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Originally published March 23, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Page modified March 23, 2013 at 11:43 PM

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Sport anglers have more chances at spot shrimp

When the beloved spot shrimp fishery opens May 4, anglers will have more time to pursue these prized deep-dwelling denizens.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Reel Time Northwest

Seattle native and lifelong angler Mark Yuasa blogs on fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

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When the beloved spot shrimp fishery opens May 4, anglers will have more time to pursue these prized deep-dwelling denizens.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission voted in December on a Puget Sound shrimp policy that provides 70 percent of the catch share to sport anglers and 30 percent to nontribal commercial fishermen. In past years, the quota was split evenly between both parties.

"The policy change clearly affects places like the San Juan Islands, which will get many more days of fishing (32 days compared to six last season)," said Mark O'Toole, a state Fish and Wildlife shellfish manager. "In most other areas it might be just an extra day or two."

Hood Canal (Marine Catch Area 12) is open May 4, 8, 15, 18 and 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Discovery Bay (6) is open May 4, 8, 15, 18 and 22 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh boundary line, Sekiu, Port Angeles (excluding Discovery Bay) and southern Puget Sound (4, 5, 6 and 13) will be open daily starting May 4 at 7 a.m. The season will close when quota is achieved or Sept. 15, whichever comes first. The exception is southern Puget Sound, which closes May 31.

San Juan Island east and south sections (7) will be open at 7 a.m. May 4, and then reopens May 8-11, May 15-18 and May 29-June 1.

The San Juan Island western section opens at 7 a.m. May 4, and then goes to a Wednesday to Saturday schedule from May 8 until June 1. Beginning June 1 it will be open Thursday to Saturday each week until the quota is achieved or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

The eastern side of Whidbey Island, Saratoga Pass, and northern, central and south central Puget Sound (8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 11) will be open May 4 and May 8 only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.

"We'll evaluate the fisheries right after May 8 and then make an announcement by May 9 or May 10, and see what areas will reopen for a third day," O'Toole said. "Depending on how much we've got left in the quota will determine if we allow fishing May 18 (which is a Saturday when there is more pressure and catch) or May 22 (when there might be less)."

O'Toole expects Areas 8 and 11 will get an extra day of fishing; Area 10 might have one more day; but it looks doubtful Area 9 will get additional days.

State Fish and Wildlife began test fisheries Tuesday to determine spot shrimp abundance.

Sport catches last season were some of the best seen in years. Much of that was attributed to good weather.

"We'll see how catch rates go this year since we're back to the normal start day of Wednesday," O'Toole said.

Here's how shrimpers fared at the start of last season:

In San Juan Islands (Area 7) an estimated 199 boats May 5 averaged 6.7 pounds per boat; 178 May 11 averaged 12.4; and 265 May 12 averaged 13.8. In Everett/Saratoga Pass (8) 1,373 May 5 averaged 18.6; and 352 May 11 averaged 16.9.

In northern Puget Sound (9) 202 May 5 averaged 19.6; and 181 May 11 averaged 16.7. In central Puget Sound (10) 91 May 5 averaged 20.9; and 93 May 11 averaged 14.7. In Elliott Bay (part of 10) 116 May 5 averaged 19.3; and 83 May 11 averaged 18.3.

In south central Puget Sound (11) 85 May 5 averaged 8.1; and 39 May 11 averaged 8.6. In Hood Canal (12) 1,510 May 5 averaged 17.8; 1,428 May 11 averaged 16.1; and 1,580 May 12 averaged 15.6.

Spot shrimp are the largest-sized shrimp caught along the West Coast, and average 8 to 12 inches long. They are revered for their lobster-like firm texture and sweet taste. When in season they can fetch as much as $15 to $20 per pound (average is 8-12 whole shrimp per pound) at seafood markets.

For fishing details, map areas and rules, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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