OLYMPIA - Washington's popular recreational shrimp-fishing season begins April 17, but with a reduced number of fishing hours in one area of Puget Sound, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
In addition, the sport fishery for shrimp in Port Townsend Shrimp District will remain closed indefinitely due to a low abundance of shrimp.
"Test fisheries in the Port Townsend Shrimp District indicate that shrimp abundance is just too low to support a recreational fishery, said Dave Sterritt, WDFW shellfish biologist. "We plan to continue monitoring efforts and hope to announce an opening if catch rates pick up in the test fishery."
As in previous years, three fishing areas north of King County - Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 (outside of the Port Townsend Shrimp District) - will be open for shrimping Thursday through Sunday only 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.
An exception is Marine Area 10 near Seattle, where fishing will be restricted to Thursdays and Saturdays only, from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Mark O'Toole, WDFW shellfish biologist, said reducing the number of fishing days and hours in Marine Area 10 was necessary because of the growing popularity of shrimp fishing in recent years.
"Last year's sport fishery in Marine Area 10 lasted just four days and went over the quota," 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 last five years, participation in the recreational shrimp fishery increased nine-fold in those waters, O'Toole said. According to WDFW records, the average number of shrimp pots fished each day in that area increased from 25 in 1999 to approximately 235 in 2003.
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 75,000 pounds in just four days. This year's fishery in Hood Canal, which opens May 15, 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, at /fishing/regulations 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.