Shrimp seasons set, prep should begin now

May has transformed into a major marine fishing month what with the opening of personal use inside and outside halibut, lingcod, cabezon and shrimp seasons.

Just as the hook and line seekers of the three fin fish, prawn (spot shrimp) aficionados have become victims of their own success plus the growing popularity of catching with their own hands these delectable shellfish.

We now know the limitations their rigors of life impose on exploitation of the long-lived halibut, lings and cabezon.

But the brakes that now have to be put recreational (personal use) shrimping are required not so much to preserve the species as they are to keep catches within the bounds of complicated management allocations (treaty, non-treaty commercial and non-treaty sport).

“Last year, we had better fishing and a higher turnout than anticipated in the Tacoma-Vashon Island area and Elliott Bay, resulting in quota overages,” said Mark O’Toole, Puget Sound shellfish biologist.

“For that reason, those areas are scheduled to be open only one day, but we will reopen [any] of the areas later if sufficient quota remains after opening day,” O’Toole said.

The heavily attended Hood Canal and the Discovery Bay shrimp fisheries have had such curbs in terms of total open days (four) for more than a decade.

Coming to a marine management area near you next month are the following recreational shrimp openings:

• Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12) — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 2, 9, 11 and 13.

• Discovery Bay Shrimp District (in Marine Area 6) — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 2, 9, 11 and 13.

• Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District) and 13 — daily beginning May 2. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.

• Marine Area 7 East, South and West — Open May 2 for a one-day fishery and will reopen May 13-16, May 20-23 and May 27-30. In Marine Area 7 West only, the season will be open daily beginning June 1 until the quota is reached or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

• Marine areas 8-1, 8-2, and 9 — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 2 and May 13.

• Marine areas 10 and 11 — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 2. On May 13, the portion of Marine Area 10 west of a line from West Point to Alki Point will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., this includes the Bainbridge Island shrimp fishing ground. Elliott Bay remains closed May 13 (Elliott Bay is defined as those waters east of a line from West Point to Alki Point).

Soak start times on open days in areas 4, 5, 6, 7 East, 7 South, 7 West and 13 are one hour before sunrise.

While most marine areas have just a few short days dedicated to personal use spot pot fishing, our area 7 West on the westside of the San Juans is a key exception. Prawns can be sought after the first of June in these occasionally turbulent waters.

Shrimpers also may set pots in many saltwater locales after June 1 for the spot shrimp’s smaller cousins the coonstripes and pinks, but on a more restrictive basis by pot mesh specs.

Each shrimper may fish two pots with a maximum of four being operated from any one watercraft.

Look on line at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/ for updates on shrimp seasons.

Make the most of shrimping hours

Shrimping gear is far too costly and the hours available too short to leave learning to opening day or thereafter.

There’s a key warning to the uninitiated that if you don’t set your pots with the right scope (extra length) of line you’re more likely to misplace (lose) gear on a set.

The same fate awaits the inexperienced if they don’t use enough weight in pots or set them in a locale prone to significant sub-surface or bottom currents.

Those are key reasons why getting some schooling ahead of time at LFS Outdoors and Marine upcoming Saturday, April 18 seminar is paramount for shrimpers. There are still seats available all four of classes (fish finders, halibut, salmon and shrimp) including the one focusing on the shellfish.

Call 360 734-3334 to reserve a chair in each session or just the ones which you want to attend. The classes are at Squalicum Harbor’s Boathouse at Zuanich Point Park.

The seminars begin at 9 a.m. with the shrimp one slated to start at 1:30 p.m.

Snake Kings fair game soon

Fishing on a forecast of 140,800 Snake River spring chinook salmon, of which 95,500 are predicted to be hatchery (marked) fish, on Sunday, April 19 two reaches of the Snake River, below Ice Harbor Dam near Pasco and below Lower Granite Dam will open.

Then on Thursday, April 23 two more reaches of the river – below Little Goose Dam and Clarkston – will open.

The Ice Harbor Dam and Lower Granite reaches are available Sundays through Tuesdays each week. The Little Goose Dam and Clarkston area reaches are legally fishable Thursdays through Saturdays.

Once open, the schedule for all four sections remains in effect until further notice with an expected closure in four to six weeks when the Snake River harvest allocation is met or allowable impacts on wild stocks are reached.

The daily catch limit for open areas is six hatchery chinook – marked by a clipped adipose fin – of which no more than one may be an adult chinook salmon. Jacks are less than 24 inches long, and any chinook salmon measuring less than 12 inches must be released.

During these fisheries, possession limits will be increased to allow three daily limits of spring chinook salmon in fresh form.

In all reaches, anglers must use barbless hooks and stop fishing for the day when they reach their daily limit of adult hatchery chinook salmon. All wild chinook and all steelhead, marked or not, must immediately be released unharmed.

For boundary designations and emergency updates log on to WDFW’s regulations web site at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/erule.jsp?id=1567

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.