Outdoors Blog

47-day Strait of Georgia summer crab season underway

Personal use crabbing in Marine Sub-Area 7 North, the last of Washington’s inland waters to open for the summer, began Thursday, Aug. 13.

Dungeness crab here generally are the last to clear their annual post-carapace molt or soft-shell condition, which in today’s management regime is the biological trip-lever for summer harvest.

The area consists of Washington’s northernmost nearshore crab haunts from Point Roberts south and east through the U.S. side of Boundary Bay and down Whatcom County’s western shore from Drayton Harbor to Hale Pass including Point Whitehorn, Birch Point, Cherry Point, Neptune Beach and the northeast side of Lummi Island. Offshore, the north Patos Island shelf and Alden Bank areas also may be plumbed.

All waters lying inside formal Lummi Nation boundaries are closed to non-treaty fishers.

Together with Sub-Area 7 South surrounding the San Juans, these waters will be open to personal use Dungeness gatherers Thursdays through Mondays each week until Monday, Sept. 28.

Since they opened earlier this summer, other Puget Sound and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca marine management areas are set to close Monday, Sept. 7.

The daily limits in all inland waters are five male Dungeness crab in shells at least 6 1/4 inches wide (not including the points) and six either gender red rock crab under shells at least 5 inches wide. All other species of crabs must be released alive and unharmed.

All generally approved crab harvest devices and methods may be used in Marine Sub-Area 7 North. Set-and-forget gear (pots) may be left overnight from day to day during open periods but must be out of the water no later than one hour after sunset Mondays for the Tuesday and Wednesday weekly closures.

For more details concerning legal as well as some banned crab gear/methods, see page 139 of the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet that’s available at any fishing and hunting license dealer or on line at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

To be legally onboard for crabbing, everyone age 15 and older must purchase some version of a 2015-16 Washington personal use license (fishing combo, saltwater or shellfish) in either a short- or long-term form together with a Puget Sound Crab Endorsement. Licensing details are found on page six of the rule book.

Every personal use crab gatherer, regardless of age or license (fee or complimentary) status, also must get and carry a free crab catch record card on which to immediately record the legal Dungeness they retain.

Two ‘seasonal’ versions of this document apply to Puget Sound management areas, the summer (early) one used through Monday, Sept. 7, and the winter (late) one to be used any time after Labor Day (when openings occur) through the end of the year.

At this time, crabbers may take out both catch record cards or they can elect to just get the summer form and formally decline the winter one which officially relieves them of the late reporting duty.

All holders of PSCEs (regardless of the extent of their success) must report their effort/catches to the fish and wildlife department via an Internet portal, once in September (for the summer card) and again in January (for the winter card).

A $10 civil penalty is payable in the future for failing to make required crab catch reports.

The bulk of inland waters crabbing in other zones halts Labor Day evening. Any ‘winter’ openings will be announced in late September or early October.

ANOTHER WAVE OF HUMPIES

Pink salmon bound for the upper Skagit and Sauk rivers as well as some of their tribs are starting to show in the lower mainstem.

The pre-season forecast for the 2015 Skagit humpie run is 603,385 wild or naturally produced two-year old adults. There is no hatchery supplementation of this stock.

As of Sunday, Aug. 16 54 miles of the Skagit will be open for the taking of humpies, coho and incidentally sockeye salmon from the mouths of its tributaries (North and South forks) upstream to the Dalles Bridge just outside Concrete.

Anglers are allowed to take home up to four salmon a day with a cap on wild coho within the aggregate bag of two unclipped ‘silvers.’ During this fishery all chinook and chum salmon landed by hook and liners must be released unharmed.

When fishing the lower section of the Skagit as of Sunday, anglers may use bait. But the anti-snagging rule together with the night closure reg, which restricts angling each day to from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, remain in effect

The selective gear requirement and hook size restriction that applied earlier to these waters were scrubbed as of Saturday, Aug. 15.

For the definition of anti-snagging rigs and other angling legalities check pages 10-11 of the 2015-16 Washington sport fishing pamphlet.

WHERE AND HOW

As with sockeye and chum, the ‘luck’ of timing is in play when river pink fishing.

Humpies ‘run’ lower river areas quickly, so having gear in the water when a school of them passes through is critical. This further implies that patience is a virtue, too.

Access for both dry-foot fishers and those afloat is excellent in the Skagit’s Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek reach.

The cities of Mount Vernon, Burlington and Sedro-Woolley acquired notable portions of their river banks and set them up as parks.

Below Mount Vernon the access is good for boat borne fishers with six boat launches but just fair for bankies limited to key publicly owned properties.

Upstream of Highway 9 another lengthy portion of the river that’s quite popular with fishers has a county road running along the top of most of its south banks.

Anglers should be aware that on diked stretches of river where it looks like you are ever-so-close to the water’s edge, either the diking district itself or the owner of the land on which the levee is located restrict or deny access. Would-be fishers must know the status of riverbank property and always get permission before crossing private lands to plumb public waters.

At Mount Vernon, Edgewater Park on the west side of the river just below the Memorial Bridge provides boat fishers access. The fish and wildlife department’s Young’s Bar access, also in West Mount Vernon, and the city’s Lion’s Park off Freeway Drive are alternative walk-in humpie accesses.

In Burlington, ample bank space can be had in the city’s lengthy Skagit River Park complex that starts just above the Burlington Northern Santa Fe bridge at Johnson’s Bar and runs up to the Roger Tjeerdsma Access and its broad concrete ramp at the foot of Gardner Road off East Rio Vista Avenue. Additional street accesses to this park are off Whitmarsh and East Gilkey roads.

Sedro-Woolley-area fishers on the north side of the river have the venerable Stink Hole at the foot of Fruitdale Road as an unrestricted water’s edge access. Elsewhere on the north bank, tribal (at the Highway 9 bridge) and private ownerships predominate.

The City of Sedro-Woolley’s Riverfront Park on River Road east of Township Street also has a good launch ramp, though it can be in the current sometimes.

On southside river banks along the South Skagit Highway upstream of the State Route 9 crossing anglers can start at the bank under the state bridge itself. Virtually every pull out at the top of the bank east of there, except those with homes and the Tarheel Bar, which is owned by the Wildcat Steelheaders, is available to fish.

Besides the few private homes along that stretch, anglers may not fish within 100 feet of the Skagit County PUD intake building.

The Skagit upstream of the Dalles Bridge opens the first of September.

COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED

State fishery managers will continue to accept public input until the end of August regarding the designation of selected Puget Sound streams as wild steelhead gene banks. Hatchery stocking would cease in these waters.

For more details or to file a comment on line go to: wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/steelhead/gene_bank/

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays.

This week’s Skagit hatchery and flow info

FACILITY (Stock/Species)

Baker Lake Hatchery (Baker sockeye): 27,671 sockeye trapped & transferred (19,393 to Baker Lake, as of Aug. 15, 6,241 to hatchery). Same week total in 2014 – 6,215 adult sockeye to hatchery.

LAKE LEVEL – Upper Baker Reservoir

Recent: As of Saturday, Aug. 15 the reservoir surface was at 721.54 feet above sea level, slight raise since Friday.

Forecast: No prediction for this gauge. Full pool is 727.77 feet above sea level.

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