BREAKING: Spot shrimp fishery opening on May 28 or June 11; three coastal ports open May 26 for most bottomfish; plus a plethora of other options to cure COVID-19 “cabin fever” Leave a reply

May 21, 2020 by Mark Yuasa

By Mark Yuasa

The excitement of pulling in a pot loaded with giant spot shrimp is unlike any other on-water marine fishing activity, and anglers can finally pencil in May 28 and/or June 11 as the opening dates.

“We felt the start dates (both on a Thursday) were safer to schedule than a weekend opener to prevent crowding and create a better situation when it comes to social distancing,” Don Velasquez, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish manager said.

WDFW staff points out there will be some weekend opportunities heading later into June and could also add some July dates depending on in-season adjustments.

Velasquez says they were unable to conduct preseason test fishing for spot shrimp abundance and for the first time, he indicated, “we’re flying blind heading into the season not knowing what is really out there.”

Tribal fishing has already started and reports indicate nothing out of the norm, which is good news for the recreational fishery.

Spot shrimp are the largest – averaging 8 to 12 inches long – of more than 80 shrimp species in local marine waterways, but only seven are commonly caught by anglers. Most are lurking at depths of 30 to 300 feet.

The western Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Area 5) will be open daily beginning May 28 and closes once the catch quota is achieved. The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area 6) – outside of Discovery Bay – opens May 28 only, and reopens June 1-13, and then open four days per week (Thursdays to Sundays only) beginning June 18 and will close once the quota is achieved. NOTE: The Area 6 dates are a total change from a tentative version that was leaked out Wednesday (May 20) on the internet.

The Discovery Bay Shrimp District (6) will be open June 11, 15 and 28 only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Any extension beyond those dates will depend on catch assessments.

The San Juan Islands (Iceberg Point, Point Colville, Biz Point, Salmon Bank, northern Rosario Strait, Bellingham Bay, Sucia and Matia Islands and Strait of Georgia  (7 South and 7 East) are open May 28 plus June 1, 11, 15, 26, 28 and 30. Fishing is allowed one hour before official sunrise and gear must be pulled before one hour after official sunset.

The San Juan Islands in San Juan Channel, Spieden Channel, Stuart, and Waldron Islands (7 West) opens May 28 only, and reopens June 1-13, and then open four days per week (Thursdays to Sundays only) beginning June 18 and will close once the quota is achieved. NOTE: The Area 7 West dates are a total change from a tentative version that was leaked out Wednesday (May 20) on the internet.

The east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2); Northern Puget Sound (9); Elliott Bay (10); and South-central Puget Sound (11) is open June 11 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Central Puget Sound (10) excluding Elliott Bay is open June 11 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Any extension beyond June 11 depend on catch assessments.

Hood Canal (12) will be open June 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. plus June 15, 26, 28, and 29 and July 15 and 28 depending on catch assessment.

Southern Puget Sound (13) is closed for the 2020 season due to low abundance levels.

In all Puget Sound areas, the daily limit is 80 spot shrimp per person during the month of May. Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled above.

Shrimp traps can be set one hour before official sunrise during any open period in Marine Catch Areas 4, 5, 6 (except for the Discovery Bay Shrimp District), 7 East, 7 South, and 7 West only.

The total spot shrimp sport harvest in 2019 was 208,223 pounds (194,863 in 2018) and the non-tribal commercial take was 94,651 pounds (97,578 in 2018) for a total of 302,874 pounds (292,441 in 2018).

“In a general sense spot shrimp sport catches were good, and we did an OK job of staying within our management objectives,” said Aaron Dufault, the head WDFW shellfish manager.

Sport and non-tribal commercial fishermen split a 300,000-pound spot shrimp yearly catch quota with 70 percent going to the sport fishery. The tribal fishery has a 300,000-pound catch quota. Last year, 613,300 pounds was caught by all user groups.

Hood Canal is the only area where the spot shrimp fisheries got an additional 5,000 pounds in the catch quota. All other quotas remain status quo to past seasons.

A breakdown of sport catches from 2019 showed Areas 8-1 and 8-2 had a harvest of 27,954 pounds (17,970 in 2018); Area 9, 6,844 (5,448); Area 10, 5,157 (3,571); Elliott Bay, 5,451 (4,401); Area 7 West, 248 (1,140); Area 7 East, 14,484 (14,407); Area 6 Central (Hein and Eastern banks and Smith Island), 7,487 (12,710); Area 6 South (northeast of Port Angeles), 2,000 (2,000); Area 6 outside of District 1 (north of Protection Island), 8,200 (4,325); Discovery Bay, 1,944 (2,441); Area 11, 2,549 (1,841); and Area 13, no catch (318).

Here’s how sport anglers fared during the initial two opening dates in 2019:

Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 – 251 boats with 889 anglers May 11 fished 855 pots (3.41 pot per boat average) and caught 54,915 spot shrimp for 218.78 shrimp per boat; and 200 boats with 611 anglers May 15 fished 684 pots (3.42 pot per boat average) and caught 39,193 spot shrimp for 195.97 shrimp per boat.

Marine Area 9 – 85 boats with 248 anglers May 11 fished 309 pots (3.64 pot per boat average) and caught 21,381 spot shrimp for 232.40 shrimp per boat; and 61 boats with 180 anglers May 15 fished 218 pots (3.57 pot per boat average) and caught 11,409 spot shrimp for 211.10 shrimp per boat.

Elliott Bay – 118 boats with 436 anglers May 11 fished 426 pots (3.61 pot per boat average) and caught 29,876 spot shrimp for 235.19 shrimp per boat.

Marine Area 10 – 64 boats with 211 anglers May 11 fished 220 pots (3.44 pot per boat average) and caught 13,178 spot shrimp for 205.91 shrimp per boat.

Marine Area 11 – 47 boats with 159 anglers May 11 fished 157 pots (3.34 pot per boat average) and caught 6,278 spot shrimp for 133.57 shrimp per boat.

Marine Area 6 and 7 – 1,206 boats with 3,465 anglers May 11-15 fished 3,867 pots (3.21 pot per boat average) and caught 201,453 spot shrimp for 167.04 shrimp per boat.

While freedom to wet a line has been eased somewhat, anglers are still asked to play by the rules of social distancing. WDFW also implemented guidelines anglers should follow at

Other fishing options

  • Coastal bottomfishing opens on May 26 from La Push south to Ilwaco (Marine Catch Areas 1 to 3) including Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor although Neah Bay won’t be part of the this initial opener due to concerns over COVID-19. This is a highly popular fishery for lingcod, black rockfish and kelp greenling (not opening for halibut). The Columbia River area will also open for Dungeness crabbing on May 26. All three areas will also open for shellfish (except razor clams) like mussels, clams and oysters and other species as described in the WDFW regulation pamphlet. Makah and Quileute reservations including marinas and all services remain closed to visitors. Anglers should not attempt to access the ocean from those areas.
  • More statewide trout lakes were planted by WDFW on May 18, 19 and 20!

Pierce County: American, 3,534; Rapjohn, 3,197. King: Alice, 1,550. Snohomish: Blackmans, 2,030; Flowing, 4,030; Pass, 339; Chain, 1,102. Clark: Battle Ground, 2,030. Thurston: Clear, 3,500; Lawrence, 2,540; Long, 3,560; Pattison, 3,030; Black, 2,010; Hicks, 820; McIntosh, 2,410.

Mason: Tee, 1,000; Trails End, 1,030. Whatcom: Silver, 2,280. Pacific: Snag, 1,020; Western, 1,020; Black, 1,480; Cases, 21; Mill, 200. Skamania: Goose, 8,952; Loomis, 1,000; Swift, 42,600. Cowlitz: Horseshoe, 2,000. Grays Harbor: Aberdeen, 1,200; Sylvia, 1,200; Vance Adult, 1,150; Vance Juvenile, 1,125; Duck, 705; Failor, 1,135.

Anglers should expect about 2.19 million catchable trout in lakes and ponds. WDFW is also stocking 146,559 jumbo trout averaging more than 14 inches in length and one pound or larger in weight. Adding to that is more than 14 million fry, fingerlings, and put and grow trout that went into lakes during spring and fall of 2019. For lakes expected to be planted, go to

  • WDFW kicked off the popular Statewide Trout Fishing Derby on May 23 to Oct. 31 that features more than 100 lakes planted with around 1,200 tagged trout. There are over 1,000 prizes donated from more than 100 participating businesses totaling over $40,000. Last year, roughly half the tags were returned statewide which is a pretty good percentage.

WDFW has created a new online system for anglers who catch tagged trout to report them. Depending on the prize they will either be mailed or picked up at WDFW regional offices by the recipient.

Anglers will also be able to share their derby success on social media with the hash tag of #watroutderby. For details, go to

  • The halibut fishery in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sekiu to Port Angeles, San Juan Islands and some parts of Puget Sound opened May 20. Halibut chasers in Marine Catch Areas 5 to 10 will be allowed to target fish every other day with the next opening on Sunday (May 24) and Tuesday (May 26) and will continue until the catch quota of 77,550 pounds is achieved.

A reminder that sport anglers who pursue halibut and bottomfish are now required to carry a descending device onboard their boat in all marine areas. Descending devices are used to release rockfish back to the depth and improve their survival when released. For details, go to

  • Lingcod fishing remains open daily in most of Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca and catches have been relatively good.
  • The Tulalip Bubble Fishery for chinook opens Friday (May 29) and the Central Puget Sound (Area 10) coho only fishery opens on June 1.

The Tulalip Bay Bubble Fishery just north of Everett, open each week from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only (closed on June 15 for a tribal ceremonial fishery). The bubble is known as an early-summer destination for kings averaging 10- to 20-pounds. Fishing is closed to all angling east of the line from Mission Point to Hermosa Point.

Central Puget Sound has seen some remarkable fishing in recent years with coho averaging 2 to 4 pounds. The most popular spots are the shipping lanes from Kingston-Apple Tree Point south to Jefferson Head; Richmond Beach; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; and the eastern side of Bainbridge Island from Point Monroe south to Restoration Point.

Some salmon anglers have also been testing the waters of southern Puget Sound south of the Narrows Bridge that is open now for hatchery chinook. Seek out early arriving hatchery kings around Point Fosdick and off Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point and Fox Point.

Many piers are open year-round for salmon in Puget Sound including the Edmonds Marina, Fox Island, Seacrest in West Seattle, Waterman, Bremerton Boardwalk, Illahee State Park, Dash Point Dock, Point Defiance Boathouse Dock, Les Davis, Des Moines, and Redondo piers.

  • The Columbia River shad watch is on! Millions of shad are expected to migrate up the Big-C soon. Through Friday, 46,422 were counted at Bonneville Dam. Daily counts are: 4,160 on Thursday; 4,379 on Wednesday; 2,923 on Tuesday; and 3,432 on Monday. Anglers should make plans to hit the fishery when counts hit 20,000-plus.

In 2019, the shad counts hit above 100,000 on May 29, 350,000-plus by May 31 and 412,000-plus by June 5. Counts bounced between 90,000 to 300,000 from June 6-26. It hit a historic whopping high of 7,459,145 in 2019.The season total shad count at Bonneville Dam were 6,059,933 in 2018; 3,135,401 in 2017; 1,770,303 in 2016; and 1,815,001 in 2015.

The 10-year average peak timing for shad usually occurs from early- to mid-June, but anglers should make plans on going south once shad counts hit 20,000-plus.

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

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