OLYMPIA — Sportfishing for halibut will open April 9 in most areas of Puget Sound, followed by additional openings in May on the coast and the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, under seasons adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Fishing seasons and catch quotas will be similar to last year’s, although the boundaries for the late-season fishery off the north coast have been narrowed in an effort to give anglers more days on the water, said Michele Culver, regional director for the coastal area.
Culver noted that last year’s June fishery on the north coast ended after two days, even though the harvest was 13,000 pounds short of the area’s catch quota.
“The problem last year was that we had some additional poundage, but we knew from experience that even a single day’s harvest would far exceed that amount,” she said. “By limiting the fishing area and reducing fishing pressure in the late season, we hope to give anglers greater access to the available quota.”
Under this year’s rules, fishing scheduled June 19 and 21 will be limited to Marine Area 4B, which includes the area just inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the nearshore area along the coast. Fishing must take place within a 30-fathom depth contour and cannot occur seaward of that line, Culver said.
Coordinates will be published in the 2007-08 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet, and are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut/.
If the quota isn’t reached on those two days, the fishery will reopen in all waters of marine areas 3 and 4 on June 23, with the possibility of more days added.
Washington’s halibut-fishing seasons are based on catch quotas established by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Under that plan, sports anglers will be allowed to catch 253,046 pounds in 2007, compared to 262,973 pounds last year.
This year’s quota for the popular north coast fishery in marine areas 3 and 4 near Neah Bay and La Push is 116,199 pounds, with 83,663 pounds allocated for May, and 32,536 pounds set aside for the June fishery.
The north coast will be open starting May 15 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays until the May portion of the quota is reached. The fishery in that area will then reopen on selected dates in June within the new boundaries.
In other areas, the harvest plan allocates 65,562 pounds for sport fisheries in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, 50,907 pounds for the south coast and 20,378 pounds for the Columbia River area. Fishing seasons for those areas are as follows:
- Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6-11 and 13 (Port Angeles and Puget Sound) will be open April 9 through June 16. Marine Area 5 (Seiku) will be open May 24 through Aug. 3. These fisheries will be open five days a week, Thursday through Monday.
- South coast: Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) will be open May 1, five days a week, Sunday through Thursday, until 95 percent of the quota is reached. During this time, fishing will be open seven days a week in the northern nearshore area south of the Queets River. Once the catch reaches 95 percent of the quota, the nearshore area will reopen Fridays and Saturdays until the remaining quota is taken – or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.
- Columbia River area: Marine Area 1(Ilwaco) will be open May 1, seven days a week until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 15, whichever comes first. The fishery will reopen on Aug. 3 and continue three days a week, Friday through Sunday, until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever comes first.
Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will be closed to fishing for halibut and a number of other species due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.
All areas open to fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit and two-halibut possession limit, regardless of whether those fish are fresh or frozen. There is no minimum size limit for halibut caught in any area.
As in previous years, a portion of the coast between La Push and Neah Bay will be closed to fishing for halibut and bottomfish to reduce the chance that anglers will unintentionally catch yelloweye rockfish. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited.
In other coastal waters, anglers can retain halibut, but retention of bottomfish is subject to the following restrictions:
- From March 17 through June 15 in Marine Area 2, recreational fishing for rockfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms.
- From May 21 through Sept. 30 in marine areas 3 and 4, recreational fishing for rockfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 20 fathoms, except on days the halibut fishery is open.
- From May 1 through Sept. 30, in Marine Area 1, rockfish and lingcod are not allowed on board any vessel with halibut on board.
For additional information, call the Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500 or check the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut/).