OLYMPIA – Recreational halibut fishing off the coast of Neah Bay and La Push will be limited to three days per week when the season opens there May 9, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
The popular sport fishery in marine areas 3 and 4 will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until the catch reaches the first of two quotas, as prescribed in the catch-sharing plan adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).
The new fishing schedule for those areas marks a change from previous years, when the north coast was open to fishing five days per week, said Michele Culver, WDFW halibut fisheries manager.
“Our goal for the north coast is to slow the pace of the fishery and spread out the fishing opportunity so more individual anglers can participate,” Culver said. “Last year, the initial quota was gone seven days after the season opened.”
This year’s initial recreational quota for the north coast is 85,856 pounds, compared to 83,115 pounds last year. Another 33,388 pounds is reserved for a late season scheduled June 22 and 24, with the possibility of additional fishing days if the quota for the north coast is still not met.
In other marine waters, halibut seasons for 2006 will be similar to last year’s, although most areas of Puget Sound will open five days earlier this year, Culver said.
Marine areas 6-11 and 13 in Puget Sound will be open from April 9 through June 18, five days per week, Thursday through Monday, Culver said. Last year’s fishery in those areas started April 14.
“We had one group of anglers pushing for an April 1 start and another that wanted more fishing time in June,” she said. “As a compromise, we settled on April 9 as the opening date this year.”
Recreational halibut seasons in other areas are as follows:
- Western Strait of Juan de Fuca: The fishery will run from May 25 through Aug. 5, Thursday through Monday, in Marine Area 5 off Sekiu.
- South coast: The fishery in Marine Area 2 (Westport) will run five days a week, Sunday through Thursday, from May 1 until the quota is reached. During that time, fishing will be open seven days a week in the special nearshore area south of the Queets River.
- Columbia River area: The season in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will open May 1 and run seven days per week until July 16 or until the quota is taken, whichever comes first. If the quota is not taken, the season will reopen in August on a Friday-through-Sunday basis. Anglers fishing in this area cannot retain bottomfish, except sablefish and Pacific cod, if they have a halibut onboard.
As in recent years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed to fishing for halibut and a number of other species due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.
Culver noted that fishing seasons for all areas of Puget Sound and the Pacific coast were designed around halibut quotas established by the PFMC for the West Coast. Under the PFMC’s catch-sharing plan, Washington anglers will be allowed to catch 262,973 pounds of halibut compared to 242,579 pounds last year.
In addition to the 85,856 pounds allocated to the north coast, the plan provides 68,607 pounds for sport fisheries in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 53,952 pounds for the south coast and 21,170 pounds for the Columbia River area.
There is no minimum size limit for halibut in Marine Areas 1-13, which includes all waters from the Columbia River through Puget Sound. All regions have a one-fish daily bag limit and two-halibut possession limit, regardless of whether those fish are fresh or frozen.
As in previous years, a portion of the coast off La Push will be closed to fishing for halibut and bottomfish to reduce the likelihood that halibut anglers will unintentionally catch yelloweye rockfish, which are the focus of a long-term rebuilding plan. Coordinates for the conservation zone will be published in the 2006-07 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet.
Culver advised anglers that new yelloweye protection measures also will be in effect this year that restrict retention and possession of rockfish and lingcod in deep coastal waters. From March 18 through June 15, it will be unlawful to have rockfish or lingcod on board a vessel seaward of a line approximating 30 fathoms in Marine Area 2. A similar restriction will be in effect from May 22 through Sept. 30 in waters deeper than 20 fathoms in marine areas 3 and 4.
Anglers can still retain halibut caught in deeper waters, but must release any rockfish or lingcod they encounter during those periods, Culver said.
“Last year, the Washington sport fishery exceeded its harvest target for yelloweye rockfish, despite the various protective measures in effect,” she said. “The target is the same this year, so we’re hoping the new restrictions help reduce impacts on these depleted stocks.”
Culver recommends that anglers check the WDFW website or Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500) for the latest sport fishing rules before going fishing.