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Crabbing Opens Saturday June 30th - Please Keep Your Crab Gear Out Of The Ferry Lanes

Keep crab pots out of ferry lanes

OLYMPIA – Harvesting crab is a Northwest tradition, but improperly set and lost crab pots can mean big trouble for the region's ferry system.

That's why the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington State Ferries (WSF) are joining forces this summer to urge recreational crab fishers to stay out of ferry lanes, docks, and terminals when dropping crab pots.

Several million people are expected to ride a ferry during the busy summer travel season. In 2017, three separate ferries on three different routes were temporarily disabled due to crab lines and pots either placed in the ferry lane or improperly set and swept into the routes. Recreational crab lines tangled in the shafts of the vessels led to both costly repairs and lengthy delays for ferry travelers.

"Crab pots caused the most severe damage to the propulsion system on the Salish ferry last summer," said Greg Faust, director of WSF operations for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). "The loss of this vessel alone resulted in nearly 800 cancelled sailings on the Port Townsend/Coupeville and Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth routes as we shuffled boats around to balance service needs across our system."

Most areas of Puget Sound will open for recreational crab fishing on June 30, although two areas around the San Juan Islands open later in the summer to protect molting crab. WDFW shellfish managers predict crabbing will be good again this year and more people will participate in the season.

"We need crabbers to help prevent conflicts with ferries as they hit the water this year," said WDFW Police Captain Dan Chadwick.

Chadwick recommended several ways for crab fishers to have a successful experience and avoid problems with ferries:

  • Add Weight to Lines – Propellers can sever or wrap up a line floating along the surface. Use sinking lines when possible, and add weight to keep floating lines off the surface.
  • Know Water Depth – The easiest way to lose a pot is to drop one in water deeper than the length of line attached. Use a line that is one-third longer than the water depth to keep pots from floating away.
  • Watch Pots – Stay close to dropped crab pots to ensure all are accounted for at the end of the day.
  • Add Extra Weights to Crab Pots – In many instances, adding just 10 pounds of weight can help recreational crab pots stay put.
  • Use Escape Cord – Biodegradable cotton cord, which is required on all pots, will degrade and allow crabs to escape if a pot is lost.
  • Identify Crab Pots – All recreational crab pot buoys must have the crab fisher's name and address on them, and a phone number is recommended.

Chadwick noted more than 12,000 crab pots are lost each year, with many of these pots continuing to fish killing crabs. Lost crab pots should be reported immediately online at or by calling1-855-542-3935(WDFW). There are no penalties for reporting lost fishing gear.

Recreational crab fishing will be open Thursdays through Mondays each week during the summer. Crabbing is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, which means crabbers should be aware that no sport crab fisheries will be open Wednesday, July 4.

All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days. Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. For more information on crab fishing, see

Any suspected illegal activity should be reported as soon as possible by calling 1-877-933-9847.

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