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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 29, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Dungeness crabbing is off the charts in Puget Sound and Hood Canal

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Tony “The Truth” Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association in Seattle can’t say enough about the hot Dungeness crab fishery happening in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

“Crabbing is phenomenal and there are lots of crab everywhere,” Floor said. “I crabbed two pots and we got 35 jumbos with four of us taking our 20 limit and putting the rest back over the side of the boat.”

Rich Childer, the head state Fish and Wildlife crab biologist, has also nothing but good things to say about how this summer’s crab fishery is shaping up and wanted to remind crabbers to comply with regulations.

“It has been really good crabbing and that is a hands down true statement,” Childers said. “Hood Canal has been really good.”

“It is still too early to know how compliance is going, but what we know is there has been a continued big enforcement presence, and they are checking to make sure people are recording their catch,” Childers said. “The most important thing to do is right after you catch your crab write them down on the catch record card, and don’t wait until dinner time to do it.”

This summefr is one of the most liberal sport Dungeness crabbing seasons that allows fishing five-days-a-week, including weekends (when in past years it was open four-days-a-week, and closed on Sundays).

Last year, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a management change that allows sport crabbers to keep 45 percent of the nontribal share. In the past, only one-third of the nontribal catch went to sport anglers, with the rest going to the commercial sector.

Each year the state conducts test fisheries to determine how strong the crab population is, then determines seasons and what each group is allowed to catch.

With the gain the commission also informed some 250,000 crabbers that they must clean up their act.

There are more than a handful of regulations that need to be addressed by the recreational crabbers.

To support education efforts, there was an increase to fees on recreational license endorsements for Puget Sound crabbing.

The annual crab endorsement fee went from $3 to $7.50. For a temporary license it would increase from $1 to $3.

Money from that endorsement – about $75,000 – goes to a variety of educational purposes including a three-fold brochure that was mailed to about 80,000 households who purchased crab licenses. This should help people know how to properly measure crabs with a caliper, proper rot cords to use on traps, and a flyer on how to put it on the traps.

Since last year, crabbers are required to report their crab catch by mailing them in or online soon after the summer and winter seasons or else face a penalty.

“We’ve seen an improvement on people reporting their catch from 20 percent to about 50 percent, and we’d like to see that go up to 75 percent,” Childers said.

Other rules that crabbers tend to violate are not having licenses on hand when fishing; not reporting their catch right after retaining crabs on the water; and keeping female crabs that is illegal.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh boundary line into Puget Sound is open trough Sept. 5, Thursdays to Mondays only. The San Juan Island southern portion is open through Sept. 30, and the northern area opens Aug. 15-Sept. 30. Daily limit is five male Dungeness crabs with a minimum size of 6 1/4 inches.

For information go to the state Fish and Wildlife Dungeness crabbing rules brochure.

Here is a link to the Puget Sound Dungeness Crabbing Guide on the state Fish and Wildlife website.

Readers can also visit the state Fish and Wildlife crab page on their website.

(Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times Photo Department)

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