OLYMPIA – Most waters of Puget Sound will reopen to recreational crab fishing this fall, starting with openings Wednesday (Oct. 12) in four marine areas, state shellfish managers told the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during a meeting here today.
New sport crabbing rules adopted by the commission last May have helped to slow the catch by the popular fishery, leaving enough crab available to extend the season through the end of the year, said Morris Barker, marine resources manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The new rules reduced daily catch limits from six Dungeness crab to five and limited sport crabbing to four days per week in some areas of the sound.
“The commission’s actions last spring have largely achieved their intended result,” Barker said. “Based on recent catch estimates, we’ll be able to keep most areas of the sound open for recreational crabbing until early next year.”
Starting Wednesday (Oct. 12), Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will reopen for sport crabbing seven days per week through Jan. 2. Crabbing will also reopen that day in marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule until Dec. 21.
Fishing in those three areas will then switch to seven days per week through Jan. 2.
In addition, marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 7 (San Juan Islands), which will reopen for sport crabbing on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule from Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, then switch to seven days per week through Jan. 2
All of those areas were closed for a catch assessment on various dates in September.
Crabbing has continued non-stop in three other marine areas – 4 (Neah Bay), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south Puget Sound) – which will remain open seven days per week through Feb. 28, unless the catch reaches state harvest share before that date.
The only two areas that will remain closed for the season are marine 8-1 and 8-2 on the eastern side of Whidbey Island. Surveys conducted by WDFW last month indicate that the recreational catch in those areas exceeded their combined harvest share by more than 60,000 pounds, Barker said.
Barker noted that all crabbing gear must be removed from the water during periods when fishing is closed.
The nine-member Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, will receive a full briefing on the 2005 Puget Sound recreational crabbing season tomorrow (Oct. 8), the second day of its scheduled two-day October meeting. As part of that briefing, WDFW biologists will provide an update on this season’s field test to gauge the accuracy of phone surveys used to assess the crab harvest.
An agenda for the meeting is posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/com/meetings.htm on the WDFW website.