Crabbing is one of Puget Sound’s most popular recreational fisheries. Each year, sport fishers catch more than a million pounds of Dungeness crab, using pots, ring nets, and – in the case of wade and dive fishers – their bare hands.
Before you go, make sure you have the proper license (and the proper catch record card, if you're crabbing for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound), and learn more about each of the types of crab you can catch along the Washington coast:
All sport 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 sport crabbers -- regardless of age -- who fish for crab in Puget Sound must get a crab endorsement on their license carry and complete catch record cards to account for all Dungeness crab they catch. They also 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 .
Recent changes in the 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 fall/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 reporting site will only accept catch reports during two time periods. Summer Catch Record Cards can only be entered from Labor Day through Oct. 1. Winter Catch Record Cards can only be entered from Jan. 1 through Feb. 1. The reporting site will allow you to view your reporting history at any time.
- No coastal reporting: Catch record cards are required for those fishing for Dungeness crab along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, which includes marine area 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line) and marine areas 5-13. They are not required along the coast, which includes marine areas 1-3 and marine area 4 (west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line).
- Failure to report penalty: If crabbers fail to report their summer or winter harvest, they will be assessed a $10 penalty with the following year's license purchase.
Catch record cards must be returned to WDFW at the end of both the summer and fall/winter seasons. Crabbers have several options for reporting their catch information. They can report online, drop the 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.