OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is reminding sport crabbers that the Puget Sound crab-fishing season closes Tuesday evening, Jan. 2.
Under state rules, recreational crab pots and other gear must be removed from all areas of Puget Sound by 6 p.m. that day.
Despite lower catch rates, this year’s harvest of Dungeness crab by Puget Sound sport crabbers is expected to reach the recreational quota of 1.2 million pounds, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy coordinator.
“Catch rates were down a bit from last year, but experienced crabbers were still able to get their daily limit of five crab,” Childers said. “The abundance of crab along the Pacific coast changes from year to year as a result of natural environmental factors, so it’s not surprising to see a change after a period of high abundance.”
A new round of telephone interviews with sport crabbers will tell shellfish managers more about the late-season crab fishery that got under way Nov. 1 in most areas of Puget Sound, Childers said. That survey, scheduled to begin the first week of January, will collect catch data from 6,000 of the nearly 200,000 fishers licensed to fish for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound this year.
“Phone interviews provide critical information for the management of the Puget Sound crab fishery,” Childers said. “We rely on sport crabbers contacted in the survey to provide an accurate account of their catch.”
Crabbers who complete the telephone interview will be eligible to win one of 10 free 2007 combination-fishing licenses available in a raffle, Childers said.
“The raffle is an incentive for crabbers who are interviewed to retrieve their catch cards and to report their fishing activities directly from their catch cards, rather than by memory,” said Childers, noting that WDFW recently announced 10 free-license winners from the last phone survey in September.
Most crab-fishing areas in Puget Sound closed after the Labor Day weekend for a catch assessment, then reopened for late-season fishing Nov. 1. Seven areas of Puget Sound are open for crabbing seven days per week through Jan. 2, including marine areas 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 12 (Hood Canal) and 13 (south Puget Sound).
Other marine areas, where catch assessments indicated that area quotas had been taken during the summer season, have remained closed to crab fishing. Those areas include marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass/Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan/Port Gardner) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island).