDFW by Jan. 15, 2008, after which another drawing will be held for free fishing licenses.
“It’s important that people submit their reports, even if they didn’t catch any crab,” he said. “A report showing no crab caught is just as important in calculating the catch as one that shows lots of crab caught.”
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at