crab

Boatloads of crabbers hope to kick off the Fourth of July weekend with a bang when the season officially opens Thursday, July 2.

"Dungeness crab populations have shown a moderate increase in parts of central Puget Sound as compared to the past few years," said Katelyn Bosley, lead crustacean biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "We are even able to offer a limited recreational fishery in Marine Area 11 that will provide some opportunity for crabbers that have not been able to fish this area the last two years."

Summer crabbing season in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 around Stanwood and Camano Island, and most other areas, will be open Thursdays through Mondays each week. However, officials urge crabbers to be aware that no sport crab fisheries will be open Tuesdays or Wednesdays. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

The daily limit throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6 1/4 inches. People may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Puget Sound crabbers 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. See wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab for updates.

Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise.

Recreational crabbing in Marine Areas 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 12 (Hood Canal, north of a line projected true east from Ayock Point) will be open. The subareas of Marine Area 7 will open later in the summer to protect molting crab. Due to modest crab abundance and high expected crab fishing, marine areas 10 and 11 will have a limited season starting July 12 only on Sunday and Monday each week.

State agencies are urging crabbers to steer clear of ferry lanes. In recent years, vessels had to be repaired after crabbing lines were caught in the propellers, resulting in nearly 800 canceled rides.

Snohomish County officials said about 12,000 pots are lost in the Puget Sound area every year. A single lost crab pot can kill up to 50 crab until deterioration.

Typically, Sound Water Stewards volunteers hand out free crabbing materials at the Camano Island boat ramps on opening day. This year due to COVID-19 precautions, items such as "rot cords," and calipers are available for free at the Island County Annex on Camano, which is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4:30 p.m., courtesy of the Island County Marine Resources Committee and the Northwest Straits Initiative.

To learn more about the free crabbing materials, contact Scott Chase at kschase80@hotmail.com

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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