Feeling crabby – in a good way

Recreational crabbers drop pots into Possession Sound as season opens
By Nicholas Johnson | Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson

In boats and on piers, hundreds took the waters of Possession Sound last weekend looking to snag their first Dungeness crab of the summer harvest season.

The season opened July 1 and lasts through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Harvesting is allowed between Mondays and Thursdays, while Tuesdays and Wednesdays are off limits.

Each year, sport fishers catch more than a million pounds of Dungeness crab, using pots, ring nets and – in the case of wade and dive fishers – their bare hands. Between 1996 and 2003, the recreational crab catch more than doubled to an estimated 1.7 million pounds.

That number fell until 2008, when catch estimates began to rise again. By 2012, nearly 2.6 million pounds were harvested by recreational crabbers, coming closer to the commercial harvest of just more than 2.6 million pounds than in any year prior.

Crabbers are allowed to harvest five male Dungeness Crabs of at least 6.25 inches each day, and must record their catch for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Female, softshell and undersized crab must be thrown back. Crabbers may also harvest up to six Red Rock Crabs of at least 5 inches each day, as well as up to six Tanner Crabs of 4.5 inches.

For form information on rules, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

An estimated 12,000 crab pots are lost throughout the Puget Sound each year, according to the Northwest Straits Initiative. Lost crab pots continue to capture crab with no one to harvest them, resulting in more than 180,000 Dungeness crab killed each year.

Prevent lost pots by avoiding marine transit and ferry lanes; avoiding strong tidal changes and currents; making buoys more visible; using a weighted line to sink below the surface so passing boats don’t cut the line; weighting down the pot so it does not move in high currents or tidal changes; using more line to allow for changes in tides and currents; securing lids and escape panels with a biodegradable cotton escape cord; and staying with the pot.

For more information on preventing lost pots, visit www.nwstraits.org/our-work/catch-more-crab/.

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