While some shows on television like to detail the excitement and danger of open water crab fishing, catching a Dungeness crab doesn’t always have to entail a rickety ship set sail on icy waters. Crabbing in Washington remains one of the region’s premier recreational hobbies, as every year crabbers from around the Pacific Northwest descend on the crab rich waters along the Puget Sound. Unlike those dreaded fishing trips where the only thing caught was a tan, crabbing in Washington offers fishermen an excellent opportunity to catch their limit at any of the 13 recreational crabbing locations along the Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimates that over 1.4 million crabs were caught recreationally during the 2009-10 crabbing season, and another 3 million were caught commercially. Crabbing in Washington starts when the season opens on December 1st and runs through September 15th of the following year. Crab pot fishing is allowed in all 13 regions during this period, but Washington law requires that all fishing equipment be out of the water one hour before sunset on the last day of the season.
Crabbing in Washington requires all crabbers over the age of 15 to obtain a license from the WDFW. Crabbers can either obtain an annual shellfish/seaweed license or purchase an all purpose fishing license that can run for the entire season or a single day. Crabbing in Washington also requires crabbers to report each crab they catch by filling out and submitting a catch record card to the WDFW. Crabbers who don’t report their annual catch total may face a fine the next time they apply for a fishing license.
To ensure the crab population remains healthy, crabbers must adhere to several specific rules regarding catch and size limits while crabbing in Washington. Crabbers must release any female or soft shell crab caught, and any Dungeness crabs smaller than 5.75 inches, while crabbing in Washington. Crabbers can keep between five to six male Dungeness crabs they catch depending on the region, and up to six red rock crabs caught in any region.
First timers who want to go crabbing in Washington can rent crab pots from one of the many fishing supply stores or professional fishing guides located throughout Washington. Just like baiting a lure, crab pots use bait that includes everything from diced eel to bull lips to attract crabs. Bait, along with dip nets and bushel baskets, which are used for scooping and storing crabs, can all be rented when picking up a crabbing pot. When it comes to great outdoor activities that can produce a fantastic dinner, you really can’t do much better than going crabbing in Washington.