OLYMPIA – Sport crabbers planning to fish in Puget Sound this summer will find the upcoming season similar to last year’s, although they can expect to see some significant changes in catch-reporting procedures.
Starting June 18, crab fishing will open seven days a week in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca and southern Puget Sound. Most other marine areas will open July 4 on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, although some waters north of Anacortes will not open until later in summer.
As in recent years, all crab-fishing areas opening July 4 will close after Labor Day for a catch assessment, then reopen in the fall if recreational harvest quotas have not been met.
The biggest changes in this year’s fishery are in the way sport crabbers will report their catch, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Those changes include:
- Two-card reporting system: All sport crabbers fishing in Puget Sound will be required to report their Dungeness crab catch on separate summer and fall/winter catch record cards during the course of the season. The new cards will be separate from the multi-species card used to record catches of salmon, halibut and other fish.
- On-line reporting: For the first time, sport crabbers will have the option of reporting their catch via the Internet in lieu of mailing in their catch cards. The website address will be printed on the catch cards along with the reporting deadlines.
- No coastal reporting: Catch record cards are no longer required to fish for Dungeness crab on the Washington coast (marine areas 1-4).
Under the new two-card system, sport crabbers must report their catch through Labor Day by Sept. 15, either by returning their summer catch record card or by filing a report on the new website. To report their catch for the fall/winter period, crabbers are required to return their second card or file a report on the WDFW website by Jan. 15.
“The new two-card system is intended to give fishery managers more accurate information about the recreational crab catch during the course of the season,” Childers said. “By using data from the catch cards, we can reduce our reliance on phone surveys to compare catch totals with harvest quotas in specific areas of Puget Sound.”
Childers said the new catch record cards will be available by May 21 from license dealers throughout the state, noting that fishers who have already purchased a 2007 Puget Sound crab endorsement will receive their cards by mail prior to the first opening on June 18. Those who have changed their address since purchasing their endorsement should contact WDFW at (360) 902-2464 to ensure receipt of their cards, Childers said.
By law, everyone who fishes for crab in Puget Sound must carry a valid catch record card, use it to log their catch and report all Dungeness crab they keep during the season. The new web-based reporting system should make the reporting process more convenient, Childers said.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for Puget Sound crabbers to report their catch,” he said. “Fishery managers rely on those reports to manage the fishery and plan future seasons.”
As an incentive, crabbers who meet the reporting deadlines will be entered in a raffle to win a free 2008 combination license. “We’ll be giving away 20 fishing licenses this year to encourage on-time reporting – either by mail or via the Internet,” Childers said.
In addition to catch-card requirements, anyone fishing for crab in Puget Sound must purchase a $3 license endorsement, which is free to fishers under age 15 although dealer fees may apply. All fishers age 15 or older must also carry an applicable Washington fishing license in order to fish for crab.
As in previous years, the daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
Puget Sound recreational crabbing areas will open at 7 a.m. on the following dates:
- June 18: Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south Puget Sound) will open seven days per week through Jan. 2, 2008.
- July 4: Marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 7 South (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point), 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal) will open Wednesdays through Saturdays only, plus the entire Labor Day weekend and will close the evening of Sept. 3 for a catch assessment.
- July 18: Marine Area 7 East (Bellingham and Samish bays) will open Wednesdays through Saturdays only, plus the entire Labor Day weekend and will close the evening of Sept. 29 for a catch assessment.
- Aug. 15: Marine Area 7 North (Lummi Island/Blaine) will open Wednesdays through Saturdays only, plus the entire Labor Day weekend and will close the evening of Sept. 29 for a catch assessment.