Recreational crabbing is one of the most popular summer activities in Puget Sound. The season is now open to just about everyone in the area except the San Juan Islands, Bellingham and the Gulf of Georgia, which come later in the summer to protect molting crab.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say test fisheries indicate that Dungeness crab remains abundant throughout most of Puget Sound although much of the catch south of Seattle this year will be red rock crab.

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Whether you're new to the area or think you're an old pro, there are good tips for everyone to follow for a successful season.

Getting started

Get your license. Not only do you have to carry a fishing license, but you must also get a crab endorsement on your license plus carry and complete a catch record card to account for the Dungeness crab you harvest. Failing to return a catch card, which you can also do online, will result in a $10 fine.

FAQs on Recreational Crab Fishing

Getting a crab pot

A crab pot is the most commonly used gear to catch Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. You can buy or make pots made up of wrapping netting over an iron frame. They must have one or two funnel-shaped openings for crabs to enter. All crab pots must be equipped with a biodegradable escapement device as well. Cord used must be untreated 100% cotton or other natural fiber. You must also attach red and white marker buoys to the pot. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a great video you can watch on how to to get started.

Keeping your catch

Only male Dungeness crab that are 6 1/4 inches or larger can be harvested. That helps protect the egg-bearing females. You can keep five male crabs per license each day for Dungeness. You can keep six per license of either sex for red rock crabs.

Cleaning and eating crab

There are lots of ways to clean and eat crab but here's a good guide. Seattle chef Becky Selengut made this video to show you to humanely kill, cook and crack a Dungeness crab.

Selengut also has recipes on her YouTube channel.

Another cooking resource is Cynthia Nims, the author of CRAB: 50 recipes with the fresh taste of the sea, which is currently available on Amazon.

Nims shared this recipe from her book with KING 5:

Green Goddess Crab and Watercress Sandwich

Makes 4 servings


Crab, any cooked crabmeat, flake ideal

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 green onions, minced

2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces crabmeat

8 slices white bread

2 ounces watercress, rinsed, dried and tough stems removed

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, green onion, anchovy, parsley, chives, vinegar, and tarragon with pepper to taste. Stir to evenly mix, and refrigerate for at least 1-hour to allow the flavors to blend. (The mixture can be made up to 1 day in advance.)

Pick over the crabmeat to remove any bits of shell or cartilage. If using king or snow crab leg meat, cut it into small dice. Squeeze the crab gently to remove excess liquid. Add the crab to the mayonnaise mixture, stir with a fork to mix evenly, and then spoon the crab salad in an even layer on 4 of the bread slices. Top the crab with the watercress leaves, followed by the remaining bread slices. Cut each sandwich in half diagonally and serve right away.

Following up

You're not going to know all the rules of the water right away (people still forget you can't go crabbing on Tuesday and Wednesday in Puget Sound) but you need to follow the law in order to avoid fines and to keep our crabbing season successful. We provided the basics but make sure you follow through with more rules and tips from experts and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Happy crabbing!