Recreational crab season opening delayed until further notice in Marine Area 7 (Gulf of Georgia)


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News release

Don Velasquez, 425-775-1311, ext. 112
Media contact: Mark Yuasa, 360-902-2262

OLYMPIA – Recreational crab fishing in the San Juan Island’s Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia) will remain closed until further notice to allow additional time for crab shell conditions to improve, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

The closed area was originally scheduled to open Aug. 17 through Sept. 30, Thursdays through Mondays only.

“We understand there will be frustrated crabbers out there who have made plans to get out on the opening day, said Aaron Dufault, WDFW’s Puget Sound Shellfish Manager. “Additional test fishing taking place this week will inform a future opening day.”

WDFW conducts test fisheries annually to ensure that fisheries avoid opening before crab shells have had sufficient time to harden. A significant proportion of soft-shell crab remain in the area and haven’t met the minimum criteria to open the fishery. Co-manager agreements require 80% of crab sampled via test fisheries to be hard prior to state or tribal fisheries opening. Crabs are extremely vulnerable during the soft-shell stage following a molt.

As a result, state and tribal co-managers agreed to delay planned commercial and recreational fisheries to allow additional time for crab to harden.

“There’s more softshell crab in the area than we typically see late in the summer, but this delay should reduce potential impacts to vulnerable crab,” Dufault said.

To offset lost opportunity from the delay, WDFW will announce additional days of fishing opportunity in a future announcement.

Summer seasons for Puget Sound crab fisheries open are posted on WDFW's crab-fishing webpage. WDFW will have creel staff at many boat launch and access sites this summer to gather additional information from recreational crabbers. The information collected by these staff is important for management of the crab fishery.

The daily limit throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6 1/4 inches. Fishers may also keep six red rock crab of either sex per day in open areas, provided the crab are in hard-shell condition and measure at least five inches carapace width.

Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. Each unattended trap must have its own buoy line and a separate buoy that is permanently and legibly marked with the first name, last name, and permanent address of the licensed harvester. A more comprehensive list of regulations which pertain to crab traps can be found on the WDFW’s shellfish gear rules page. All traps must be removed from the water on days when the fishery is closed.

Puget Sound crabbers are required to record their harvest of Dungeness crab on their catch record cards immediately after retaining the crab and before re-deploying the trap. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Catch record card information is crucial to managing Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. Completed summer catch record cards, regardless of whether any crab is caught, must be submitted, or reported online to WDFW by Oct. 1, 2023.

Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast, where crabbing is open year-round.

Before heading out on the water this season, crabbers can test their skills at identifying different types of crab in Puget Sound and their understanding of regulations and best practices by taking the Puget Sound crabber knowledge quiz. Visit the WDFW webpage to learn more.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Request this information in an alternative format or language at, 833-885-1012, TTY (711), or