WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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March 19, 2009
Contact: Heather Reed, (360) 249-1202

Sport halibut season will open
in April with decreased quota

OLYMPIA – Recreational halibut fishing in most areas of Puget Sound will open April 23, two weeks later than last year due to a reduction in catch quotas for 2009.

Anglers also will have fewer days to fish for halibut on the coast, said Michele Culver, regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Fishing seasons set by WDFW are based on a stock assessment and quotas established for the Pacific coast — from Alaska to California —by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

This year’s quota for Washington, Oregon and California is 950,000 pounds, down from 1.22 million pounds in 2008. In Washington, sport anglers will be allowed to catch 214,110 pounds of halibut compared to 232,807 pounds last year.

In anticipation of the lower quotas and to better notify anglers about in-season closures and re-openings, WDFW worked with fishing community representatives to modify the season structure for the coastal areas, Culver said.

For instance, halibut anglers in the north coast subarea (marine areas 3 and 4) requested a reduction in the days of the week to stretch out the season, Culver said. In 2008, the fishery was open three days a week, but closed after two weeks because anglers reached the quota. This year, the fishery will be open two days a week, Thursdays and Saturdays, starting May 14.

The popular sport fishery off Westport (Marine Area 2) will be open Sundays and Tuesdays for the first two weeks in May, but will switch to Sundays only starting May 17. The Columbia River (Marine Area 1) will open May 1, three days a week, Thursdays through Saturdays only.

In Puget Sound, the quota reduction, combined with a higher catch rate in 2008, will result in a shorter season this year, Culver said.

“Last year’s Puget Sound halibut catch was the highest in 10 years and exceeded the quota, which we don’t want to repeat this year,” she said.

WDFW estimates show that Puget Sound anglers caught more than 80,000 pounds of halibut during 2008, which exceeded the 59,354-pound quota.

All areas open to fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, and a possession limit of two fish in any form. In Marine Areas 1-4, the seasons will continue until the subarea quotas are reached.

Recreational halibut seasons for Washington’s marine areas are:

  • Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 1, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 7 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept.30, whichever occurs first. The 2009 catch quota is 15,735 pounds.

  • South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 3, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays, through May 12. Starting May 17, the fishery will be open on Sundays only until the quota is reached. 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 2009 catch quota is 42,739 pounds.

  • North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 14, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 23. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 4 and 6. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 18. The fishery will continue to be open as a priority in the offshore area. However, if there is insufficient quota to open the fishery for one more day in the offshore area, the fishery will be open in the nearshore area only (Area 4B and shoreward of a line approximating 30 fathoms from the Bonilla-Tatoosh line south to the Queets River). The 2009 catch quota is 108,030 pounds.

  • Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 21 through July 3. Marine areas 6-11 and 13 (Port Angeles and Puget Sound) will be open April 23 through June 5. These fisheries will be open five days a week, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The 2009 combined catch quota for these areas is 57,393 pounds.

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, certain areas in marine areas 2, 3 and 4 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 all coastal marine areas.

For additional information, call the Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500 or check the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut/.