OLYMPIA – Hood Canal will provide a veritable gumbo of recreational shellfishing opportunities during the last two weeks of May, with openings planned for shrimp and crab on various days through the end of the month.
Bear in mind, though, that the rules do not allow fishing for both types of crustaceans on the same day.
"This is the first time we've opened shrimp and crab seasons in Hood Canal during the same period, and our enforcement officers will be keeping a close eye on how things are going," said Rich Childers, shellfish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
To start things off, the highly popular spot shrimp fishery will open May 18, 22, 25 and 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a Wednesday and Saturday schedule. Additional openings will depend on May catch rates, which will be estimated after the first three days of fishing.
Meanwhile, the recreational crab fishery in Hood Canal will reopen May 19 through May 31, during the five days each week when there is not a shrimp fishery in progress (Wednesdays and Saturdays). Then, starting June 1 until further notice, Hood Canal will be open seven days per week for recreational crabbing as the next yearly allocation cycle gets under way.
"The overlap in seasons is due to the fact that we still had enough crab left over from the previous allocation to allow for ten more days of fishing," Childers said. "Those crab are in good shape, and we wanted to give recreational crabbers an opportunity to take their full allocation."
Childers reminds crabbers that only male crab with a carapace width of 6 1/4 inches may be retained. As of May 1, WDFW increased the legal size limit in Hood Canal from 6 inches to make it consistent with other areas in Puget Sound.
Childers also asks that all crabbers remember to record their catch on their Catch Record Cards, which WDFW uses to estimate catch levels.
"We received credible evidence from the Catch Record Cards that recreational crabbers did not take all of their previous allocation and WDFW responded with an additional ten days of fishing," Childers said. "That made the upcoming crab-shrimp doubleheader possible."
For shrimp fishers, the following rules apply:
- Any shrimp caught over the individual fisher limit of 80 may be passed to other licensed fishers on the boat that don't have their limit. After the boat limit is reached, shrimp must be returned immediately to the water unharmed. Each limit must be kept in a separate container. Fishers may remove and discard the heads from their shrimp while on the water.
- Each vessel participating in the fishery may have on board and operate no more than four shrimp pots.
- Pots may not be set prior to 9 a.m. and must be pulled by 1 p.m. each fishing day. Each fisher must set and pull their own gear, however, a second person may assist the pot owner in operation of the gear.
- Once a person has reached their limit another person may fish the gear as long as the identified pot owner is aboard. Another person may attach a buoy bearing his or her name and address to the pot and continue fishing for a separate limit.