OLYMPIA - Sport halibut fishers in Washington will be allowed to catch more of the big flatfish in 2003 than in 2002, while an expanded rockfish conservation closure zone puts a bigger portion of Pacific coast waters off-limits to fishing, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The International Pacific Halibut Commission has set the overall Pacific coast halibut quota at 1.31 million pounds, the same amount as last year. Washington's sport anglers will see a slight increase in the amount of halibut they will be allowed to catch - 237,739 pounds this year, up from 219,350 pounds in 2002.
Coastal halibut fisheries are managed on a quota basis, and fisheries remain open until a particular region's quota has been achieved. Recreational sub-area quotas are 63,278 pounds for Puget Sound, 113,915 pounds for Neah Bay / LaPush, 48,623 pounds for Westport and 11,923 pounds for the Columbia River.
A yelloweye rockfish conservation closure is again in effect for a portion of the Pacific coast off LaPush. The closure is intended to reduce the likelihood that halibut anglers will unintentionally catch yelloweye rockfish, which federal fisheries managers have designated as "depleted" and are under a rebuilding plan.
Like last year, WDFW will stagger seasons in two regions of Puget Sound. The fishery east of Low Point opens May 8 and continues through July 18. The fishery is open five days a week, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The fishery west of Low Point opens May 22 and continues through Aug. 1, five days a week, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Neah Bay/LaPush fishery opens May 1, five days a week, closed Sundays and Mondays, and continues until a sub-quota of 82,019 pounds is projected to have been taken. The fishery will reopen June 18, five days per week, closed Sunday and Monday, and will continue until the remaining quota is taken.
The Westport fishery opens May 1 and continues until the quota is reached. The offshore fishery will be open five days a week, closed Fridays and Saturdays. A nearshore fishery in the area from the Queets River south to 47E00'00" N latitude and east of 124E40'00" W longitude will be open seven days per week.
There is no minimum size limit for halibut in Marine Areas 2-13, which includes all marine waters from Westport through Puget Sound. All regions have a one-fish daily limit.
The Columbia River fishery opens May 1 and will continue seven days a week until the quota is reached. There is a minimum size limit of 32 inches in Marine Area 1.
Phil Anderson, WDFW Special Assistant to the Director, said department staff will again sample and monitor the coastal recreational halibut fisheries to ensure sub-area quotas are not exceeded.
"We will also sample the Puget Sound halibut fishery as much as possible this summer, and will again conduct a post-season enhanced telephone survey to develop a catch estimate," Anderson said.
The area closed to recreational halibut and groundfish fisheries includes the northern portion of the "halibut hotspot" off LaPush. The closed area is defined by the following coordinates:
- 48°18'00" N latitude; 125°18'00" W longitude; then east to
- 48°18'00" N latitude; 124°59'00" W longitude; then south to
- 48°11'00" N latitude; 124°59'00" W longitude; then west to
- 48°11'00" N latitude; 125°11'00" W longitude; then south to
- 48°04'00" N latitude; 125°11'00" W longitude; then east to
- 48°04'00" N latitude; 124°59'00" W longitude; then south to
- 48°00'00" N latitude; 124°59'00" W longitude; then west to
- 48°00'00" N latitude; 125°18'00" W longitude; then north to 1st coordinate.