OLYMPIA – Anglers fishing for halibut will notice a change this year with consistent halibut seasons across all Puget Sound and ocean areas, except marine waters near the mouth the Columbia River.
The scheduled season dates are May 4, 6, 11, 21 and 25, and June 1 and 4, provided there is sufficient quota to accommodate all these fishing days. These dates apply to halibut fishing in Puget Sound marine areas 5-10 and in ocean marine areas 2-4.
Halibut fishing in Marine Area 1 also gets under way May 4, but will be open four days per week (Thursday through Sunday) until the quota has been met.
State halibut seasons are established by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), using catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission for coastal fisheries from California to Alaska.
Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, noted that this year's quota for recreational halibut fisheries in Washington state is 243,667 pounds – an increase of about 23,652 pounds from 2016.
"We expect that the effort to align halibut season dates, together with a higher quota for the state's recreational fisheries, will result in a longer season than what anglers have experienced in past years," Reed said.
Halibut fishing has become an increasingly popular sport in Washington, making it difficult to predict how quickly anglers will reach the harvest limit for any given area, Reed said. The new season structure will help to ensure the state does not exceed federal quotas, with periodic catch assessments in each fishing area, she said.
Anglers should check the WDFW website for the latest information on openings before heading out, she said.
In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and two-fish possession limit in the field, and no minimum size restriction. Anglers must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.
As in past years, Puget Sound marine areas 11, 12 and 13 will remain closed to halibut fishing.
In Marine areas 5 and 6, lingcod and Pacific cod can be retained in waters deeper than 120 feet on days when the recreational halibut fishery is open.
Additional changes in halibut-fishing rules that take effect for specific waters this year include:
- Marine Area 1: Anglers will be allowed to keep a lingcod when halibut are on board during the all-depth fishery, but only when fishing north of the Washington-Oregon border during the month of May. The nearshore area in Marine Area 1 will open three days per week (Monday through Wednesday) beginning May 8 until the nearshore quota is taken. Bottomfish can be retained when halibut are onboard in the nearshore area.
- Marine Area 2 (Westport): Beginning the Saturday after the all-depth fishery closes, the nearshore fishery will open seven days per week until the quota is taken.
- Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line: Bottomfish fishing will be restricted to the area shoreward of 20 fathoms (120 feet) beginning May 1 through Labor Day. Lingcod, sablefish, and Pacific cod can be retained seaward of 20 fathoms (120 feet) on days open to recreational halibut fishing.
Anglers should check the WDFW website for complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/