OLYMPIA – The recreational crab fishery on Hood Canal will remain closed for all crab species and all types of gear until summer, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The popular fishery, which closed Nov. 2 after record catches, will reopen sometime after June 1, depending on the shell condition of Dungeness crab, said Tim Flint, regional WDFW fisheries manager.
Flint said agency managers considered reopening the fishery this winter but determined that recreational crabbing must remain closed to give tribal fishers an opportunity to catch their court-ordered share of the overall allocation.
"The crab are still abundant, but tribal fishers need time to catch up with the record harvest by recreational crabbers this season," Flint said.
By the time the recreational fishery was closed in November, non-tribal crabbers had taken over 345,000 pounds of crab – the highest recreational catch on record for Hood Canal. Tribal fishers, meanwhile, caught 240,000 pounds of crab through December but have not yet matched the recreational harvest, Flint said.
Flint said the recreational harvest was estimated using the traditional method of counting buoys and collecting catch logs. New catch record cards – which must be returned to the agency in April – will be used to improve catch estimates in future years.
"We really want to urge recreational crabbers to return those new catch record cards," Flint said. "The more information we have, the better job we can do in managing the fishery."
WDFW will negotiate with the tribes on a management plan for the 2001-2002 crab season in May, Flint said. Prior to those negotiations, the agency will hold a series of public meetings to solicit public comments on crab and shrimp fisheries in Hood Canal during the upcoming season.
WDFW will notify the public about the dates and locations of those meetings – as well as procedures for submitting written comments in late spring.