State officials have opened a new season for crabbing in Puget Sound that should last until the end of the year. (Photo by Mike Benbow)

State officials have opened a new season for crabbing in Puget Sound that should last until the end of the year. (Photo by Mike Benbow)

Fish and Wildlife Department giving crabbers a bonus season

The winter crabbing season opened last week and is scheduled to go through the end of the year.

By Mike Benbow

Special to The Herald

Didn’t catch enough Dungeness crab this summer?

You’re in luck.

Officials at the state Fish and Wildlife Department have opened a new recreational crab season this fall in many areas of Puget Sound because plenty of crab remain.

“The openings were approved by fishery managers after summer catch assessments by WDFW indicated additional crab are available for harvest during the late season,” officials said in a news release.

The bonus season, for people who have a crab endorsement of their fishing license, began Tuesday and will be open seven days a week through Dec. 31.

The Marine Areas open for crabbing include 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardiner). Areas that will not be reopened include 10 (Seattle-Bremerton), 11 (Vashon Island) and 13 (South Puget Sound).

Officials are still trying to decide whether to reopen crabbing in Marine Areas 9 (Port Gamble/Port Ludlow) and 12 (Hood Canal).

As usual, setting and pulling crab traps are only allowed from a vessel from one hour before sunup through an hour after official sunset. And crab catches must be recorded immediately on winter catch record cards, which should be returned by February 2020.

Crabbers can keep only hard shell and male Dungeness crab that are at least 6.25 inches wide at the carapace. (Photo by Mike Benbow)

Crabbers can keep only hard shell and male Dungeness crab that are at least 6.25 inches wide at the carapace. (Photo by Mike Benbow)

The daily limit in the Sound is five Dungeness crab. Crabbers can keep only males that are 6.25 inches in width from the carapace. Crabbers can also keep six red rock crab daily of any sex as long as they have a minimum carapace width of five inches, and six Tanner crab of either sex with a minimum width of 4.5 inches.

More information on crabbing and crabbing rules is available https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

If you haven’t crabbed before, it’s pretty simple.

If you don’t have a boat, you can buy a crab ring and some rope and fish for crab from a dock or pier, like the one at Snohomish County’s Kayak Point or other parks.

If you do have a boat, you have many more options. You can buy a crab trap at most sporting good stores, and many will sell them rigged up with rope and a buoy. You should have at least 100 feet of rope because crab are often found in pretty deep water.

You also will need to attach a buoy at the end of the rope so you can easily find your pot when you want to bring it back in. The buoy should have your name, address, and contact information written on it with a permanent marker.

Some folks also add weight to their crab pot to keep it from being swept along the bottom by the tide. A length of heavy chain or something similar tied onto the pot typically will do the trick.

Everyone who likes crabbing typically has his or her favorite spot. In the Everett area, around Hat Island is one good spot and along Mission Beach is another.

The last thing to do is to bait your pot before you send it to bottom.

Again, people seem to have their favorite baits.

Fish heads or other fish pieces are popular. So are turkey or chicken legs. Just about any type of meat will usually work, as long as it’s not spoiled.

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