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Delaware recreational crabbers reminded of catch regulations, including turtle excluder
Friday, June 7, 2013

The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife would like to remind recreational crabbers to make sure that a turtle by-catch device, also called an excluder, is installed in their crab pots before using them.

State fisheries regulations require use of a turtle by-catch reduction device attached in the funnel entrance of all recreational crab pots. The device is a rigid rectangular frame made of metal or plastic that measures 1.75 inches by 4.75 inches. By-catch devices are available at local tackle shops or may be handmade of heavy wire. (Directions to make a by-catch reduction device are available online at Crab pot excluder .)

“Turtle excluders are required to reduce the possibility of diamondback terrapins entering the pots, getting trapped and drowning, since they need air to breathe,” said Wildlife Biologist Holly Niederriter. “Research shows that use of excluders significantly reduces turtle mortality without adversely affecting the recreational blue crab catch.”

Diamondback terrapins are not federally or state endangered, but they are a species of conservation concern, Niederriter noted. They are an important part of the food chain, serving as a food source for many other species, including gulls, crows, fox, fish and raccoons that eat terrapin eggs or hatchlings.

Since terrapins produce only about 40 eggs per year and do not reach maturity before 8 years of age, females must reproduce for many years to stabilize or increase their population. Although diamondback terrapins are commonly seen in the Delaware Bay and Inland Bays as well as along many brackish rivers, Niederriter said they could become a rare sight if threats are not addressed, including death by drowning in crab pots and habitat loss.

State regulations on crabbing include:

-A Delaware recreational fishing license is required for crabbing.

-Recreational crabbers may not use, place, set or tend more than two crab pots
-Recreational crab pots must be tended by the owner at least once every 72 hours and must be marked with white buoys with the owner’s name and permanent mailing address.

-A turtle by-catch reduction device is required to be attached in the funnel entrance of recreational crab pots to reduce the possibility of diamondback terrapins entering the pots and drowning. The device is a rigid rectangular frame made of metal or plastic that measures 1.75 inches by 4.75 inches. By-catch devices are available at local tackle shops or may be handmade of heavy wire.

-Recreational crabbers may use any number of hand lines, traps or trot lines (no length limit).

-Minimum “keeper” size for male blue crabs and immature female crabs with the V-shaped apron is 5 inches, measured across the shell from point to point.

-Mature female crabs, identified by the U-shaped apron, are exempt from the minimum size of 5 inches because many females reach maturity at a smaller size.

-Mature female blue crabs bearing eggs, known as sponge crabs and recognizable by the orange eggs visible under the apron, may not be taken and must be returned to the water immediately.

-The recreational daily limit on blue crabs is one bushel per person.

Also, recreational anglers who fish, crab or clam in tidal or non-tidal waters statewide must have a valid Delaware fishing license. A resident annual fishing license costs $8.50 for ages 16 through 64. Higher license prices apply to non-resident anglers. Anglers under the age of 16 and residents age 65 and older are not required to purchase fishing licenses in Delaware.

Recreational anglers fishing Delaware waters also are required to obtain a Delaware Fisherman Information Network (F.I.N.) number; this number is generated automatically on all individual fishing licenses sold through Delaware’s electronic licensing systems.

License-exempt anglers, including Delaware residents 65 and older; non-resident boat fishing license holders who do not have an individual license; and individuals fishing on licensed boats who do not have an individual license, must obtain their free F.I.N. number by visiting www.delaware-fin.com or calling 800-432-9228 toll-free.

For more information on crabbing and other fishing information, pick up a copy of the 2013 Delaware Fishing Guide at your local tackle shop or license dealer, or check it out online at www.fw.delaware.gov/fisheries. For more information, call the Fisheries section at 302-739-9914.

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