OUTDOORS: All you need to know about shrimp

ALL SEVEN SHRIMP species commonly harvested by sport shrimpers typically undergo a sex change in their life cycles at the bottom of the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Shrimp in the family Pandalidae have a unique reproductive cycle, maturing first as males, then changing sex in later years to reproduce as females.

File this under things you learn when you speak to a shellfish biologist. More on this trivial, but crucial tidbit later.

Recreational shrimping will open Saturday, May 5 in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca under seasons announced this week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Recreational shrimp season opening days and seasons for the North Olympic Peninsula are:

Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait, excluding the Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 5. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

Marine Area 6 (Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 5, 9, 12 and 23.

Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet): Open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on May 5, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 9.

Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal Shrimp District): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 5, 9, 12 and 23.

Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days.

Similar to 2017

This year’s Puget Sound shrimp fishing seasons are generally similar to those in 2017, said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for the state, noting that he expects a strong turnout by shrimpers, especially on opening day.

“Because this is such a popular fishery, boat ramps can get pretty crowded on the opener,” he said. “As always, we ask that people be patient at the ramps and wait their turn.”

Thankfully, the 2018 shrimp and halibut season openers don’t overlap as has been the case recently, and which further compounded frustrations at boat launches.

In all areas of Puget Sound, anglers are limited to 80 shrimp a day (if open) during the month of May. A valid 2018-19 combination license, shellfish license, or Fish Washington license is required to participate in the fishery.

More information on sport shrimp seasons, and a description of the marine areas, is available on WDFW’s recreational shrimp fishing website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/.

Though the season opens May 5 for all shrimp (spot, pink and coonstripe shrimp), people are mostly fishing for spot shrimp. Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length.

O’Toole said shrimpers should be aware that traps can only be set or pulled from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset each day in areas 4, 5, and 6 (except for the Discovery Bay Shrimp District), as well as marine areas 7 East, South and West. On opening day May 5, one hour before sunrise is approximately 4:40 a.m.

Another Fish and Wildlife shellfish biologist, Don Velasquez, answered some shrimping-related questions Wednesday afternoon.

I wanted to know what was taken into account when setting the shrimping schedule.

“A little bit of it is tides and currents in particular areas,” Velasquez said. “For instance if we have a four, six, or eight-hour fishery, we try to select times where people can get out there in daylight and not let extreme currents affect the catch.

“If you schedule an opening at the wrong tidal exchange this can result in a great loss of gear.”

Shrimp populations and the amount of shrimp to be shared between tribal/commercial and recreational shrimpers also is taken into account.

And some more populated areas have seen rises in the number of shrimpers.

“Particularly in the four-hour shrimping windows in central and south Puget Sound, you have so many people show up and catch rates are so good that the target number of harvestable shrimp is reached much more quickly than you would see in the past,” Velasquez said.

Test fisheries, similar to the initial fisheries conducted for Dungeness crab, are held in advance to provide catch data.

“We test fish these areas with strings of five pots on ground lines,” Velasquez said. “We have a standard protocol for weighing the catch from each pot and we have a breakdown to characterize females, males and transitionals, because the shrimp all start out as males and as they mature they switch to females later in their growth phase in this family of shrimp.”

Velasquez said the timing of this change in the growth cycle can provide an insight to whether or not a shrimp population is healthy or stressed from factors such as fishing pressure or high natural mortality.

“A sign of stress in a population of shrimp can be a gradual change to switching to females at a smaller size,” Velasquez said. “Thankfully, we haven’t seen that in our shrimp population.

Velasquez said this is likely a reproductive strategy that can help ensure an adequate supply of egg-producing females each year.

Shrimping techniques

Techniques for shrimping will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the East Jefferson Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers.

The group meets in the Port of Port Townsend Commissioners office, 333 Benedict St., in Port Townsend.

A social half-hour will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the business meeting at 7 p.m.

Tuesday’s agenda includes the election of officers and shrimping discussion.

Refreshments will be served and the public is invited.

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