OLYMPIA - Puget Sound sport crabbers will head out to fish this summer under a new split-season harvest-reporting system, although some may want to stop off to swap a temporary catch record card for a permanent one.
The split-season harvest-reporting system requires recreational crabbers to use a summer catch record card to record their catch through Labor Day, and a separate catch record card for fall and winter harvest that will be reported by mid-January 2008.
However, delays in gearing up the state’s automated recreational license system to print the two cards means that early purchasers of Puget Sound crab endorsements didn’t receive their catch record cards.
With crab seasons opening just weeks away, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is mailing temporary catch record cards to 84,000 people who bought their 2007 Puget Sound Dungeness crab endorsement before May 18.
“We’re mailing temporary catch record cards to make sure that folks can start fishing as soon as crab seasons open,” said Frank Hawley, WDFW license division manager. “But since the temporary cards are not water-resistant, we encourage everyone to visit a local license vendor as soon as possible to trade the temporary cards for water-resistant, permanent ones.”
Those who have changed their address since purchasing their Puget Sound crab endorsement should contact WDFW at (360) 902-2464 to ensure they receive the mailed temporary catch record cards.
When the transfer is made, it’s also important that fishers transfer any recorded harvest from the temporary catch record card to the permanent one, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish policy coordinator. That’s because sport fishers will be required to return the temporary catch record cards to license vendors when they are issued the permanent ones.
Recreational crab fishing opens June 18 in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca and southern Puget Sound. Marine Area 6 in the eastern Strait will open June 27, Wednesdays through Saturdays. 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.
Under the new two-card reporting system, sport crabbers must report their catch through Labor Day by Sept. 15. Crab fishers will be required to report fall/winter catch, by Jan. 15.
The new two-card harvest-reporting system, with its mid-September deadline for reporting summer crab catch, is intended to give fishery managers more timely and accurate information about the recreational crab catch during the course of the season. Previously, crabbers were not required to turn in catch record cards until the end of the year.
Starting in September, Puget Sound sport crab fishers also will have a new option of reporting their catch via the Internet, in lieu of mailing in their catch cards.
“Sport and commercial crabbers have advocated changes to the sport-harvest reporting system and we heard them,” said Jeff Koenings, WDFW director. “Now we will be counting on those same advocates to help us successfully implement this new self-reporting system.”
Fishery managers use catch data provided by fishers to manage the fishery and plan future seasons.
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. 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.