Get your pots ready: crabbing season officially opens in north Whatcom County on Friday, August 15.
Marine Area 7 north, which includes all Whatcom County waters north of Lummi Island, will be open for recreational crabbing from Friday, August 15 until Monday, September 29. Marine Area 7 south, which includes Bellingham and the San Juan Islands, has been open since July 17.
The northernmost areas of the county tend to open later each season because the cooler temperature of the water causes the crabs to mature more slowly, and the crabs need to develop their mature hard shells before they can legally be fished.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reminds crabbers that there are limits on fishing. Crabbing is only open between Thursday and Monday each week. Fishers must observe the daily catch limits. The daily limit for Dungeness crabs is five, and the crabs must be male hard shells with a minimum carapace width of 6.25 inches. The limits are slightly more relaxed for red rock crabs, which can be either male or female and at least 5 inches across. The daily catch limit for red rock crabs is six.
Anyone fishing for Dungeness crabs must maintain a catch record card to assure they are staying within the daily catch limit. These cards can be mailed in to the WDFW, or logged on the WDFW’s crab reporting website, fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov. Red rock crab fishers are not required to keep a catch card, but all fishers are required to have a current fishing license.
While a shellfish-harvesting ban in Whatcom County is still in effect for clams and mussels, the ban won’t affect crabbing in most cases. According to the WDFW, the yellow, mushy digestive glands of the crab, known as “crab butter,” can potentially be a carrier for biotoxins, but the meat itself is not generally affected. While crab butter is considered a delicacy for some, the WDFW advises disposing of it just to be safe. For more information, visit wdfw.wa.gov