The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced Puget Sound summer crab-fishing seasons, will not include the closest areas to Yelm — Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound).
Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay – East of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line) and 5 (Sekiu) are now open for sport crabbing. Many other areas of the Sound will open for recreational crab fishing on Saturday, June 30, although two areas around the San Juan Islands open later in the summer to protect molting crab.
WDFW continues to monitor crab abundance throughout Puget Sound and manages crab fisheries to maintain healthy populations, said Bob Sizemore, shellfish policy lead for WDFW, in a news release.
“Crabbing should be good again this year in several areas of Puget Sound,” he said in the news release.
Recreational crabbing will be open Thursdays through Mondays each week. Crabbing is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, which means crabbers should be aware that no sport crab fisheries will be open Wednesday, the Fourth of July. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.
Crab seasons are scheduled
• Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), and 5 (Sekiu): Opened June 16 through Sept. 3.
• Marine areas 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 8-1 (Deception Pass), 8-2 (Port Susan/Everett), 9 (Port Gamble and Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and 12 (Hood Canal): Open June 30 through Sept. 3.
• Marine Area 7 South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham): Open July 14 through Sept. 30.
• Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia): Open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.
The following areas are closed this season:
• Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (south Puget Sound): These areas are closed to promote recovery of Dungeness crab populations in those areas.
The populations of harvestable Dungeness crabs are low in both areas 11 and 13, based on pre-season test fisheries, Sizemore said. Additionally, Dungeness crab harvests have fallen 88 percent in Marine Area 11 and 90 percent in Marine Area 13 since the 2014-15 season. Input from recreational crabbers also indicates support for the closures.
“We are taking this step to protect crab in these areas and allow the populations to rebuild,” Sizemore said.
Water currents can carry young crab long distances, making it possible for crab larvae from robust populations to settle and grow in areas 11 and 13, Sizemore said. But it can take several years for a newly settled Dungeness crab to grow and reach the minimum harvestable size of 6 ¼ inches.
A variety of factors could be contributing to the declining population of crab in areas 11 and 13, Sizemore said. These include reduced survival of crab larvae, a higher-than-normal mortality rate for juvenile crab, or changing ocean conditions such as elevated surface water temperatures.
The daily limit throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.
Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise.
Puget Sound crabbers are required to record their harvest of Dungeness crab on their catch record cards immediately after retaining crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.
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.