By now, anyone interested in Dungeness crab is fully aware that the summer recreational season opens Friday in most of Puget Sound and runs through the Labor Day weekend, Thursdays through Mondays. And since they’re also fully aware that the newly-liberalized fishery will be closely monitored by the
enforcement arm of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, we won’t sermonize here about knowing the rules.
Suffice it to say be aware of the regulations and keep your nose clean, ’cause there are going to be a bunch of fish cops on the water this weekend.
The new rules allow recreational crabbing five days per week and with full weekend participation, as opposed to four days and only one weekend day in most recent years. Biologists expect the sport fishery to increase its take of the non-tribal Puget Sound share from about a third of the available crab to close to half.
Perhaps the only top crabbing location not opening on Friday is Marine Area 7, the San Juan Islands, which, because of soft-shelled crab conditions, doesn’t open until either July 15 (major portion of the islands) or Aug. 15 (Gulf of Georgia, to the north).
The Puget Sound Dungeness crab population seems to be in good, stable condition, according to state biologist Rich Childers, with top numbers of crab available, and he expects a good fishery. Steve Burton, the state’s Puget Sound crab manager, agrees and said test fisheries by the agency have indicated good populations in front of Everett, off the Jetty, and on the Whidbey Island side around Glendale, in addition to other usually productive locations.
“Most crabbers will be setting pots in 30 to 80 feet of water or so,” Burton said. “Gear becomes unmanageable for a lot of folks much deeper than that, without good retrieval systems.”
He said opening weekend will be crowded, and in order to keep line-fouling to a minimum, crabbers should remember the rule requiring a weighted line.
“Because of a major push this year, in particular, to increase crab regulation compliance, we’re emphasizing the motto ‘Know Before You Go,” Burton said.
Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood said his customers will be crabbing the Everett Jetty, Hat Island, Utsalady, most of Port Susan, and the shoreline from Everett south to Mukilteo and around the corner toward Picnic Point, in 35 to 100 feet of water. For bait, Chamberlain prefers high oil content salmon or tuna carcasses, but without access to those, he said, many crabbers go with turkey drumsticks or cheap chicken parts.
He also warned that tribal crabbers have been fishing heavily, and that recreationists setting in any of the popular commercial spots should check their pots regularly. No action? Then move to a different area.
Crabbers to the north, waiting for the islands to open, probably will head toward Utsalady, the Elger Bay area or either side of Saratoga Passage, said Stuart Forst at Holiday Sports in Burlington.
“Clams are an under-appreciated bait,” Forst said. “They work really well, along with the usual chicken and turkey parts.”
Most crab endorsement purchasers already should have received the state’s new crab brochure, mailed last week to about 80,000 people. If you didn’t get one, copies will be available at boat ramps, marinas and other places through the season.
Information on crabbing gear and techniques, regulations, how to properly record and report your catch, and other important material is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab. There are also links to a printable crabbing brochure, and a “Puget Sound Recreational Crab Guide.”
Fish and wildlife enforcement encourages anyone seeing a rule violation to report it by calling 1-877-933-9847; e-mailing email@example.com; or by text message to 847411 (Tip411). The text message must begin with the letters WDFWTIP followed by a space, and then a brief description of the violation and location.
Upper Columbia chinook
The July 1 summer chinook opener on the upper Columbia may turn out to be a non-event, according to guide and Brewster resident Rod Hammons (509-689-2849; firstname.lastname@example.org). Hammons said high, cold water conditions on the Columbia may have delayed the run this spring, and that counts at Wells and Rocky Reach dams so far haven’t been encouraging for the Brewster pool fishery off the mouth of the Okanogan.
July 1 marks the return of salmon fishing in the San Juans, and it’s usually a pretty good opener. This one should be no exception, according to Phil Diaz at Holiday Sports in Burlington, who said guys out “just messin’ around” in the islands have been seeing fish and bait.
Some of the usually productive spots on the opener, according to Diaz, include Thatcher Pass, Lopez Flats, Pile Point and Hein Bank, among others. Start at about 80 feet and adjust from there, he said, looking for bait concentrations.
Fishermen out of coastal ports switched from the special, week-long, marked chinook season to the more usual summer coastal salmon regulations on Sunday, and the changeover was generally pretty good. Wendy Beeghley, coastal creel check coordinator for the state, said anglers found a nice mix of chinook and coho, with the best fishing at the south and north ends of the fishery.
The catch rate at Ilwaco was best, at 1.4 salmon per rod, about 25 percent chinook. At Westport, it was 0.7 fish per person, with still a good percentage of chinook, and at Neah Bay, 1.2 fish and an exact 50-50 chinook/coho split. Beeghley said a few pinks were already entering the catch up and down the coast as well, which is a little early for the species.
Coastal chinook are running 7 or 8 pounds up to the mid-20s on the whole, she said, and coho are averaging 4 to 5 pounds.
The Tulalip chinook fishery remains slow, showing only one king for a total of 68 fishermen checked at the Port of Everett ramp on Saturday and Sunday.
An excellent chinook season continues up and down the Alaska/British Columbia coast, but probably the largest king caught so far this year is still the 70.8-pound hawg landed June 2 out of The Lodge at Englefield Bay, on the west side of the Queen Charlotte Islands. At least Lisa Killick, with West Coast Resorts of Richmond, B.C., the lodge owner, said she hadn’t heard rumors of any larger fish so far this season.
Steve Fancsy, of Ontario, Canada, was the lucky fisherman, and his huge king won the annual Salmon Masters Tournament which ran June 2-4 at three lodges run by West Coast Resorts.
Killick said chinook fishing in the Queen Charlottes has been “phenomenal” this year; a “banner year,” she said, since mid-May.
Mike Meseberg, owner of MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir in Grant County, said resort personnel are starting to see a few burbot showing up in the sportfishing take the last few months. Most of the long, slender bottomfish, sometimes called “freshwater ling,” have been taken incidentally by anglers chasing walleye, Meseberg said, and have been hooked in relatively deep water in the reservoir’s Lind Coulee arm.
“We’re weighing a couple of burbot a week,” Meseberg said, “from 4 or 5 pounds up to about 15 pounds, caught usually on spinner/nightcrawler-type rigs, in 35 to 55 feet of water.”
Meseberg said the reservoir put out good burbot fishing up through the 1960s, but that something happened and the fishery pretty much disappeared until just recently.