Look for a spot-on Puget Sound spot shrimp season beginning Wednesday, plus a plethora of other fun choices from digging a bounty of razor or steamer clams to seeking an elusive geoduck Leave a reply
By Mark Yuasa
Often referred to as a transitional month, May is the gateway to summer, especially when it comes to a blooming number of fishing opportunities.
In the weeks ahead, the hot topic is a wide variety of shellfish, including the prized spot shrimp fishery beginning Wednesday (May 19) and much anticipated coastal razor clam digs Saturday and Monday at Mocrocks Beach.
“We aren’t expecting effort for spot shrimp to go down compared to this past year,” said Don Velasquez, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound shellfish manager. “Catches depending on the area should be good by what we’ve seen in some of our test fishing.”
Up for grabs are the giant prawn-size spot shrimp, which are the largest – averaging 8 to 12 inches long – of more than 80 shrimp species in local marine waterways. Only seven shrimp species are commonly caught by anglers with most lurking at depths of 30 to 300 feet.
The western Strait of Juan de Fuca in Sekiu (Marine Area 5) is open daily starting May 19 to Sept. 15 (daylight hours only) or until quota is attained whichever comes first.
The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Area 6) outside of Discovery Bay is open May 19-22, June 2-5 and June 16-19 (daylight hours only). If enough quota remains then it would reopen on July 15-17 and possibly July 29-31. The coonstripe shrimp fishery will likely begin sometime after the spot shrimp season ends with depth restrictions.
The Discovery Bay Shrimp District (6) will be open May 19 and May 22 only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. If enough quota remains then it would reopen on June 2 only. All fishing gear must be removed from the water by one hour after sunset on the last day of any fishing period.
The San Juan Islands (7 East and 7 West) are open May 19-22, June 2-5 and June 16-19 (daylight hours only). If enough quota remains then it would reopen on July 15-17 and possibly July 29-31. The coonstripe shrimp fishery in 7 East will likely begin sometime after the spot shrimp season ends with depth restrictions. All fishing gear must be removed from the water by one hour after sunset on the last day of any fishing period.
The San Juan Islands (7 South) are open May 19-22 and June 2-5 only (daylight hours only). If enough quota remains then it would reopen on dates TBD. All fishing gear must be removed from the water by one hour after sunset on the last day of any fishing period.
The east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2); northern Puget Sound (9); and south-central Puget Sound (11) are open May 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If enough quota remains then it would reopen on June 2 only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The coonstripe shrimp fishery in Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 11 will likely be open daily beginning June 1 with depth restrictions.
Central Puget Sound (10) excluding Elliott Bay is open May 19 only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Elliott Bay is open May 19 only from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Extra fishing days in both areas is highly unlikely due to expected high catch rates.
In Hood Canal (12) spot shrimp fishing will be open May 19, May 22, June 2, June 5 and June 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. If enough quota remains then it would reopen on June 19 and possibly June 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.
Southern Puget Sound (13) is closed for the 2021 season due to poor spot shrimp abundance levels, but will likely be open daily beginning June 1 for coonstripe shrimp with depth restrictions.
For specifics like daily catch limits and rules on mesh size for pots used, consult the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/.
The total spot shrimp sport harvest was 198,023 pounds in 2020, and 208,223 pounds in 2019 and 194,863 in 2018. The non-tribal commercial take was 100,001 pounds in 2020, and 94,651 pounds in 2019 and 97,578 in 2018. The grand total for state commercial and recreational harvest was 298,024 pounds in 2020, and 302,874 pounds in 2019 and 292,441 in 2018.
Sport and non-tribal commercial fishermen split a ~300,000-pound spot shrimp yearly catch quota with 70 percent allocated to the sport fishery. The tribal fishery has a ~300,000-pound catch quota. In 2019, 613,300 pounds was caught by all user groups.
Extreme low tides are great for shellfish gathering
The big drain in Puget Sound will occur during three weekly series in May and June exposing beaches for gathering clams, mussels, oysters and geoduck.
Here is a list of beaches open for shellfish gathering:
Belfair State Park opens Aug. 1-Sept. 30 for clams, mussels and oysters; Birch Bay State Park is open now through Dec. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Dash Point State Park open now through May 31 and Sept. 1-Dec. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Dosewallips State Park is open June 1-Sept. 30 for clams, mussels and oysters; Drayton Harbor is open now through Dec. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Eagle Creek is open June 1-Aug. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters.
Kopachuck State Park, Freeland County Park, Frye Cove County Park and Hope Island State Park are open now through May 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Fort Flagler State Park is open June 1-Dec. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Illahee State Park is open now through July 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Point Whitney Tidelands and Point Whitney Lagoon currently is open for oysters June 1-Aug. 31; and Quilcene Bay WDFW Tidelands is open now through Dec. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters.
Sequim Bay State Park is open now through June 30 for clams, mussels and oysters; Spencer Spit State Park is open now through July 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Triton Cove Tidelands is open now through May 31 for oysters only, and June 1-Aug. 31 for clams, mussels and oysters; Twanoh State Park is open now through July 31 for oysters only, then Aug. 1-Sept. 30 for clams, mussels and oysters; West Dewatto is open now through June 30 for oysters only, the July 1-Sept. 30 for clams, mussels and oysters; and West Penn Cove is open Aug. 1-Sept. 30 for clams, mussels and oysters.
Public access on many beaches is relatively easy, but be sure to check the WDFW and Department of Health websites for any closures or changes. A list of beaches can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/adopted_2021wdfwbeachseasonsbarchart.pdf.
For emergency beach closures, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the DOH website at www.doh.wa.gov. Also check the WDFW hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov.
Also keep in mind that all eastern mainland beaches from Everett south into southern Puget Sound are also closed for shellfish due to unsafe pollution levels.
Upcoming low tides: May 25, minus-2.3 at 10:36 a.m.; May 26, -3.2 at 11:19 a.m.; May 27, -3.8 at 12:03 p.m.; May 28, -3.8 at 12:50 p.m.; May 29, -3.3 at 1:38 p.m.; May 30, -2.4 at 2:29 p.m.; May 31, -1.3 at 3:22 p.m.; June 9, -1.4 feet at 11:01 a.m.; June 10, -1.7 at 11:32 a.m.; June 11, -1.9 at 12:06 p.m.; June 12, -2.0 at 12:43 p.m.; June 13, -1.9 at 1:22 p.m.; June 14, -1.6 at 2:04 p.m.; June 15, -1.1 at 2:48 p.m.; June 22, -2.1 at 9:29 a.m.; June 23, -3.1 at 10:14 a.m.; June 24, -3.8 at 11 a.m.; June 25, -3.9 at 11:46 a.m.; June 26, -3.6 at 12:33 p.m.; June 27, -2.9 at 1:21 p.m.; and June 28, -2.0 at 2:08 p.m.
Nibbles and bites
WDFW approved opening Mocrocks Beach for razor clam digging this Saturday and Monday (May 15 and 17) during morning low tides. All coastal beaches have been closed due to high marine toxin levels since late October. Diggers should expect decent prospects as WDFW reports nice-size clams that are in excellent condition. Low tides: Saturday, minus-0.6 feet at 9:51 a.m.; and Monday, -0.1 at 11:18 a.m. If marine toxin levels continue to remain below the action level, then WDFW could reopen Mocrocks and possibly other beaches during other upcoming low tidal series between May 25-31. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.
Salmon anglers can soon start pursuing kings, just to the north of Everett, at the Tulalip Bay Bubble Fishery, which opens May 28 through Sept. 7. Fishing is allowed each week from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only, and then weekends only from Sept. 11-26. In recent years, the bubble fishery has been a fair to good producer of early-summer kings in the 10- to 20-pound range.
Those without a boat can still get into the salmon action at piers that are open year-round. They include the Edmonds Marina; the new Mukilteo Ferry Landing; Fox Island; Seacrest in West Seattle; Waterman, Bremerton Boardwalk and Illahee State Park; Dash Point Dock; Point Defiance Park Boathouse; Les Davis; and Des Moines Marina. A list of statewide marine and freshwater salmon fisheries can be found on the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon/summaries.
Here are the latest WDFW trout stocking on May 5-10 – King County: Mill, 300; Alice, 1,010; Dolloff, 2,001; Killarney, 2,519. Pierce County: Bay, 4,000; Bradley, 1,500; Clear, 3,000; Jackson, 550; Tanwax, 1,500; Wapato, 2,000; American, 350; Crescent, 1,600; Rapjohn, 2,000. Snohomish County: Flowing, 2,928; Jennings Park Pond, 912. Skagit County: Grandy, 1,680. Thurston County: Hicks, 1,800; Pattison, 4,590; Long, 1,000. Whatcom County: Silver, 1,200. Klickitat County: Horsethief, 2,498; Spearfish, 2017. Whatcom County: Padden, 960; Silver, 2,400. Mason County: Wooten, 1,300; Phillips, 1,000; Tiger, 1,090; Aldrich, 150; Howell, 110; Maggie, 300; Robbins, 250. Kitsap County: Kitsap, 870; Panther, 1,300. Grays Harbor County: Duck, 557; Aberdeen, 1,730; Sylvia, 102; Vance Creek Adult Pond, 97; Vance Creek Juvenile Pond, 103. For more trout plants, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/stocking/trout-plants
Fishing for lingcod and other bottomfish east of Sekiu in Marine Catch Area 4 off Neah Bay has been excellent and other coastal ports like Westport and Ilwaco report similar results on bottomfish when the weather allows them out of port.
The lingcod fishery from Sekiu in the Strait clear into Puget Sound (Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 13 except 12 is closed) is now openthrough June 15. A one-lingcod daily limit, and a minimum size limit of 26 inches and maximum size of 36 inches are some reasons why their head-count have increased in Puget Sound of late.
Halibut fishing is open in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound (Areas 6-10 only) is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through May 22; May 28, 29, and 30; and June 3-26. The western Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area 5) is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through May 22; May 28, 29 and 30; and June 3-26. On the coast Neah Bay/La Push (Areas 3 and 4) is open Thursdays and Saturdays through May 22; May 28 and 30; and June 3-26. Westport (Area 2) is open Thursdays and Sundays through May 23; and May 27 only; and could reopen June 17, 20, 24 and 27 if catch quota remains. Ilwaco (Area 1) is open Thursdays and Sundays through May 23; May 27; and June 3-27. In all marine areas the daily limit is one halibut with no minimum size limit. There is a four halibut annual limit in place.