OLYMPIA - All areas of Puget Sound will close to recreational crab fishing at sunset Jan. 2, after which all sport crabbers licensed to fish for crab in the Sound will have 13 days to report their winter catch.
State fishing rules require that all sport crabbers submit catch reports for the winter season to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) by Jan. 15 - even if they did not catch any crab. The winter crab season runs from Sept. 4 to Jan. 2.
"Catch reports are an important tool in managing the Puget Sound crab fishery," said Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW. "Itís important that we hear from everyone - including those who didnít catch crab - because that information is part of the equation in estimating the annual catch."
To submit their catch reports, crabbers may either send their catch record card to WDFW by mail, or file their report on a special webpage on the departmentís licensing website. Catch record cards may be mailed to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091. The online reporting system will be available Jan. 2-15 at
Sport crabbers who file their catch reports by the Jan. 15 deadline will be entered in a drawing for one of 10 free 2008 combination fishing licenses, which allow the holder to fish for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species.
The winter catch report is the second of two catch reports sport crabbers are required to file this year. Summer catch reports - new this year - gave fishery managers important information about the pace of the recreational crab catch through Labor Day, Childers said. Catch reports for the winter fishery will provide data though the end of the season, he said.
Although catch rates appeared to be down somewhat this year, Childers said he expects the harvest of Dungeness crab by Puget Sound sport crabbers to reach the annual recreational quota of 1.2 million pounds.
"Crabbing was better in some areas of Puget Sound this year than others, but most experienced crabbers were still able to get their daily limit of five crab," Childers said.
Childers said fishery managers were pleased that more than 66,000 sport crabbers complied with the new summer reporting requirement, but are hoping for an even better showing during the winter reporting period. In all, 210,000 people were licensed to fish for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound in 2007, he said.
"Our goal is that everyone licensed to fish for crab in Puget Sound will file catch reports," Childers said. "More data means greater accuracy when it comes to estimating the catch and developing future fishing seasons."