Recreational crab season almost here!While many of you are "champing at the bit" and salivating for your favorite Dungeness crab dishes, remember it is illegal to keep soft-shell crab (underside of the shell flexes with finger pressure, see page 126, WDFW pamphlet).

Some points to remember that may keep you out of trouble:

Columbia River - Crab fishers may fish for crab in Oregon waters under Oregon rules and land into Washington ports on the Columbia River. (Buoy 10 line separates river from ocean.)

In the Columbia (Buoy 10 Area), you may use three pots or rings per person. Size limit is five and three-quarter inches, bag limit is 12 Dungeness crab.

Around the corner from A-jetty and under the lighthouse, the season for pots is Dec. 1- Sept. 15, open year round for other gear. The size requirement is 6 inches across the back and a limit of six crabs per person.

In Oregon marine waters the ocean is closed for Dungeness crab Aug. 15-Nov.30.

The Dungeness crab is named after one of its representative habitats - a sandy, shallow bay inside of the Dungeness Spit on the south shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Dungeness crabs mate from spring through the fall. Male crabs mate only with female crabs that have just molted. Sexual maturity can be reached at the age of 3 years and at 4 to 5 years a crab will grow to be five and a half to six and a half inches. Their total life span is estimated to be 8 and 13 years.

Dungeness crabs are usually boiled in water, with salt and other additives for about 20 minutes. As a cautionary note, paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) has been found in the internal organs of Dungeness crab. Therefore, do not eat internal organs including the "crab butter."

Having Dungeness crab so readily accessible is one of the joys of living on the Peninsula, so enjoy the season.

In defense of salmon and other thingsWell, it looks like our local "world critic," the author of Nature Notes, the jack of all trades and master of none, is back at bashing wildlife biologists, local police, WDFW Enforcement, commercial and recreational fishermen and the current federal administration in last week's article titled "In defense of fish eaters."

To put things in prospective, the WDFW supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers efforts to reduce Caspian tern predation on Columbia River salmon smolts. The Caspian tern population colony on Rice Island and Sand Island is the largest of its kind in North America.

Since 1986 the colony has increased by over 600 percent to a total of 8,100 breeding pairs in 1999 and 400 percent since then.

The birds nest and rear their young from April through July, which is also the peak migration period for juvenile salmon, some of which are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Research has shown that these birds rely on salmon smolts for 77 percent of their diet during that period, consuming approximately 12 million of the 100 million out migrating smolts that reached the Columbia River estuary in 1997. At that rate, the study estimates that in 1999 the terns consumed 647,000 smolts listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The double crested-cormorant population, aided by the banning of DDT, other pest regulations and the fact that it was added to the Migratory Bird Act (1972), have increased dramatically since 1980. Studies done by the University of Minnesota for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have proven that in highly localized situations the birds have significant impacts on sport fish (fry/smolt) populations, which are concerated in extremely high densities in the Lower Columbia River.

Bald eagles eat tons of salmon, 99 percent of them dead or floaters after they have spawned out, so let's not get carried away!

In a study conducted in 2001, it was determined that protected seals and sea lions (whose numbers have boomed since being placed on the Endangered List) consume 6 million salmon a year off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts.

Seems that "Sparky" does not want to protect the very species of fish that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Maybe if he will admit to being a "fish eater," we can have him added to "Bushco's" Depredation List?

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