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!

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