June gloom, May mopiness and Apruary got you down? You need a shot from Dr. Tony “I’m high on July” Floor.
The fishing affairs director for the Northwest Marine Trade Association fired off his latest monthly newsletter today, and it appears to not only have rolled the clouds back out of Puget Sound, but sharpened my hearing — from our perch near the waterfront, I swear to god I can hear the clicking of crab claws as shellfishers haul up the first catches of the new, expanded season!
Take it away, Tony.
Yep, the calendar never lies. July is here and it represents the kickoff to so much to do and so little time to do it.
If you take the time to Google the word, July, you’ll learn a number of things. For many, it suggests the 4th of July, 2011 version is a big day, celebrating the US of A’s 235th birthday.
But you will also learn, that the Puget Sound Dungeness summer crab season opens (yum-yum) on July 1st, along with the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca king salmon fishery. Dungeness crab along with fresh grilled king salmon. Somebody help me.
From my perspective, this is the most important Dungeness crab summer season in the history of sport crabbing in Washington. The story rewinds back to June of 2005, when sport crabbing enthusiasts, asked Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to please review the allocation split between sport and commercial crabbers. That split, or crab harvest, has been about two-thirds commercial and one-third sport. Currently, there are about 250 commercial crab fishing licenses in Puget Sound, and 235,000 sport crab license holders. Throw in the ocean commercial Dungeness crab catch and the results suggest that the sport crab fishery takes about ten percent of the total Washington catch. Sounds perfectly out of balance to me.
After years of deliberation on this contentious issue, the Commission voted last October to change the allocation to a new 55/45 split, favoring the commercial industry. The commercials did not like this change, slightly reducing their catch for the purpose of increasing our take, and filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court, asking the judge to impose a temporary restraining order that would stop the implementation of the new allocation which was set to begin on yes, July 1st. The judge ruled in favor of the Commission’s decision and here we go with a five-day at week (Thursdays through Mondays) crab season until Labor Day in early September. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear crab pots splashing into Puget Sound from Olympia to Port Townsend and Deception Pass south. The San Juan Islands will open for their season in mid-July, as the result of a latter molt by male crab.
As I sat through that historic and electrically charged Commission meeting last October, there was concern expressed by commissioners, along with commercial crab representatives, that the sport fishery’s violation of the crab fishing rules was too high and we should not be rewarded with more crab as the result of a greater allocation. Representatives such as myself, vowed to work with Fish and Wildlife shellfish biologists to turn up the volume to help educate crabbers of knowing the rules before launching their crab gear in Puget Sound.
We, at the Northwest Marine Trade Association began our outreach for crab education at last January’s Seattle Boat Show, creating a crab education center, and increased the number of free crab fishing seminars during the Show. There were more crab fishing seminars than any other fishing seminars during the Show. It was a huge success.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been on the road, preaching like a Baptist minister, accompanied by Rich Childers, policy lead for Puget Sound crab management at the Department, to sit down with newspaper reporters from Bellingham to Olympia, urging them to write about the importance of knowing before you go, as the Commission will be briefed at the end of the year, about our ability to comply with the rules. The number one violation is failure to record the crab catch, by individual crabbers, during the process of bringing crab aboard. They must be recorded immediately. In other words, if a WDFW enforcement boat approaches you in the act of crabbing, and let’s say there are 10 crab in a couple of buckets that have just been caught……then there needs to be 10 crab recorded on crab record cards (the limit is 5 male Dungeness crab per person, measuring at least 6 ¼ inches across the back of the crab).
WDFW enforcement statistics suggest, it is not the people who crab often who violate the rules, but to the contrary, it appears to be crabbers who go occasionally, and as a result, don’t know the requirements. The solution, you guessed it, is to go as often as you can! I accept the assignment.
The 1st of July is also, as stated earlier, the kickoff to king salmon fishing (hatchery kings only) throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca until August 15th. I have spent considerable time in my life, especially in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, learning about intercepting these incredible salmon from Sekiu west to Pillar Point, Freshwater Bay and Ediz Hook at Port Angeles. Historical records show, that it was Chet Guasta, from the Bremerton area who boated the current Washington State king salmon record of a 70 pounder in the Sekiu area back in the mid 60’s. This year’s king salmon show will produce highlight films again this summer, as Puget Sound salmon hatchery bound mature chinook salmon, migrate east down the Strait of Juan de Fuca highway before entering Puget Sound at Port Townsend. Can you imagine hooking and landing a 70-pounder here in Washington? I’ve caught hundreds of them, every night, in my dreams.
And if the Strait of Juan de Fuca summer king salmon fishery does not float your boat, then you might consider chasing kings in the San Juan Islands. Eagle Bluff, Obstruction Pass, Tide Point, Pointer Rock in the eastern portion of the Islands will produce king salmon on the opener. Or, on to the western San Juans, at Eagle Point, Pile Point and Smugglers Cove, just off the kelp beds, I know there is a 71 pounder chasing baitfish with my name on it.
Finally, in terms of fishing options, the highly popular hatchery only Puget Sound king salmon fishery opens from Port Townsend to south Puget Sound on July 16th. Participation in this fishery has been huge and the catches have been good to great. Mid-Channel Bank, Possession Bar, Point No Point, Kingston, and Jefferson Head are recognized hot spots for these kings.
The table is not only set, dinner is served. Tonight’s menu features fresh melt-in-your-mouth king salmon, oozing with Omega-3’s accompanied by chilled jumbo Dungeness crab on the side. And yes, a swig of a favorite grape juice triggering a migration of my eyeballs rolling east, to the back of my head. It’s showtime in the great Pacific Northwest. And you thought all those fireworks were about a state birthday! See you on the water.