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Another decent Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery is set to begin July 1 as the 10-legged crustacean population remains stable in local marine waterways.

“We’re expecting a similar season to last summer, which was pretty good,” said Rich Childers, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife crab manager.

Last summer and winter there were close to 210,000 crab endorsements sold, and more than 1.8 million Dungeness crab were harvested in the summertime alone.

Some areas such as Hood Canal could see a few more crabs in the pot once the season gets under way.

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“Test fisheries for abundance in Hood Canal looks a little better than last year,” said Don Velasquez, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “It was also a good year for abundance in Area 10 (central Puget Sound), and looks like an average year in Puget Sound everywhere from Area 8-1 (Skagit Bay) southward.”

People are starting to follow Dungeness crab fishing rules more closely, such as retaining only legal-size male crabs, but failing to record their catch and some other rules are still a sore subject.

“We really need improvement on getting people to record their catch immediately, and not wait until after they get home,” Childers said.

Childers would like to remind crabbers that red rock crab doesn’t need to be recorded on catch record cards.

Enforcement officers say the excuse many crabbers give is that they forgot to bring along a pen to write down their catch.

Another point of confusion is how to measure Dungeness crab, which must be at least 6¼ inches across at the widest point of the shell.

Never estimate a crab’s size or use a dollar bill or ruler to see if they’re of legal length. The most accurate way to measure a crab is by using a plastic caliper crab gauge, available at most sporting goods stores.

Crabbers must also use a biodegradable rot cord to secure the lid and escape hatches on the pots. A big violation is the use of plastic zip ties.

The rot cord must be untreated 100 percent cotton or other natural fiber no larger than thread size 120, or 1
/
8 of an inch. This cord must be able to rot away and allow crab and other sealife to escape freely.

Lastly, all crab pots must be marked with a person’s name and address.

In Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca east of Sekiu, crab fishing opens July 1 to Sept. 2. Fishing is allowed Thursday to Mondays only.

The San Juan Islands southern section opens July 15 to Sept. 30, and the northern part opens Aug. 15 to Sept. 30. Fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays only.

Strong sockeye return so far

The single-day sockeye counts at the Ballard Lock fish ladder remain robust. Through Wednesday, 24,089 sockeye had been counted headed for tributaries such as the Cedar River and other smaller creeks.

That means in just the first eight days of counting, more than a quarter of the preseason forecast of 96,866 has already returned to the lake.

That’s the fastest pace since 2005, and more than three times as large a count as the 2006 run, which was the last time a sport fishery was held in the lake.

Last summer’s return of 145,815 waxed the preseason forecast of 45,871, and more than 20 million fry were released into the lake earlier this spring.

A spawning escapement of 350,000 is needed before any fisheries can be considered. Usually by mid-July about 50 percent of the return has passed through the locks.

Only 17 million fry entered Lake Washington from the Cedar River in 2010, survivors of which would be four-year-old adults coming back this summer.

Other years that fisheries were held include 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996.

There have been ongoing talks between state and tribal fisheries managers about lowering the minimum spawning escapement goal.

Some would like to see it as low as 150,000 to 200,000.

myuasa@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8780