February 12, 2008
Contact: Heather Reed, (360) 249-4628, ext. 202
Sport halibut season similar to last year,
but with a slightly lower quota
OLYMPIA - Sportfishing for halibut will open April 10 in most areas of Puget Sound, followed by additional openings in May on the coast and the western Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Although the 2008 halibut season is similar to last year, sport anglers will be allowed to catch less halibut than in 2007, said Michele Culver, regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Fishing seasons are based on a stock assessment and quotas established for the Pacific coast by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Coastal halibut fisheries are managed on a quota basis, and fisheries remain open until a particular sub-area’s quota is reached.
This year’s quota for Washington, Oregon and California is 1.22 million pounds compared to the 1.34 million-pound quota in 2007. In Washington, sport anglers will be allowed to catch 232,807 pounds of halibut compared to 253,046 pounds last year.
Although quotas are lower than last year, they remain near historic high levels, Culver said.
"The commission decided to reduce the overall catch quota from 2007 levels because the stock assessment showed a lower abundance of fish this year," Culver said.
"However, the stock is considered to be healthy and modest increases in the quota are expected in the future."
All areas open to fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, she said.
Most seasons for specific areas are similar to last year’s, although fishing off the coast of Westport (Marine Area 2) will be limited to two days a week.
Culver said the new fishing schedule for Marine Area 2 was based on a request from the recreational fishing community and marks a change from previous years, when the south coast was open to fishing five days a week.
"Last year the catch and effort was record-high off Westport, where the quota was reached in just six days," Culver said. "Anglers wanted to stretch the season as late into May as possible."
After the initial opening day on Thursday, May 1, the popular sport fishery in Marine Area 2 will be open Sundays and Tuesdays until the catch quota is reached.
Recreational halibut seasons for all marine areas are as follows:
Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) remains closed to fishing for halibut and a number of other species due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.
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.
For additional information, call the Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500 or check the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut/.
- Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will be open May 1, seven days a week until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 20. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 1 and continue three days a week (Friday-Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The annual catch quota is 18,762 pounds.
- South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, and then continue two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays until the quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The northern nearshore area will be open on Fridays and Saturdays in addition to the days that the offshore area is open, until the quota is reached. The annual catch quota is 44,700 pounds.
- North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will be open starting May 13 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until the quota is reached. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen on June 17 and 19 (Tuesday and Thursday) in Area 4B and shoreward of a line approximating 30 fm from the Bonilla-Tatoosh line south to the Queets River. All recreational fishing in Marine Areas 3 and 4 outside of these areas will be closed on those dates. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen in all areas of Marine Areas 3 and 4 on Saturday, June 21. The annual catch quota is 109,991 pounds.
- Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 22 through July 21. Marine areas 6-11 and 13 (Port Angeles and Puget Sound) will be open April 10 through June 13. These fisheries will be open five days a week, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The annual combined catch quota for these areas is 59.354 pounds.