Each May, Hood Canal becomes one of the most sought after destinations for shrimping in America. For just four days, the fjord of Washington State transforms into a hotbed of shrimping action, seeing hundreds of boats descend on the deep waters with hopes of catching their limit of one of the rarest delicacies in our area. Starting on May 6, 2017, the season for spot shrimp kicks off, reminding everyone that spring is here and warm weather traditions are starting up. If you haven’t tasted a spot shrimp or haven’t yet caught your own, make 2017 your year to experience this awesome tradition.
This year, the spot shrimp season will be open for just sixteen hours spread over four days. The season is open May 6, 10, 17 and 20, with shrimping only allowed from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. That means, if you are interested in catching and tasting the deliciousness found in Hood Canal, you need to act fast and be ready.
During the May shrimping season, a daily limit of only 80 shrimp is allowed, a small amount compared to the season lasting from June to October 15 boasting a limit of 10 pounds a day. However, even that season still limits you to 80 of the sought after spot shrimp. For more information on daily limits and rules on shrimping season, check out the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.
The shrimping season is when the towns along Hood Canal start to wake up from the gray and dark winter months. For the small towns around the Hood Canal, the shrimping season is a huge boost to business, stimulating the local economy after months of limited tourism. It is also an opportunity for residents and visitors to celebrate the return of warmer weather to the region and is the unofficial start to the tourist season.
Because of the great management by both the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Skokomish Tribe, fishing and shrimping is a stable source of revenue and interest in the region, year after year. The spot shrimp season also ensures folks who visit the region can eat some incredible self-caught seafood at home after a fun day beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains.
Chris Eardley, a shellfish biologist with the Skokomish Tribe, explained the importance of spot shrimp to the region: “The Tribe traditionally (and today) followed resources around the Canal throughout the year, harvesting whatever was in season,” said Eardley. “Shrimp have always been, and remain, an important ceremonial and subsistence item, once caught with weaved cedar traps, and popular potlatch fare. They continue to be the seasonal centerpiece of special gatherings and family affairs and when shrimp season approaches, there is a tangible buzz in the air.”
The buzz is evident from the road on spot shrimping days, when hundreds of vehicles pulling boats line up at local marinas. For most, the most popular and convenient destination to launch your boat is at the Skokomish Tribe’s Boat Launch near Potlatch. During the days when shrimping is allowed, the lineup to get boats into the water begins extremely early, causing backups along Highway 101. If you use this launch, be prepared to show up early and to pay the small usage fee. Keep in mind that on your return, the local crows and gulls can be messy and will come after your catch if you don’t have it contained. As always, make sure you treat the boat launch and parking area with respect, as you are a guest of the Skokomish Tribe.
If the Skokomish Tribe’s boat launch area is too full, another great way place to launch your boat is from the east side of Hood Canal, along State Route 106, east of Highway 101. Near the small town of Union, the boat ramp at Hood Canal Marina is where many shrimpers start their day before reaching their secret shrimping destinations on Hood Canal. This region can also get quite backed up with traffic on the four spot shrimping days, so show up early to guarantee yourself a chance of getting into the water during the four-hour shrimping time limit. More Hood Canal boat launches can be found here.
To get a jump start on other shrimpers, book a room or campsite on the canal to ensure you are at the launch bright and early. The Waterfront at Potlatch gets you just about as close the ramp as possible and offers standard rooms, cabins and RV sites. Just up the road from Hoodsport and on the shores of Lake Cushman you can camp in style at Skokomish Park. With a wide variety of amenities and lake access, you can be on saltwater in the morning and fresh water in the afternoon.
Shrimp can be caught throughout Hood Canal during the shrimping season, but those in the know will tell you that the best place to get your limit of spot shrimp is to head to the deeper sections of Hood Canal. Spot shrimp tend to enjoy the depths between 125 – 200 feet deep, giving you a good idea of where to set up your pots.
Here, in the beauty of Hood Canal, drop your pots and wait to see if you will be lucky enough to feast on this unique and delicious delicacy, found right in our backyard waterway.