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Crab fishing seasons set for Puget Sound

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) on May 27 announced summer crab-fishing seasons for Puget Sound, starting June 1 with an early opening in Marine Area 13 south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Most other areas of the sound will open for recreational crab fishing July 2, although two areas around the San Juan Islands open later in summer to protect molting crab.

Seasons for the upcoming fishery are posted on WDFW’s crab fishing website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/. The website includes details on fishing regulations, as well as an educational video on crabbing.

Like last year, crabbers will have an extra month to catch their quota in Marine Area 13, said Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for WDFW.

Recent test fisheries indicate that crab in southern Puget Sound are in hard-shell condition, allowing for an early start to the fishing season in that area, Childers said.

“Sport crabbers in that area have fallen short of reaching their catch quota in recent years, so we can afford to give them more time to fish during the upcoming season,” Childers said. “Over the next couple of weeks we will continue to conduct test fisheries in Puget Sound, where we could open a few other areas to sport crabbing earlier than currently scheduled.”

Crabbers should check the department’s website for any announcements, Childers said.

The daily limit for crab fishers throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6.25 inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Below is the current summer crab-fishing schedule for Marine Area 7:

Marine Area 7 South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) – Open July 16 through September 28. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Marine Area 7 North (Point Roberts, Gulf of Georgia) – Open August 13 through September 28. Crabbing is allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Childers reminds Puget Sound crabbers that they are required to record their harvest of Dungeness crab on their catch record cards immediately after retaining crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Shellfish closure

Less than a week after reopening most of the county’s beaches for shellfish harvesting, the Whatcom County Health Department closed all beaches to recreational shellfish harvesting north of Sandy Point, including Point Roberts.

On May 6, the department announced they would be closing the beaches due to high levels of PSP biotoxin. PSP is most commonly found in mussels but can be found in all molluscan shellfish and in some parts of crabs. PSP cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing, and if ingested can cause symptoms such as tingling lips, difficulty breathing, paralysis and, in rare cases, death.

The department had reopened all county beaches except for Portage Bay on April 29. Tom Kunesh, environmental health supervisor for the department, said the closure is an illustration on just how quickly conditions can change.

Check the department of health’s website to check biotoxin levels, or call the biotoxin hotline at 800/562-5632.

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