Happy days are here again for fresh seafood enthusiasts as recreational crabbing resumed Wednesday, Oct. 1, in all but two of Washington’s inland water management zones.
Marine locales off the shores of Whatcom County, except inside formal Lummi Nation reservation boundaries and state preserves, from Boundary Bay south to Samish Bay as well as waters off Skagit County and throughout the San Juan Islands are among those available to sport or personal use gatherers of Dungeness and red rock crab.
All reopened waters are available seven days a week to all legal crab gear and fishing methods. The allowable daily take is five male Dungeness and six either-sex red rock crabs, with minimum shell size restrictions applying to both species.
Besides their basic marine waters licensing that allows for the taking of crab, fishers must also buy a Puget Sound Crab Endorsement and also get a free winter crab catch record card as well.
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The only two Puget Sound marine areas not reopening for the winter are the Seattle/Bremerton (Area 10) and Tacoma/Vashon Island (Area 11) zones where personal use crabbers caught the lion’s share of their allocation in the summer season.
The 2014 winter stanza is scheduled to run through the end of December after which point crabbers will have until Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, to file their mandatory catch reports.
Crabbing in the nippy fall-winter period here is more challenging and at this point in the seasonal cycle keeper-sized pinchers can be a little harder to come by.
Some Whatcom saltwater locales, including Point Whitehorn, Birch Point, Cherry Point, Chuckanut Bay, Eliza Island and Alden Bank can still yield a fair catch or two. In Skagit County, outer Samish Bay and the depths along 10-fathom line of Padilla Bay are reasonable places to prospect for crabs.
RAZOR CLAM THUMBS UP
The first sequence of six razor clam dig days, set to start Tuesday, Oct. 7, has been green-lighted by state health and shellfish managers.
For the first three evenings just Long Beach and Twin Harbors razor clam beach management sectors south of Grays Harbor will be available. Mocrocks beaches, north of Grays Harbor, joins the list of open sectors the last three days and the Copalis sector is only open Saturday, Oct. 11.
These are all p.m. or evening digs with beaches legally open from noon to midnight only. Low tides are at dusk or after so diggers should bring lighting.
This is the first of a half dozen possible fall razor clam openings. Each will be formally confirmed shortly before their calendar dates after tests for marine toxin are done and the clams are found at that time to be safe for humans to consume.
Would-be clammers are encouraged to:
• buy their 2014-2015 digging licenses before departing for the coast.
• leave dogs at home or at least in a safe place nearby, but not on the beach.
• make reservations for accommodations.
• be prepared for night time digs and inclement weather.
SNOW GEESE HERE
Fall’s surely here. There’s already been a snow goose sighting on Lummi Flats.
About 15 of the white geese together with a smattering of wild ‘speckle-bellied’ geese were among 300 or so of our resident honkers on the ground feeding in cornstubble.
These birds are likely ‘passage’ or migratory components of Wrangel Island nest contingents bound for Central California.
Next Saturday, Oct. 11, they can be hunted in Whatcom County (Goose Management Area 3) during the general goose season and a special written authorization for snow geese is not required as it is in neighboring Skagit County (Goose Management Area 1).
Our familiar so-called Fraser-Skagit snows usually stop at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary and the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Alaksen National Wildlife Area near Stevenson in the Fraser River delta before coming down to the Skagit and Stanwood areas
FIRE WARNING LIFTS
As the summer fire danger has declined, fire prevention restrictions also have been relaxed in many locales on state fish and wildlife department lands in Eastern Washington.
However, visitors are asked to still be very cautious for campfires, smoking and other sources of open flame in areas where bans have been lifted.
A campfire ban though mid-October will stay in effect on WDFW property located in Benton, Franklin, Yakima and Kittitas counties.
On its Grant and Adams county holdings specifically Columbia Basin Wildlife Area units the ban runs to the end of October.
Hunters and fishers heading for eastside venues are advised to check the WDFW, local county or state natural resources department Web site, before heading over, to get the latest updates on fire hazards at their intended destination.
MORE OF NOOKSACK OPENS
Joining the already open of mainstem Nooksack Wednesday, Oct. 1 for the taking of salmon this fall were portions of the very upper mainstem and lower North and South forks.
On the main river, the 1 1/2 mile reach from the yellow marker at the Mount Baker High School FFA building upstream to the forks, including the well-known Maggie’s and Cooper’s rocks holes, became available to recreation fishers.
Also opening the same day, following the spawning of native early or spring chinook, was the lower 14.3 miles of the South Fork Nooksack _ from its mouth upstream to Skookum Creek.
Joining those available reaches at the same time were 13.1 miles of the North Fork Nooksack from its mouth upstream to where Maple Creek flows in.
Bag limits differ slightly across the breadth of these reaches, but coho are the main target with anglers allowed to keep two salmon (any species) a day plus an additional two ‘silvers’ or coho, regardless of origin (clipped or non-clipped_.
The base daily take of salmon also now includes chinook (clipped or wild) in all reaches.
The key keeper exception is in the South Fork where all chum salmon must be released unharmed.
Closings for these 2014 salmon fisheries vary a little as well.
While game fish angling targeting hatchery steelhead continues in these waters, the lower North Fork Nooksack salmon fishery shuts down Sunday, Nov. 30. The mainstem Nooksack reaches and lower South Fork salmon seasons end Wednesday, Dec. 31.
Besides these opportunities for salmon there are threshold freshwater options in two other county streams, Dakota and Whatcom creeks.
Dakota Creek is open for wild or natural coho from its mouth downstream of Blaine Road bridge upstream to the Giles Road bridge. All wild (non-adipose fin clipped) chinook must be release.
Anglers should note that much of this open section is bordered by private lands for which entry permission is required. The selective gear rule applies and the daily take is two coho or chum.
Whatcom Creek is open for salmon from the outer waterway marker in the estuary up to the footbridge downstream of Dupont Street.
Chum salmon are the predominate catch here and anglers are allowed to catch and contribute their fair-hooked ‘dogs’ to Maritime Heritage Center Hatchery via the big PVC tube.
Whatcom Creek’s daily salmon keeper rule is two adult salmon and four jacks.
Next door in Skagit County, the lower Samish River upstream to Interstate 5 transitions in October from a chinook fishery to a hatchery coho opportunity. There is no hatchery production of silvers in the Samish, so fin-clipped keepers will be few and far between.
The Samish salmon season closes at the end of November, but anglers may continue to ply the lower Samish for hatchery steelhead under selective gear limitations to the end of December at which point it shuts down.