WDFW establishes Coastal Recreational Crab Unit to improve crab monitoring/management

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced that they have a newly formed Coastal Recreational Crab Monitoring Program tasked with developing enhanced monitoring and field activities for coastal crab spanning from Neah Bay to the Columbia River, including Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. 

The team is based in the Montesano Region 6 office and the Willapa Bay Field Station in Ocean Park.

WDFW’s new program will support data collection that ensures the sustainable management of the fishery.

WDFW says that historical catch records going back to the 1950s show average coastal commercial Dungeness crab landings of more than 10 million pounds.

The recreational crab sampling team began collecting data on crab catch and fishing effort this summer by sampling coastal crabbing access sites, boat launches, beaches, docks, and piers. Samplers will be gathering biological information about crabs caught, including size and sex, as well as statistical information from recreational crabbers through a series of interview questions. 

WDFW asks the public for their assistance when encountering a crab sampler, as the information collected is essential for the successful management of the coastal crab fishery.

The goal of this program is to estimate crabbing effort and harvest along the Washington coast. 

Crabbing Opportunities

Recreational crabbing on the coast with crab pots is open from Dec. 1 through Sept. 15 — except for in Willapa Bay, which is open Nov. 15 through Sept. 15. Using all other crab gear aside from pots along the entire coast is open year-round.

The Westport public fishing pier, at float 20 in the marina and floats 17 to 21 by the boat launch, have limited access for crabbing. The Westport jetty and surrounding shorelines are other locations when the water’s not too rough.

Heading south, the Tokeland public fishing dock is another option to catch crab.

Both the Tokeland and Westport marinas do not allow crabbing after sunset. Crabbers also need to remove gear overnight at Westport and Tokeland. At Tokeland, crabbing is allowed on the other floats, provided you’re not impeding on boats.

The Port of Peninsula marina in Nahcotta is located on the Long Beach Peninsula just north of the Willapa Bay Field Station. The catch around the dock is primarily red rock crab.

On the southern coast, there are a few options at Cape Disappointment State Park near Ilwaco including the north jetty, and the Cape Disappointment State Park boat launch dock and retaining wall.

Those crabbing from a boat can try the protected waters of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay or around the Columbia River mouth and the northern tip of the coast. If you plan to crab out in the ocean, please use extreme caution and watch the weather report.