Craig Brooks, left, and Mike Halstead show off their crab catch at Langley marina after the Oct. 1 re-opening of Whidbey waters for recreational crabbing. Photo by Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record

Craig Brooks, left, and Mike Halstead show off their crab catch at Langley marina after the Oct. 1 re-opening of Whidbey waters for recreational crabbing. Photo by Wendy Leigh / South Whidbey Record

Crabbing season reopens around Whidbey

Commercial crabbers aren’t the only ones setting and pulling autumn pots around Whidbey Island this year. That’s because the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has reopened select Puget Sound marine areas to recreational fishing Oct. 1-Dec. 31, with generous allocations to Whidbey waters.

After assessing the summer catch, fishery managers approved the late-season harvest in seven marines areas in Puget Sound. They include Area 8-1, which includes Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay; Marine Area 8-2, which includes the east side of South Whidbey Island from Rocky Point to Possession Point; and Marine Area 9, which is Admiralty Inlet on the west side of South and Central Whidbey.

These areas are now open seven days a week to sport crabbers holding a Puget Sound Dungeness crab endorsement.

This means that teaming heaps of Dungeness, red rock and Tanner crabs can now grace local dining tables through the holidays, hauled from the waters at a combined daily rate of 17.

The limits break down like this: five male-only Dungeness crab per day in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6.25 inches; six red rock crab of either sex per day with a minimum carapace width of 5 inches; and six Tanner crab of either sex with a minimum carapace of 4.25 inches.

Ralph Downes, an enforcement officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, noted that on Whidbey, the waters to the east are the most productive for crab harvest. He then explained how Whidbey fits into the bigger picture of crabbing in the state.

Out of approximately 8 million pounds of Dungeness crab harvested every year from Puget Sound waters, roughly 4 million pounds go to tribal fishers and 4 million to state fishers, according to Downes.

Within those totals, Whidbey’s sport Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 have a combined allocation this year of 2 million pounds, equating to 1 million pounds to state fishers.

“Of (those) one million pounds allocated to state fishers, the Department of Fish and Wildlife projects that approximately 720,000 pounds will be harvested by recreational fishers and 280,000 pounds by our commercial fleet,” Downes said.

Crabbers can keep only hard shell and male Dungeness crab that are at least 6.25 inches wide at the carapace. Photo by Mike Benbow / Everett Herald

Crabbers can keep only hard shell and male Dungeness crab that are at least 6.25 inches wide at the carapace. Photo by Mike Benbow / Everett Herald

The waters to the west of Whidbey are not to be discounted, however. Downes said, “though less productive, they still provide a state allocation of approximately 300,000 pounds. Area wide, this is shared close to 50/50 by our commercial and recreational fleets.”

Both Downes and Patrick Boin, harbormaster at Port of South Whidbey in Langley, admit the crabbing is not as easy now as during the summer season. There’s a lot more competition from commercial crabbing boats and the weather is less conducive.

But there are a few areas around Whidbey where Fish and Wildlife doesn’t allow the commercial fleet to fish, which increases the opportunity for sports fishers and crabbers.

Families and casual crabbers can also get in the action without launching a boat. Clinton, Langley and Cornet Bay offer dock fishing and crabbing, with the same limits and licenses required.

The Port of South Whidbey began taking reservations for crabbing spots on D and E docks on Oct. 5, with crabbing available from Monday, Oct. 7. The floating docks at South Whidbey Harbor are open to the public from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Sport crabbers dropping pots from vessels can only set or pull the pots from one hour before sunrise through one hour after official sunset. To help the state monitor continued availability, all crabbers must immediately record late-season recreational catches on winter catch-record cards.

Additional information, including Marine Area identification, regulations and licenses, is available on Fish and Wildlife’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

More in Life

John and Rebecca Roberts have been trail angels for the Pacific Northwest Trail since 2012.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Wandering the rugged Pacific Northwest Trail

The trail snakes down the island on its often-confounding route from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Elizabeth Johnson and rescue dog Wilbur
Island a haven for practitioners of holistic treatments

Some holistic healers on Whidbey have seen a dramatic increase in demand this past year.

Sherman, Phyllis
Rockin’ a Hard Place: A beautiful remembrance to heal a forgettable time

Each of us has that wonderful remembrance to treasure.

South Whidbey Homeless Coalition donation by Rotary
South Whidbey Rotary clubs donate to Homeless Coalition

Last Friday, the two Rotary Clubs on South Whidbey presented Executive Director… Continue reading

Whidbey writer’s hospice book released in paperback

Oak Harbor author Karen J. Clayton’s book, “Demystifying Hospice: Inside the Stories… Continue reading

Annual Whidbey Gardening Workshop grows online this year

The island-wide gardening event is back this year after it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Reading to dog
Therapy dogs go online

Reading with Rover pairs pooches with young readers

Mead maker Jeremy Kyncl pours a tasting glass of Hawthorn Tulsi Mead, a blend of hawthorn berry and holy basil, in the new Whidbey tasting room of Hierophant Meadery. Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
From bluff to bluff: Meadery off to sweet start

Hierophant Meadery in Freeland features local honey in its sweet brews.

Currently identified as Sandy Point, this name has been given to many places on the shores of Washington State. The most historic one is on Whidbey Island, at the southwestern entrance to Saratoga Passage. It was the site of a centuries old permanent Snohomish Tribal Village and a major Potlatch Center. Its clam beds drew indigenous visitors as far away as the central coast and Snohomish River valley. Captain George Vancouver noted in his journals that Master Joseph Whidbey saw over 200 people at this site when his ship circumnavigated the Island in 1791. Photo provided.
Research project dives into South Whidbey history

A woman is asking for folks to help her with a research project exploring the years 1870-1940.

Untreated
Lead actress Shannyn Sossamon talks with filmmakers Andy Morehouse, left, and Nate Bell while filming "The House After Westerly". Photo by Wes Anthony/Firehouse Creative
Film featuring Whidbey free to view temporarily

“The Hour After Westerly” is free to view online until Jan. 17.

Susie Van
WI Drive helping to get the elderly, disabled where they need to go

A Langley woman gives rides to people in need in her new van named “Cookie.”

I Love You
Wendy’s manager shares the love one drive-thru customer at a time

April DiDonna tells Oak Harbor Wendy’s customers she cares.