The sport crab fishing season opens today across much of Puget Sound, including the waters around Tacoma and Olympia, with expectations of this being a good season.
All but one marine area in the Sound opens today, the exception being Marine Area 7. The season there opens July 15 in the area’s southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 16 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).
The fishery in all marine areas will be open Thursdays-Mondays each week. The exception to that schedule is the opening week. Crabbing will be allowed today and Monday, then closed Tuesday and Wednesday before re-opening on its regular weekly schedule Thursday. Recent state and tribal test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“The test boats have done very well,” Childers said in a prepared statement. “I expect this summer’s fishery to be similar to last year’s, when crabbing was good throughout the entire season in most areas of Puget Sound.”
Most marine areas will close the evening of Sept. 3 for a catch assessment. However, Marine Area 7 will remain open through Sept. 30. Once the assessment is complete, department officials will determine if there will be a winter fishery.
All sport crabbers in Puget Sound are required to record their Dungeness crab catch on a catch record card. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons. The 2012 summer cards are valid only through Sept. 3. The winter cards will be available on Aug. 15 and are valid until Dec. 31.
Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast (marine areas 1-4).
Childers reminds Puget Sound crabbers that they are required to record their Dungeness crab catch on their catch record cards immediately after retaining crab.
“Having crab in your possession that are not properly recorded on a catch card is a violation and could result in a fine,” he said in a statement.
Crabbers have the option of reporting their crab catch for the summer season on the Internet after Sept. 3 or by mailing in their catch cards to the department. The mailing address and the Internet reporting site are printed on each catch card.
“We need to hear from everyone who participates in the fishery – including those who didn’t catch any crab – because more data provides greater accuracy in estimating the catch and developing future seasons,” said Childers.
Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2012 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2013 fishing license.
Mike Cenci, the department’s deputy chief of enforcement, stressed the importance for crabbers to review the rules of the fishery before heading out on the water.
“Take the time to fully understand the rules, particularly the daily limit, how to properly measure and identify crab, and the catch record card requirements,” Cenci said. “Our officers will be out on the water enforcing the regulations and ensuring boaters are complying with safe boating practices.”