Essential Guidelines for Shellfish Gear Usage

Versatile Harvesting Methods

Crab, shrimp, and crawfish harvesting can be executed through various means, including pots, manual collection, or dipnets. However, it's crucial to note that hand-operated instruments should refrain from penetrating the shell to maintain ethical standards and preserve shellfish populations. Specific regulations regarding pot usage also apply, warranting attention.

Unit of Gear Definition

Understanding the concept of a unit of gear is pivotal. Each of the following constitutes one unit of gear: one star trap, one ring net, one castable snare, or one pot. Abiding by the maximum allowable number of units per person is imperative to prevent overfishing and ensure sustainable practices.

Regional Gear Limits

Different regions impose specific limitations on the number of units of gear permitted per individual:

  • Puget Sound: Two pots for shrimp per person, with a maximum of four shrimp pots allowed onboard or fished from a single boat. For crab, two units of gear per person are allowed, with no restrictions on the number of units per boat.

  • Coastal Waters: Individuals can utilize two units of crab and/or shrimp gear per person. An exception is made for the Columbia River, where three units of crab gear per person are allowed.

  • Freshwater: Five units of gear per person are permitted for crawfish harvesting.

Mandatory Buoy Identification

Every unattended shellfish pot, ring net, or star trap in Washington waters must have its own buoy line, distinctly marked with the owner's first name, last name, and permanent address. Failure to comply with buoy marking regulations is unlawful and may result in penalties.

Gear Retrieval Restrictions

Shellfish gear retrieval from vessels in Marine Areas 1-13 is prohibited from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. Additionally, all gear must be removed from the water on closed days to uphold regulatory compliance.

Buoy Construction Standards

Buoys must be constructed from durable materials and must not utilize containers such as bleach or paint cans. Proper buoy visibility is essential, requiring adequate weighting of buoy lines to prevent floating during extreme tidal conditions.

Escape Cord Requirements

All crab, shrimp, and crawfish pots must be equipped with a biodegradable escape cord to facilitate the release of trapped marine life if the pot is lost. The cord must meet specific criteria in terms of material and size to ensure effectiveness.

Gear Specifications

Various specifications apply to crab and shrimp gear, including mesh size requirements, pot dimensions, and buoy color standards. Adherence to these specifications is crucial for compliance with regulatory mandates.

Protocol for Lost Gear

In the event of lost shellfish gear, it is imperative to follow the appropriate protocol. Permission from the WDFW Enforcement Program is necessary before attempting retrieval. Reporting lost gear via the Online Reporting Tool or contacting WDFW facilitates recovery efforts and potential gear return.

Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.