This year's sport fishery for spot shrimp, set to begin May 4, is expected to run from one day to several weeks longer in various areas of the Sound, due to policy changes recently adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Under the state's updated policy, 70 percent of the non-tribal spot shrimp harvest is now allocated to the sport fishery, said Rich Childers, WDFW shellfish manager. In past years, the non-tribal harvest was divided approximately evenly between recreational and commercial fisheries.
"Recreational shrimp fishers will see a real difference in the length of this year's seasons, particularly in the San Juan Islands and the Strait of Juan de Fuca," Childers said. "Sport fisheries in other areas are also likely to pick up some extra fishing days under the updated policy."
Spot shrimp, also known as prawns, are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow to nine inches in length. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day and a valid 2013-14 fishing license is required to participate in the fishery.
In the San Juan Islands, the recent change in the state's spot shrimp policy will increase the sport fishery's share of the catch from 15 percent to 80 percent. To accommodate that change, WDFW split Marine Area 7-North into two subareas - 7 West and 7 South - each with its own season.
Under the higher sport quota, Chiders said the new Marine Area 7-West could be open for more than a month this year, up from six days of fishing in those waters last year. The spot shrimp fishery in Marine Areas 7 East and 7 South, also open six days last year, is expected to run 13 days during the 2013 season, he said.
A map of the new subareas is available on WDFW's Recreational Shrimp Fishing webpage ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/12/ ) and will be published in the 2013 Spot Fishing Rule pamphlet available in late April.
The shrimp season in Marine Area 6 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is also expected to expand by several weeks under the new allocation policy, which increased the sport fishery's share of the catch in those waters from 15 percent to 22 percent this year.
The sport fishery in Hood Canal has received 100 percent of the state shrimp allocation in previous years, so it is not affected by the change in the commission's policy, Childers said. However, sport shrimpers will have five days to fish - up from four days last year - because stock trends have been healthy in recent years, he said.
Childers said the new policy does increase sport fishing allocations in other areas of central Puget Sound, but WDFW will determine whether that will translate into additional fishing days during the course of the season.
"The question is whether the higher catch shares will be enough to add a third day of fishing in those areas," he said. "We'll be watching the catch totals during the season and will make that decision on an area-by-area basis."
Puget Sound recreational shrimp season opening days are:
- Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 4, 8, 15, 18 and 22.
- Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 4, 8, 15, 18 and 22.
- Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District) : Open daily beginning May 4 at 7 a.m. The spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
- Marine Area 7 East and South: Open May 4 at 7 a.m. for a one-day fishery and will reopen May 8-11, May 15-18, May 29 - June 1.
- Marine Area 7 West: Open May 4 at 7 a.m., open Wednesday through Saturday each week until June 1. After June 1 the area will be open Thursday through Saturday each week until the quota is reached or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
- Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 11: Open May 4 and May 8 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For a description of the marine areas and fishing rules, see WDFW's Recreational Shrimp Fishing website athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/ .