By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
The winter recreational crabbing season opened Tuesday, a week earlier than usual, and while all the summer-season data hasn’t yet been analyzed, some general trends have been tentatively identified.
The winter season opened to crabbing seven days a week in all marine areas except 10 and 11, said Don Velasquez, a state shellfish biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Mill Creek office. Recreational crabbers in Area 10, Velasquez said, had a very good summer season and in fact took more than their quota — the reason it remains closed this winter. Area 11 recreationists just hit their target harvest.
Marine Area 13, the south Sound, was the big loser this summer, Velasquez said.
“Both the state and the tribes thought there were more crab available there for harvest than there turned out to be,” he said.
Hood Canal, showing the best preseason test numbers in 10 years, was projected to be the summer hot spot, but the harvest, for whatever reason, didn’t match the test numbers.
And generally speaking, as most crabbers are aware, the 2012 summer season did not come close to equaling the benchmark, blue-ribbon numbers harvested in 2011.
Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 may or may not provide good crabbing this winter, and a lot depends on reports of a good population of large — but soft-shelled — crab showing in the two areas at the end of the summer season.
“We’re hoping that those crab filled out and turned into a good, harvestable population,” Velasquez said.
So where would he go this weekend to soak a pot? Either side of Saratoga Passage should offer decent opportunities, he said.
“Remember, however, that both tribal and non-tribal commercials are also crabbing now,” Velasquez said. “Everybody’s been out there the last couple of days.”
Westside pheasant hunting opened Saturday at designated release sites in the area, but wet and windy weather over the weekend held down the turnout. Belinda Schuster, state manager of the Skagit Wildlife Area and related units, is planting 45 to 60 birds three times per week, at Leque Island (the “Smith Farm” property west of Stanwood; turn left immediately after crossing the bridge and drive south); off the Bow Hill Road, north of Burlington (will start releasing at this site soon); and on Ebey Island, across the Snohomish River from Everett.
To get to the Ebey Island site take the Ebey Island exit off the trestle, eastbound. The second stop sign is Homeacres Road, and there is a state access site and parking lot on the southeast corner. There’s another access site underneath the trestle on Ebey Slough.
New this year, Schuster said, is a release program for the state property west of Homeacres Road. Exit the trestle, turn right at the second stop and drive to 43rd Street, where there’s another state parking lot on the right.
Schuster’s total allotment of pheasant is down a little, she said, because of the increased cost of feed for the pen-raised birds. Planting is done Friday, Saturday and Tuesday evenings for hunting on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.
Brian Boehm is the new manager of the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area in the Snoqualmie Valley, where he plants 40-plus birds on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Tuesday evenings for hunting the next day. His three sites include Stillwater, Cherry Valley and Crescent Lake, all in the Highway 203 corridor.
Tuesday plants are dependent on volunteers, Boehm said, noting that he has a wide range of projects available for enthusiastic volunteers and community service devotees that would appeal to a lot of bird hunters. For more information, call him (his last name is pronounced “Bame”) at 425-327-4869.
This should be another great razor clam season, according to state shellfish biologist Dan Ayres, following last year’s near-limit harvest numbers. The department has tentatively scheduled digs through this month, while continuing to accept public comments on openings for the rest of the season, assuming the clams test safe for human consumption.
The tides are as follows: Friday, 0.0 feet at 6:56 p.m., all beaches except Kalaloch; Saturday, minus 0.4 feet at 7:36 p.m., all beaches except Kalaloch; Sunday, minus 0.7 feet at 8:17 p.m., at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Monday, minus 0.8 feet at 9:48 p.m., at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks; Monday, minus 0.4 feet at 10:40 p.m., at Twin Harbors only.
And Oct. 17, minus 0.2 feet at 6:15 p.m., at Twin Harbors only; Oct. 18, minus 0.6 feet at 6:57 p.m., at all beaches except Kalaloch; Oct. 19, minus 0.7 feet at 8:16 p.m., at all beaches except Kalaloch; Oct. 20, minus 0.7 feet at 8:16 p.m., at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks; Oct. 21, minus 0.4 feet at 8:55 p.m., at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Oct. 22, minus 0.1 feet at 9:34 p.m., at Twin Harbors only.
A report on last year’s season and prospects for this year are posted on Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.