The morning started off at a “secret marina” somewhere in southern Puget Sound under semi-foggy conditions and calm water on what has turned out to be an excellent winter Dungeness crab season.
As we cruised past the no wake zone with my family we got a quick tour of the area as Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association and his wife pointed out the rich and famous who lived in huge homes and mega mansions along the hillsides and waterfront properties.
As we turned the corner of the mainland and headed east toward the Nisqually region you could get a whiff of the sweet smell of marine air.
Once we arrived at our destination off an “island” we eased the boat along a ledge that dropped off to about 130 feet and surveyed the six crab pot buoys that had been soaking for a few days without any fishermen in sight.
“It has been this way on just about every trip, and the last time out on Christmas Eve the only ones near us were a boat of tribal geoduck fishermen and an enforcement boat,” said Floor. “It hasn’t been hot, but fairly consistent where we’ve been getting anywhere from 10 to 12 crabs and on a few good days up to 25.”
This show was definitely a quality over quantity as some of these “Dungies” measured between 7 ½- and 8 ½-inch carapace width (the minimum is 6 ¼ inches).
Our first pulled pot revealed a catch of just two, but each were big-sized, and the second pot turned out four more of mixed size including a red rock crab that we threw back.
We moved over to the third pot and this time we had two more. Our fourth and fifth pot had three more, and the final crab pot we pulled which was the final chance of the season drew a blank except for a red rock.
Six pots and 11 mostly large-sized crab was a nice catch on a fall-winter season that started way back on Oct. 1. Over the past few years, state fisheries managers have been able to reopen the crab fisheries soon after the summer season had wrapped up since enough remained in the recreational catch.
For those looking at a last chance you still have time as the winter season comes to a close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at Neah Bay (Marine Catch Area 4), Sekiu (5), eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (6), San Juan Islands (7), Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay (8-1), Port Susan and Port Gardner (8-2), northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9), Hood Canal (12), and southern Puget Sound (12).
Preliminary catch estimates from this past summer was about 1.733-million pounds, but will change since not all the data had been finalized just yet. In 2012, the estimate was 1.911-million; 2011, 2.359-million; and 2010, 1.675-million.
Daily catch limit is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Crabbers may keep six red rock crab of either sex daily, and must measure at least 5 inches across.
Anglers must file their catch reports for the winter season to state Fish and Wildlife by Feb. 1, and this include everyone whether or not you caught crabs or even headed out on the water. Those who don’t will be fined $1 when they purchase their 2014 crab license.
Send catch record cards to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091 or online from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1 at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/puget_sound_crab_catch.html.
Summer seasons will likely begin in July, and will be announced by state Fish and Wildlife sometime in spring.