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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 4, 2015 at 8:02 AM

Tony Floor digs into his tackle box to reveal winter fishing and a look back at summer Dungeness crab fishery

Ilwaco5 Aug. 20-2012Here is Tony Floor’s Tackle Box report for February:

Once a month, I sit in front of my computer screen, assigned to write encouraging thoughts about the sport salmon fishing world, as per my agreement to earn my keep with the Northwest Marine Trade Association. If you’ve ever been down this kind of road for work or pleasure, the challenge of writing is all about the dissemination of information with an attitude to write and share.

First and foremost, welcome to February. I checked in with my old friend Webster, and he defines February as not only the second month of the calendar year, but it was named by some dude named Numa who created the first Roman calender. Doesn’t shake my tree or put more winter blackmouth in my cooler.

I like February for a couple of reasons. First, there seems to be a long term pattern of getting some decent weather allowing anglers to get on the water in this winter month, only to be slammed back to reality in March. Second, the banks in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca begin to heat up with sandlance and winter blackmouth. Hate it when that happens. Third, Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away. Just a little nudge to remember to get it done in order to get your fishing hall pass approved to go fishing in the months ahead!

I’ve been spending considerable time digging into the sport Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery, as the result of a reader who wrote complaining and fed-up with getting his pots pilfered of crab in the Seattle area of Puget Sound.

As one of the strangest cultural traits in the fishing world, too many crab fishers feel or think it’s okay to pull someone’s pot, snarf the crab out of the pot and send it back down. If the pot is a high end pot, too often it goes away too followed by the crab thief’s practice of attaching his or her line/buoy to the crab pot and setting it in a new spot. Will somebody please tell me what’s ethical about that! To make the issue worse, incidents of crab pot theft is on the rise.

I decided to take the next step and call Rich Childers, WDFW senior Puget Sound shellfish manager up in Port Townsend. As usual, attested by previous conversations with Rich, he educated me on a number of fronts.

“During the summer sport crab fishery, and even into the winter season (October-December), rarely a day goes by when a sport crabber does not call our office to report theft or disappearance of their crab gear,” he said.

As the result of our annual purchase of Puget Sound crab license, $400,000 is directed to the enforcement division at WDFW. Clearly, Rich suggested, there has not been enforcement emphasis on crab fishers pulling someone’s gear. That will likely change in the future.

For example, if your crab pot buoy, line or pot does not comply with the gear regulations, you will discover a waterproof card attached to your buoy indicating enforcement has pulled your pot and you have some compliance issues. If they pull your pot again, with infractions, bye-bye pot and it just got moved to a storage facility in Port Townsend, and it is available for recovery after the summer season. Guess that planned Labor Day crab feed is not going to happen!

Last summer, WDFW enforcement confiscated 1,000 illegal crab pots during the July-August sport crab season. A thousand crab pots! Got a visual what that looks like? Mercy!

No don’t get me wrong, if your pot disappears, it’s one of four things. Either not enough line on the gear, relative to the depth you’re fishing, someone picked it and either dropped it back down or kept it. Possibly enforcement may have seized it due to a number of rules violated under the requirements of fishing with legal crab gear.

A few years ago, I was involved in a campaign to “Know Before You Go,” relative to fishing for Dungeness crab. The rules can be overwhelming, but they are somewhat simple to follow in the WDFW Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. Having a copy of this pamphlet on your boat makes tons of sense.

“A great deal of the number of pots we seize is linked to not weighting the crab pot preventing drift of the gear when the current gets humming,” Childers said. “Having adequate additional line (50-75 feet) associated with the depth you are fishing is very important.”

I pressed Childers on the issue of people illegally pulling pots that do not belong to them, and what crabbers can and should do, when observing this action. “First, make a complete description of the boat, color, length, motors and registration numbers, along with a description of the people on board. Second, call the toll-free WDFW poaching hotline (1-877-933-9847) and provide all of the information in a message. I am assured that enforcement will follow-up on the incident.”

Childers went on to encourage crabbers to not confront these poachers as things can escalate into something much worse.

While poaching of crab and crab gear is an ongoing escalating problem, we can help our cause by complying with the required rules. Mark your red/white crab pot buoys with your first and last name, along with your address legibly. Phone number is optional. The line must be weighted. Please refer to page #136 in WDFW’s sport fishing rule pamphlet for all of the crab pot fishing rules.

Finally, we are headed into the main stretch of the winter blackmouth season. From the San Juans, through the banks in the Strait, all the way to Freshwater Bay and Sekiu, it’s winter blackmouth season in February to and through April, depending on the seasons by area. This old cat is all over it! See you on the water!

(Tony Floor is the Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and a former 30-year veteran of state Fish and Wildlife. NMTA advocates for and promotes recreational boating and fishing in the region.)






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