The extremely popular recreational spot shrimp season opens May 3 — if you can call two days a season — and the prospects for putting a few of the highly sought critters in the boat are very good.
“Our test fishing has shown decent populations in almost all areas,” said state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Mark O’Toole in the agency’s La Conner office. “I can’t see any substantial drop-offs in the numbers anywhere, and it looks like another good year for shrimp. The 2012 and 2013 fisheries were good ones, and this year appears to be a repeat.”
Hood Canal, traditionally the state’s top spot shrimp producer, opens from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 3, 7, 10 and 21. The Canal loses a day this year because of a very low minus tide, but could reopen if the quota is not met.
Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10 open May 3 and May 7, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. O’Toole said Marine Area 8-1 (Saratoga Passage north of Camano State Park) likely will be down a little, but not significantly, while 8-2 (Port Gardner, Port Susan and Possession Sound) probably will show a slight uptick. The Mukilteo shoreline and the south portion of 8-2 have traditionally produced slightly smaller catch averages, O’Toole said, while the Hat Island area usually fares a little better.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca, from Neah Bay east to Port Angeles, opens May 3 daily through Sept. 15 or when the quota is taken, whichever comes first.
Shrimping in the San Juan Islands is popular with a lot of sport fishermen from this area, and this year will offer even more opportunity than usual. Areas 7-West, 7-South and 7-East open May 3 for a single day, and then reopen May 7-10, 21-24, and 28-31.
The big change, O’Toole said, is a very substantial increase in shrimping opportunity in Area 7-West.
“Because of an increase in recreational allocation there recently, 7-West will offer shrimping on through the summer months when everything else is closed,” he said. “If you’re willing to trailer your boat a ways, you can soak your pots through what could be a 100-day season, compared to seven days last year.”
Area 7-West reopens to daily shrimping June 1 through Sept. 15 or when the quota is taken, whichever comes first. O’Toole said to check the agency website for area boundaries; www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish.
Some of the more popular fishing spots in 7-West, O’Toole said, would include San Juan Channel, Jones Island and Rocky Bay. He warned, however, that good gear and a lot of weight are critical in the western San Juans because of heavy tidal flows. If you lose a pot through carelessness, it’s not just “Oh my, I lost a pot, now I’ll have to get another.” Chances are good your lost gear will continue to fish, and kill, for a long time.
O’Toole said the department test fisheries use straight shrimp bait pellets, but he prefers a more exotic blend in his own pot.
“You can really get creative with shrimp bait,” he said, “but John Martinis (owner of John’s Sporting Goods on north Broadway in Everett; 425-259-3056) has a good formula. It’s something like a mix of crunched-up Super Bait pellets, canned mackerel, prawn bait oil, fish-flavor cat food, and maybe ground up last-year’s herring, all mixed up and put in a bait can with generous holes so that it lays out a nice oily, smelly scent trail.”
The depth at which most recreational shrimpers fish varies from place to place, but O’Toole said the average in areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 probably would be between 220 and 320 feet. “Start out shallow and keep moving one pot deeper as you look for the right depth,” he said.
Pots should be checked every 45 minutes to an hour.
The spot shrimp limit is 80 per person. Following is sampling data from the state for the past three years, in pounds caught per boat:
n Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2: 2011, 17.9 pounds per boat; 2012, 17.9 pounds; and 2013, 17.9 pounds.
n Marine Area 9: 2011, 13.7 pounds per boat; 2012, 18.2 pounds; and 2013, 16.8 pounds.
n Marine Areas 7-East and West: 2011, 12.7 pounds per boat; 2012, 8.5 pounds; and 2013, 12.1 pounds.
n Marine Area 7-South: 2011, 15.0 pounds per boat; 2012, 14.4 pounds; and 2013, 17.4 pounds.
n Hood Canal: 2011, 15.0 pounds per boat; 2012, 16.6 pounds; and 2013, 17.0 pounds.
n Discovery Bay: 2011, 10.2 pounds per boat; 2012, 7.3 pounds; and 2013, 11.1 pounds.
According to sampling data, the average recreational boat fishes 3.5 pots (four pots is the maximum allowed) and carries 3.3 fishers on board.
Spring chinook and steelhead catch rates ranged from fair to excellent in the lower Columbia River over the weekend, according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. Boat fishermen in the Columbia Gorge fared best, nailing an average of 1.34 springers per boat. In the estuary, at the bottom end of the river, boat anglers averaged 0.56 kings per boat.
Above Bonneville, catch and fishing activity increased. Boat anglers at Drano Lake are finding fair numbers of springers, and 20 boats were counted there Saturday. Results were similar at the mouth of the Wind River.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.