By Douglas Scott
For four days in May, the waters of the Hood Canal will become the destination for shrimp lovers from around the region. Shrimp season is allowed on Hood Canal between 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on May 2, 9, 11 and 13. Get ready to harvest your limit of delicious spot shrimp.
Chris Eardley, a shellfish biologist with the Skokomish Tribe is excited about this year’s shrimp season. “It is looking to be a strong year. Catch rates in test fisheries are comparable to last year, which was a strong year. Recent years have been very good, with this year shaping up to continue that trend. The shrimp fishery continues to give, with good management, enough shrimp for everyone.”
Spot shrimp are a historical source of food for the Skokomish, as well as the settlers who homesteaded in the region. The spot shrimp are unique to the region, and are some of the most popular shrimp to eat, largely due to the fact that they are sweet in taste and generally don’t need any seasoning to be a tasty treat. Easy to catch and large in size (around nine inches in length), the spot shrimp are usually safe to eat in the protected waters of the Hood Canal.
Shrimping is huge business for the local economy and an opportunity for residents and visitors to celebrate the return of the warm weather to the region. The season opener is held on the same weekend each year and makes for a timeless tradition on Hood Canal. Thanks to the great management, by both the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Skokomish Tribe, fishing and shrimping is stable year after year, ensuring that folks who visit the region can eat some incredible self-caught seafood at home. Shrimp can be caught throughout the canal, but spot shrimp tend to enjoy the deeper waters so set your pots at depths between 125 – 200 feet.
While there may be many places known for getting good shrimp, one of the best bets for easy boat access is the boat launch, owned and operated by the Skokomish Tribe. The Potlatch boat launch is located three miles south of Hoodsport, just north of the Potlatch State Park. The launch is fairly steep, meaning it is usable during most tides.
During opening day on Saturday, the morning tide will be perfect for launching, and the afternoon tide will be great for returning after a successful day catching shrimp. Be aware that the south end of the park is currently under construction while a sockeye hatchery is being built on the premises. Please remember to be respectful to the construction crew and their equipment, as well as making sure all garbage ends up in trash cans. The local crows and gulls can be messy. Also be aware that there will be a small fee to launch.
Shrimping season for the Skokomish is an important event. “For the Tribe, the shrimp season helps kick off a very productive stretch of the year for fishing. It comes shortly after the geoduck opener and before crab and salmon,” explains Eardley. “Many tribal folks look forward to annual gatherings with family to share a shrimp feast and to stock the freezer, and others have regular customers that look forward to buying from the Tribe.”
“The shrimp fishery creates a palpable buzz locally and is a good mix of fun, tradition, and business for the Skokomish Tribe,” adds Eardley.
The Hood Canal shrimp and fishing seasons are also extremely important for the entire region, serving as the official opening for many local businesses that close during the off-season. Considered one of the biggest boating days on Hood Canal, the shrimp season opener brings in plenty of visitors to the area.
“The communities around the Canal seem to ‘wake up’ from a winter slumber the first weekend of May,” Eardley sums up. “Spot shrimp are part of the seafood cornucopia that has sustained the Tribe for generations and remains important today. The Tribe traditionally (and today) followed resources around the Canal throughout the year—harvesting whatever was in season. 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 start of the shrimping season marks the return of outdoor activities in warm weather with long daylight hours, perfect to explore the many wonders and scenic destinations around the canal. Stop by stores, buy some oysters, shrimp and salmon, and reconnect with the wilderness and deliciousness of our corner of the Pacific Northwest.
During the May shrimping season, a daily limit of only 80 shrimp is allowed, a small amount compared to the June to October limit of 10 pounds a day, but still limited to 80 spot shrimp. For more information on daily limits and rules on shrimping season, check out the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.