POULSBO — Recreational crabbing season recently made its return to the Kitsap Peninsula. The opening of the season offered a brief respite for the fisherman counting down the days until chinook salmon season opens countywide July 16.
But before you load up your crab pots and start hunting around for your new summertime honey hole, here are a couple helpful tips to ensure you get the most out of your adventures on the water this summer.
Donald Velasquez, a biologist with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said those looking to pull a pot of dungies need to be on the lookout for the sandy spots preferred by the crab.
“Dungeness crab in particular like sandy substrate or sandy bottom habitats. Their cousins, the graceful crab, sort of like the muddy bottoms, and the red rock crab tend to like harder substrates like gravel and rock,” Velasquez said.
Velasquez explained that those looking to pull pot after pot of Dungeness crab from Kitsap’s eastern shore this year might be disappointed when they look inside their pots.
“Our test fishing this year, both state and tribal, sort of indicates that unfortunately Dungeness crab populations in the south part of Puget Sound are very low,” Velasquez said. “Marine Area 10, the pre-season test fishing was slightly better, but still worse than last year. However, the state and treaty tribes that co-manage the fishery decided that we would still open up fisheries in Marine Area 10. The feedback I’ve gotten since recreational crabbing opened is that most people in Marine Area 10 have not been doing very well for Dungeness crab. Unfortunately, the advice then is to move north.”
As for the great bait debate, Velasquez said to keep in mind what the pros are using to draw in casts of crab.
“Typically the public will use a lot of chicken and turkey because it’s available, but I think most of the professional crabbers realize that some kind of mollusk — meaning a clam or squid — in combination with some kind of fish, like mackerel or salmon carcasses, works well.”
Velasquez didn’t pull any punches when asked to name his favorite spots to soak his pots.
“Unfortunately, none around the Kitsap area. None of my favorite spots would be right down there by Kitsap,” Velasquez said. “My favorite areas would probably be up in the Crescent Harbor area, between Whidbey and Camano [Islands], or Samish Bay north of Anacortes or even further north, around the Birch Bay, Point Whitehorn area. Those would be my go-to spots.”
While Dungeness crab remain the more popular option, Velasquez said those who aren’t picky might be pleased with what they’ll find around Kitsap.
“The crab that’s most abundant for Marine Area 10, south, is red rock [crab], at least according to the reports that we’ve got from Marine Area 10 so far this year.” That said, Velasquez acquiesced that his preference was also for Dungeness crab.
When dropping your pots off this year, remember that crabbing around Kitsap is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Velasquez also noted that crabbers need to remember to fill out their catch record cards in ink immediately after retaining their crab, before they pull their next pot.
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.