Abiding by the rules is a mantra we follow in our day-to-day lives, but in the past two weeks, hundreds of crabbers have not.
That is the word coming out of state Fish and Wildlife enforcement, which has confiscated hundreds of Dungeness crab pots on days when fishing is closed (Tuesday and Wednesday) in most areas of Puget Sound and Hood Canal.
“Just in the first (few) weeks since the summer crab fishery opened (on July 3), our enforcement has confiscated about 400 pots, and it could be up to 500 or 600 by now,” said Rich Childers, the head state Fish and Wildlife crab manager.
“It has been pretty bad about people not removing their gear from the water on closed days,” Childers said. “We’ll never know how much of it is lost gear or illegally fished gear, but enforcement is doing sweeps every day the fishery is closed.”
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Childers says one of the most prominent violations enforcement officers come across is crabbers not recording crab catches on their “Catch Record Card.” The law states crab must be written down immediately after keeping them.
Another is how anglers measure their Dungeness crab, which must be at least 6¼ inches at the widest point of the shell just in front of the rearmost point or tips. The most accurate way to measure a crab is by using a plastic caliper crab gauge, which is available at most sporting goods stores.
A rule often overseen is the mandatory use of a biodegradable rot cord (not plastic zip cords) to secure the lid and escape hatches on the pots. The rot cord must be untreated 100 percent cotton or other natural fiber no larger than thread size 120. This cord must be able to rot away, and allow crab to escape.
Dungeness crab anglers are decent success this summer, depending on the location.
“Some areas are really, really good for crabbing, others are just ho-hum with nothing in between,” Childers said. “From what I know, Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2 (on east side of Whidbey Island), and Areas 10 and 12 (central Puget Sound and northern Hood Canal) are crazy good.”
Northern Puget Sound (Area 9) has been OK, but hard to get a limit (five males Dungeness crab daily), and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area 6). The Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) and the southern section of Hood Canal (Area 12) have been mediocre at best. The San Juan Islands southern portion has been fairly good.
Preliminary reports of crab license sales has also improved from the past couple of years.
“We’re seeing about a 7 percent increase of crab endorsement sales compared to the past two years,” Childers said. “A lot of that is when you get a report of gangbuster catches in Marine Area 10 … it draws more people to buy licenses.”
Areas from Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Area 4); Sekiu (5); eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (6); east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-1); Admiralty Inlet-northern Puget Sound (9); Seattle/Bremerton (10); Tacoma/Vashon (11); Hood Canal (12) are open through Sept. 1. Crabbing is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The San Juan Islands southern portion is open through Sept. 29, and the northern section opens Aug. 15 through Sept. 29. Crabbing is closed in both areas Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Southern Puget Sound (13) is open daily through Sept. 1.
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