Tag Archives: dungeness crabs

Yuasa: South Sound Crab Aside, Lots Of Good Fisheries To Hit

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

Hold on! Wait a minute! It’s truly hard to believe the calendar already reads June as the days are flying by at warp speed.

Spring was a blur, and by now many have already made their early summer salmon fishing trips to southeast Alaska; opening day of trout season is a distant memory; pots have been filled with spot shrimp and topped on salads or grilled on the BBQ; razor clams are now vacuum sealed in the freezer; and lingcod and halibut fishing was decent from the coast clear into open areas of Puget Sound.

This is time of year when turning over a new leaf on another season is set to take place with anglers switching into summer fishing mode.
But, before we get too deep into what opportunities exist we should weigh-in on a dire situation facing Puget Sound Dungeness crab.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

It appears the glory days of Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries could momentarily be in the rear-view mirror as areas south of Seattle (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due a dramatic dip in population levels. Tribal fisheries are also shutdown in those areas.

Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish biologist says anglers haven’t been faced with such a low abundance since 2012 and lousy success in 2017 were a signal of what was to come.
Dungeness crab abundance test fishing in early spring around south-central and southern Puget Sound found the situation wasn’t very rosy.

What fishery experts are seeing – or in this matter aren’t seeing – in those two areas is a two- and three-year-old male Dungeness crab class (averaging 4.4 inches) and four-year-old class (averaging 5.4 inches) are also greatly reduced. Legal-size is usually the five-year-old and older age class crabs averaging 6 ¼ inches or more.

“We’ve had some pretty extreme surface water events in 2014 and 2015, and it is a possibility the abnormally high-water temperatures could have played a role in the downtrend,” Velasquez said. “When young of the year Dungeness crab are faced with these types of conditions they tend to die at a much higher rate.”

Other reasons for the decline are a distant source of brood stock for larval production and inconsistent larval advection; low dissolved oxygen levels; ocean acidification; restricted water flow south of the Tacoma Narrows; and excessive harvest.

To make matters worse extremely low density of Dungeness crab could affect successful mating for future generations.

In Puget Sound catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested was 9,285,912 pounds during 2017 in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 pounds in 2016.

The record catch was 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

While crab opportunities have declined I must go back to my one of my old mantras: “You can gripe about where you can’t fish or head to greener pastures.”

And in this case those greener pastures will likely be found in northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. Specific dates haven’t been determined but fishing usually gets underway in early July. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Many other fishing options abound this summer

Now let’s move onto what’s happening this month and beyond.

The WDFW statewide trout derby is happening on 100 lakes now through Oct. 31. A common theme since opening day – which seems more pronounced than last year – is the number of tagged derby fish caught of late. Last year more than 50 percent of the tags were turned in so if it’s better so far this season that is great news!

More funding was diverted into 2018 with about $38,000 in donated prizes and more than 1,000 tags of which one-third (300 total) were placed in 22 Puget Sound region lakes.

Prizes range from gift cards to fishing gear, plus one tag lurking in a local lake is a getaway to Roche Harbor Resort in San Juan Islands.

Trout action remains steady and should continue until it heats up although deep-water bodied lakes will be good clear into summer. Bass, walleye and perch are also gaining more traction.

Shore-bound anglers shouldn’t overlook coastal surf perch fishing, which has been good since early spring from Neah Bay south along the Oregon coast.

The hatchery chinook season in Tacoma area of south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopened June 1. Since the winter/spring season ended on a high note with baitfish teeming off the Clay Banks it should no doubt attract some early-feeding kings into the area this month.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) chinook fishing in May was better than it had been in previous years with good catches off Point Fosdick, and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point and Fox Point.

Other marine salmon fisheries on horizon include Sekiu, San Juan Islands and a portion of Hood Canal all opening July 1 for hatchery chinook; and Port Angeles opening July 3. The Tulalip Bubble fishery is open Fridays to Mondays of each week but closed on June 9.

Central Puget Sound is open in June for coho only and I’d earmark the shipping lanes off Jefferson Head. On coast, Ilwaco, Neah Bay and La Push open for salmon on June 23; and Westport on July 1.
On river scene, the Cascade, the Skagit above 530 Bridge and Skykomish opened June 1 for hatchery chinook; and a section of Skagit opens June 16 for sockeye.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

Next up on Northwest Salmon Derby Series is PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about a coho season in central and northern Puget Sound during the prime fishing month of September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is date stamped for Sept. 22-23.

That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo – for a $65,000 value. Not bad to get your name pulled out of a hat or maybe a cement mixer like we did last year in Everett. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Now excuse me while I tie a bunch of leaders, prep the boat and zoom out the door to go fishing. See you out on the water soon!

Crabbing Won’t Open In South Sound This Summer

Bad news for Tacoma and Olympia crabbers: Marine Areas 11 and 13 won’t open for Dungeness — or even red rocks — this summer.

PUYALLUP’S JASON BROOKS PULLS A POT OFF FOX ISLAND DURING THE 2013 SEASON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Dungie numbers have crashed in recent years and state managers say the idea behind the full closure is to try and rebuild the populations.

Tribal commercial fisheries will also not open.

It’s unclear why the crabs are not doing well, but a recent presentation to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission pointed to three possibilities: excessive harvest, poor water conditions, and distance larva must ride currents to here from primary breeding areas.

That PDF also shows how bad it is.

Graphs in it show state and tribal crab harvest in Area 11, off Tacoma, peaked in 2014 at about 225,000 pounds, produced 200,000 in 2015, then dropped like a rock to 50,000 in 2016 and half that last year.

Similarly, Area 13, deep South Sound, peaked in 2012 at 300,000 pounds, but zipped downhill like a ski jumper to an almost negligible amount last year, 9,462 pounds, or one-tenth of one percent of all that were harvested in Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

WDFW GRAPHS SHOW HOW DUNGENESS HARVEST IN MARINE AREA 13 (CRAB AREA 7) AND AREA 11 (CRAB AREA 6) HAVE TANKED OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS. (WDFW)

Test fishing earlier this year found one legal Dungie a pot in Area 11 and maybe a quarter of one in 13.

On the flip side, those graphs also reveal the extreme spike in harvest, tripling and even quadrupling from the 100,000- and 50,000-pound ranges of the last decade.

A rather frightening graph WDFW also put together shows that two entire back-to-back year-classes of crabs are “missing, not detected.”

Those would be year 2 and year 3 Dungies.

Year 4 crabs — which would be legals in summer 2019 — are also said to be “greatly reduced.”

That means we may be in for a few years of rebuilding the stock.

“It is a very sad day when a family activity such as Puget Sound crabbing is shut down due to very foreseeable and predictable mismanagement,” said Puyallup shellfisherman and Northwest Sportsman contributor Jason Brooks. “Overharvest by other user groups and a lack of enforcement, along with winter and summer seasons, and it’s pretty apparent the crab numbers will dwindle.”

The last winter recreational season in Areas 11 and 13 occurred in 2015

Last year, as it became blindingly obvious there were very few Dungeness and even red rocks around the South Sound, crabber ire turned towards tribal fishermen who were said to have put out huge numbers of pots in recent years, perhaps a sign they were also having trouble finding legals.

Another theory revolves around The Blob years, 2014-15, and how high water temperatures as well as low dissolved oxygen levels could have negatively affected juvenile crabs.

The book The Highest Tide aside, because of the inland sea’s shape, the Tacoma Narrows restricts the flow of saltwater that might otherwise carry larval crabs into the South Sound. But it’s been like that since the end of the last ice age too.

Whatever the cause, it’s all leading state shellfish managers to take another look at how they manage crabs in South Sound.

Currently, it’s done with the 3-S model — restricting harvest by size, sex and season.

“The 3-S model of management was developed for open systems, such as coastal waters, where the effects of harvest are mitigated by regular larval production and recruitment,” says the WDFW presentation. “A confined system like South Puget Sound may need to incorporate a 4th metric, larval production and juvenile recruitment.”

“Shellfish populations become stressed when critically low density levels are reached, and reproductive success is greatly diminished,” it continues. “This is known as an Allee Effect. For Dungeness crab extremely low density could affect successful mating.”

WDFW had also considered just barring Dungie retention or reducing limits and seasons. It said that some recreational crabbers supported closing it down.

Crab seasons for the rest of Puget Sound are expected to be announced later this month after state and tribal managers agree to them. No other similar closures are expected, according to WDFW.

According to the agency, nearly 5.1 million pounds of crabs were harvested in the San Juan Islands last year (and who knows how many more from Canadian poachers), almost 3 million pounds worth in Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 alongside Whidbey and Camano Islands, and 864,000 pounds in Area 6, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.

AN AUGUST 2017 WDFW GRAPH SHOWS STATE (GRAY) AND TRIBAL (BLUE) CRAB HARVEST OVER THE PREVIOUS 25 YEARS. THE STATE SHARE IS COMPRISED OF COMMERCIAL AND RECREATIONAL AND WAS DOMINATED BY THE FORMER UNTIL 2011 AND FAIRLY CLOSE EVER SINCE. (WDFW)

Yuasa: Blackmouth, Chums, Razor Clams, More On Tap This Month

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

In the blink of an eye summer has ended, and while fall is ushering in iffy weather and waning daylight hours that shouldn’t stop anglers from venturing out on the water.

First and foremost are the decent chances this month to hook a winter blackmouth in northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9), eastside of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), central Puget Sound (10); south-central Puget Sound (11); and southern Puget Sound (13).

CENTRAL PUGET SOUND’S MARINE AREAS 8-1, 8-2, 9 AND 10 ARE NOW OPEN FOR BLACKMOUTH. TEGAN YUASA, THE AUTHOR’S SON, GOT IN ON THIS NICE HAUL OF WINTER FEEDER KINGS. (MARK YUASA)

Many charter-boat owners and sport anglers will tell you this is their favorite time of year since blackmouth – a term used for a chinook’s black gum-line – are wired to constantly feed on schools of herring and candlefish.

In other words: “Find the bait and you’ll likely find a hungry blackmouth!”

Places like Possession Bar, Point No Point, Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Jefferson Head, West Point, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Hat Island, Baby Island, Clay Banks off Point Defiance, Camano Island and Southworth all come to mind with a plethora of other hot spots layered in between.

Another school of thought that makes this salmon fishery so much fun is the blackmouth’s predictability since the best bite is based on tidal influence. The payoff: If they bit the day before at a certain time frame, it’s very likely they’ll still be there the day after only an hour later into a tidal series.

Those planning on heading out for the Wednesday opening day of winter chinook fishing in northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) will likely find lots of chinook under the 22-inch legal-size limit.

According to WDFW test fishery folks who have been plying the water in advance of tomorrow’s opener have found on average the chinook were 2-inches smaller than last year during the same time frame in Area 9. Even the three legal-size chinook were just BARELY over 22 inches.

In northern Puget Sound they encountered two legal-marked chinook, one legal-unmarked, 14 sub-legal marked and two sub-legal unmarked.

In central Puget Sound they encountered one legal-unmarked and three sub-legal marked.

This may be of concern since the fisheries could close if the chinook guideline is achieved.

Get over the crabbiness by pulling in a pot of Dungies!

To make the winter holiday feast even more appealing is the fact you can set pots again for Dungeness crab in open Puget Sound areas now through Dec. 31.

While summer crab fishing was less than stellar those who dropped pots in the “zone” filled them up with plenty of Dungies. Word has it since reopening on Oct. 7 the crab have started to fill out and are much more meatier as they fatten up for the winter.

Look for good crabbing around Whidbey Island, northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula, Camano Island, Hat Island, Port Angeles Harbor, Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands. Remember due to a downtrend in crab abundance locations south of Edmonds and Hood Canal – Marine Catch Areas 10, 11, 12 and 13 are closed this winter.

Dog days of fall upon us!

The good news for salmon anglers is two-fold as the chinook fishery reopens in some local marine areas, but the bigger news is what looks to be an extremely strong chum return.

“It appears we’re at the beginning of a stronger than forecasted chum run for Hood Canal and South Sound,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) chum salmon biologist.

THIS FALL’S CHUM SALMON RUN IS COMING IN STRONGLY; PETE SERGEEF HOISTS A NICE ONE CAUGHT OFF JEFF HEAD LAST YEAR. (MARK YUASA)

Sport anglers at Hoodsport in Hood Canal saw some good catches of chum this where 53 anglers on Oct. 29 had 124 chum, and 67 on Oct. 28 had 150.

Likewise catches from commercial boats in central and south-central Puget Sound and Hood Canal were scoring good catches too.

“We had our initial (purse seine and gill-net) openings last week and this week, and based on our (catch per unit effort) they’re among the largest we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Litz said.

Early boat ticket reports showed some as high as 4,000 chum per commercial boat on Oct. 18, and it appears they remained steady this past week.

“We had several purse seiners in Hood Canal and South Sound filling up their holds, and catching a lot of good quality bright chum,” Litz said. “Of course, it is still too early, and we haven’t changed any of our preseason run-size forecasts just yet.”

The total fall chum return is 1,070,968, and a breakdown of that figure shows 492,892 for Hood Canal and 291,357 for South Sound rivers and streams.

Other fall chum forecasts are 109,337 for Nooksack/Samish; 6,966 for Skagit; 5,981 for Stillaguamish; 20,53 for Snohomish; 141,893 for central Puget Sound; and 2,061 for Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many rivers are closed to all salmon fishing to protect weak returning stocks. Check the WDFW pamphlet for what is open and/or closed to fishing.

“This is still the early stage of chum returns, but all indications show we’re going to exceed that based on the catches the last few weeks,” Litz said. “We’ve had pretty atrocious returns of pinks, and issues with chinook and coho so to see this chum return likely exceeding expectations is great news.”

WDFW and tribal fishery managers are assessing chum forecasts, and will likely start having conversations to consider increasing the run-size very soon, which could be as soon as this week.

Chum salmon – better known as dog salmon for their ferocious-looking jawline at spawning time – are also one of the hardest-fighting fish a sport angler will hook, and they can weigh up to and over 20 pounds with most averaging 8 to 15 pounds.

Anglers pursuing chums will have plenty of opportunities along some of the more traditional fishing holes, which will give up decent action in the weeks ahead with the peak usually occurring around Thanksgiving.

Popular locales are the estuaries off Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, Johns Creek and Canyon Creek in Oakland Bay, Chico Creek estuary in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek estuary near Southworth.

Other good places to try for chum are North Bay near Allyn, Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

The heavy rain in past couple of weeks has pushed a lot of the early chums toward estuaries where they’ll stage before up into rivers and streams.

A bobber and anchovy or small firecracker-sized herring is the most productive way to catch fish, but tossing flies, spinners, jigs and spoons will also catch their fair share of fish. In this fishery many believe the color chartreuse is the “must have” color in your tackle gear to catch chums.

The strong abundance of chum also bodes well when northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) reopens for blackmouth on Wednesday (Nov. 1). Anglers at places like Possession Bar and Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Kingston, Pilot Point and Port Townsend should find their decent share of fish to catch.

Can you dig it?

Coastal razor clam diggers searching for the prized bivalves at Mocrocks. Fall and winter may bring harsh weather, but diggers can find hot digging.

If you can dig this news as much as I dig it, be sure to add razor clams to the cornucopia of holiday meals. Hint: Think clams instead of turkey or ham or better yet all three for a surf-and-turf celebration.

Digging is open during evening low tides on Thursday (Nov. 2) and Saturday (Nov. 4) at Copalis; Friday (Nov. 3) and Sunday (Nov. 5) at Mocrocks; and Friday through Sunday at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.

Diggers are reminded that the dig on Nov. 5 is when we set the clocks back one hour. Low tides are plus-0.1 feet at 6:03 p.m. on Thursday; minus-0.7 feet at 6:47 p.m. on Friday; -1.2 at 7:31 p.m. on Saturday; and -1.4 at 7:16 p.m. on Sunday.

Other coastal razor clam digs tentatively planned are Dec. 1 at Copalis; Dec. 2 and 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Dec. 31 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. The season openers on Oct. 6-7 lured 28,300 diggers with an average of 12.5 clams per digger – the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily limit. A breakdown showed Long Beach seekers averaged 11.9; Twin Harbors, 12.4; Copalis, 13.3; and Mocrocks, 12.6. Average size was 4 to 5 inches with bigger clams at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.
The only thing holding back future digs are a passing grade for marine toxin testing conducted prior to each series of digs. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

On freshwater scene, state fisheries plans to plant about 260,000 catchable-sized trout to boost holiday fishing in Puget Sound and Southwest Washington year-round lakes.

Issaquah’s Beaver Lake got a plant of 800 jumbo-sized trout last month with 800 more going in right before Thanksgiving. Then just before Christmas another 800 will be added to zest up the holiday fishing fun. Check WDFW’s website for latest statewide trout plants at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby and more

Next up on the Northwest Salmon Derby Series is Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby this weekend (Nov. 4-5). This year’s grand prize – an $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft 220 OceanPro powered with Honda 250- and 9.9-horsepower motors on an EZ-Loader Tandem axle galvanized trailer – will be given away at the derby in a raffle drawing to one lucky person.

SOME LUCKY NORTHWEST SALMON ANGLER’S GOING TO WALK AWAY WITH THIS GREAT BOAT AT THE CONCLUSION OF THIS WEEKEND’S EVERETT NO-COHO BLACKMOUTH DERBY. (NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES)

We’ve also got plenty more exciting surprises coming up in 2018 for the derby series so stay tuned as we get amped up on forthcoming news.

Lastly, I’m drafting The Seattle Boat Show fishing seminars, and we’ve got new additions to spice it up when the show drops anchor Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 at Century Link Field and Event Center. It’s a one-stop get all the tips on where and how to catch fish from some of the best experts in Pacific Northwest.

Crabbing Closed From Coquille North Jetty To CA Border Due To Domoic Acid Levels

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announce the immediate closure of recreational and commercial crabbing from the north jetty of the Coquille River, which includes the bay in Bandon, to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid.

This includes crab harvested in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties. The recreational crabbing season in the ocean closed coast-wide on Oct.15.

The announcement extends last week’s recreational closure. Crab harvesting from the north jetty of the Coquille River to the Columbia River remains open in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties.

Despite the closure, crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants remain safe for consumers.

For more information, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page at: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/ShellfishClosures.aspx