Crab seasons and areas

Crabbing is one of Washington's most popular recreational fisheries. Each year, recreational crabbers catch more than 1.5 million pounds of Dungeness crab using pots, ring nets, and—in the case of wade and dive fishers—their bare hands.

All recreational crabbers 15 years or older must carry a current Washington fishing license. Options range from an annual shellfish/seaweed license to combination fishing licenses, valid for a single day or up to a year.  

In addition, all recreational crabbers regardless of age who fish for crab in the Puget Sound crab management area must purchase a Puget Sound crab endorsement on their license and obtain a Puget Sound Dungeness crab catch record card to account for all Dungeness crab they catch. Catch reporting is not required for red rock crab.

The Puget Sound crab management area includes Washington marine areas 5 through 13 (including the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, and Hood Canal) and marine area 4 (Neah Bay) east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line.

The Puget Sound crab endorsement and catch record card are not required in the coastal area, which includes Washington marine areas 1-3 and marine area 4 west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line.

Before you go crabbing

Make sure you have the proper license (and if you're crabbing in Puget Sound the Dungeness crab catch record card), and learn more about each of the types of crab you can catch and keep in Washington waters:

All other crab species are closed to harvest. See the Washington sportfishing rules for more information.

Crabbers must release all soft-shell crabs and all Dungeness crab females to support population health.

Crab gear rules

Crab may be harvested using pots, by hand, or with a dipnet. Hand operated instruments may not penetrate the shell. Additional rules for pot use apply. Recreational crabbers should review the detailed gear rules available online in the sport fishing rules and in the annual regulations pamphlet under Shellfishing rules. 

Crabbers are required to mark all unattended crab gear with a half-red, half-white buoy with the owner’s first and last name and permanent address (phone number is voluntary). Buoys must be constructed of durable material. It is unlawful to use bleach, antifreeze, or detergent bottles, paint cans or any other container in place of a buoy.

All crab, shrimp, and crawfish pots must be equipped with a biodegradable device (rot/escape cord) which must be affixed to the pot; see sport fishing rules for additional details.

Learn how to avoid losing your crab gear in this video series from Northwest Straits Foundation.

Recreational crab information by area

Crab fishing seasons and regulations and Dungeness crab reporting requirements may vary by area. Click the link for the marine area you plan to harvest from below and then select "Limits" for details on daily limits, minimum size, etc.

Puget Sound area including Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, and Hood Canal

Puget Sound crabbers: remember to submit your Catch Record Card and to not set pots in ferry or shipping lanes. Please also avoid obstructing marina entrances or boat launches.

Take our CRABBER KNOWLEDGE QUIZ to test your knowledge of the Puget Sound recreational crabbing rules and provide valuable information to fisheries managers. We are conducting a study that aims to evaluate Puget Sound recreational crabbers’ knowledge of crabbing rules and regulations and to provide an educational tool for crabbers to learn current regulations and best practices. Participation should take approximately 15 minutes, is voluntary, and all responses are anonymous.

Puget Sound Dungeness crab catch reporting

Puget Sound area crab fishers must return their catch record cards or report online even if they did not go crabbing or catch any crab. The deadline for returning summer and winter catch cards is printed on each catch card. If crabbers fail to return their catch card they will be required to pay a $10 fine before they can purchase another crab endorsement .

Puget Sound Dungeness crab reporting system now in effect:
  • Two-card reporting system: All sport crabbers fishing in Puget Sound are required to report their Dungeness crab catch on separate summer and winter catch record cards at the end of each season. The new cards are separate from the multi-species card used for recording catches of salmon, halibut and other fish. People of all ages who have a crab endorsement and received a catch record card are required to make a report even if they did not go crabbing or catch any crab.
  • Online reporting: Sport crabbers can either report their information through WDFW's online licensing system or mail their catch cards to the address on this page. The website address for reporting crab catches is printed on the catch record card along with reporting deadlines. 
  • The online reporting site will only accept catch reports during two time periods. Summer Catch Record Cards can only be entered online from Labor Day through Oct. 1 of each year.  Winter Catch Record Cards can only be entered online from Jan. 1 through Feb. 1 of each year. The reporting site will allow you to view your reporting history at any time.
  • Failure to report penalty: If those crab fishing in the Puget Sound management area fail to report their summer or winter harvest, they will be assessed a $10 penalty with the following year's license purchase.

Puget Sound crabbers have several options for reporting their catch information. They can report online, drop the Puget Sound Dungeness crab catch record cards off at a WDFW regional office, or mail them to:

​​​Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
WDFW CRC Unit, 
PO Box 43142, 
Olympia, WA 98504-3142

Fishery managers rely on individual catch record card reports to estimate recreational harvest and to set future crabbing opportunities. By completing catch record cards, fishers play a vital role in maintaining sustainable harvest opportunities.

Coastal area including Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and Columbia River

Coastal crabbers: avoid setting pots in shipping lanes, navigational channels, and tow boat lanes, including those in Grays Harbor and off the Washington Coast. An interactive map of coastal tow lanes is available from Washington Sea Grant on this webpage.

Recreational crabbing is open year-round on the Washington Coast, but pot gear season closes in several areas for a portion of September, October, and November to reduce soft-shell crab mortality.

Crab snares and foldable traps are legal during this time, as are ring nets that lie completely flat on the bottom. Hoop nets or dome pots that do not lie flat are prohibited during this time.

Pot closure dates vary be area. Please see the marine area regulations below for details. Learn more and get tips for coastal crabbing in this 2023 WDFW blog post: Check your gear: here’s what’s legal during crab pot closure in coastal marine areas.

Or learn more about WDFW's new Coastal Recreational Crab Unit.

Recreational crab rules by marine area

Marine Area Crab area Status Days open Season dates
1 South Coast/Pacific Ocean OPEN Everyday Crab pots: Open Dec. 1 through Sept. 15
Crab gear other than pots: Open year-round
1 Columbia River OPEN Everyday Year-round
2 Westport/Ocean Shores OPEN Everyday Crab pots: Open Dec. 1 through Sept. 15
Crab gear other than pots: Open year-round
2 Willapa Bay - Area 2-1 OPEN Everyday Crab pots: Open Nov. 15 through Sept. 15
Crab gear other than pots: Open year-round
2 Grays Harbor - Area 2-2 OPEN Everyday Crab pots: Open Dec. 1 through Sept. 15
Crab gear other than pots: Open year-round
3 LaPush OPEN Everyday Crab pots: Open Dec. 1 through Sept. 15
Crab gear other than pots: Open year-round
4 Neah Bay - East of Tatoosh-Bonilla line CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
4 Neah Bay - West of Tatoosh-Bonilla line OPEN Everyday Crab pots: Open Dec. 1 through Sept. 15
Crab gear other than pots: Open year-round
5 Sekiu and Pillar Point CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
6 East Juan de Fuca Strait, Port Angeles Harbor, Discovery Bay CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
7 South - San Juan Islands/Bellingham CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
7 North - Gulf of Georgia CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
8-1 Deception Pass - Area 8-1 CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
8-2 Port Susan/Everett - Area 8-2 CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
9 Admiralty Inlet CLOSED None The portion of Marine Area 9 EXCLUDING waters north of the Hood Canal bridge to a line connecting Olele Point and Foulweather Bluff.
Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
9 Port Gamble/Port Ludlow CLOSED None The portion of Marine Area 9 north of the Hood Canal bridge to a line connecting Olele Point and Foulweather Bluff.
Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
10 Seattle/Bremerton CLOSED None Closed until summer 2024.
11 Tacoma-Vashon Island CLOSED None Closed until summer 2024.
12 Hood Canal - North of Ayock Point CLOSED None Winter season closed December 31. Next opening will be in summer 2024.
12 Hood Canal - South of Ayock Point CLOSED None Closed until further notice.
13 South Puget Sound CLOSED None Closed until further notice.