OLYMPIA - Recreational crab fishing will close for a catch assessment in most areas of Puget Sound at sunset on Labor Day, after which everyone licensed to fish for crab in the Sound will have until Sept. 21 to report their summerís catch.
Licensed sport crabbers must submit summer catch reports to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), whether or not they crabbed or were successful in catching Dungeness crab.
Starting this year, crabbers who fail to file their catch reports will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2010 fishing license, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW.
Authorized by the state Legislature and approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2008, the fine is intended to increase catch card return rates and gain more accuracy on recreational catch estimates, Childers said.
"This fishery is becoming more popular every year, which makes it more important than ever to track the catch as closely as possible," Childers said.
He noted that crabbers who file their catch reports by the deadline will be entered in a drawing for one of 10 free 2010 combination fishing licenses, which allow the holder to fish for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species.
Catch record cards may be filed online on WDFWís licensing website, scheduled to accept catch reports from Sept. 8-21 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html. Cards may also be mailed to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
This is the third year that summer crab catch reports are required after Labor Day, with fall/winter reports due between January 2-15. The two-stage reporting system is designed to give fishery managers more accurate information about the recreational crab catch during the course of the season, Childers said.
"The mid-season catch report will help us by providing a much clearer picture of the catch-to-date," Childers said.
Six areas of Puget Sound will close to crab fishing Sept. 7, including marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point), 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon). Crabbing will be open the entire Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-7.
Meanwhile, sport crabbing remains open in the following areas:
- Marine areas 7S, 7E, and 7N (Bellingham-San Juan Islands) are scheduled to remain open Wednesdays through Saturdays only, plus the entire Labor Day weekend, closing Sept. 30.
- Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) is scheduled to remain open Wednesdays through Saturdays only through Jan. 2.
- Marine areas 4 and 5 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and 13 in southern Puget Sound are scheduled to remain open seven days a week through Jan. 2.
Crabbers who continue to fish in an open area after Sept. 7 should record their catch on their winter catch card which is valid from Sept. 8 through Jan. 2, Childers said.
"By submitting accurate catch reports, sport crabbers play an important role in the management of the Puget Sound crab fishery," Childers said. "Itís vital that we hear from everyone - including those who havenít caught crab so far this year - because that information is part of the equation."
For more information about recreational crabbing in Puget Sound, see WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab.