OLYMPIA - The first phase of recreational halibut fishery off the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula will come to a close at a minute before midnight Saturday, May 17, by which time the initial harvest quota for that area is expected to be taken.
The fishing closure applies to Marine Areas 3 and 4 offshore of La Push and Neah Bay, where the annual fishery got under way May 1.
Buoyed by good weather, high catch rates and high angler participation, harvest levels of the big flatfish are expected to be near the May quota of 82,019 pounds for those areas by the May 17 closure date, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) catch estimates.
"The fishery got off to a very fast start this year," said Phil Anderson, special assistant to the WDFW director. "We want to make sure the May harvest remains within the established quota."
By May 21, WDFW will compile final harvest numbers and determine whether additional fishing days can be provided under this month's quota, Anderson said. Either way, WDFW will reopen the fishery June 18 under a separate 31,896-pound quota for the two areas.
"We've traditionally held a portion of the quota for a time when kids are out of school and families can take a fishing trip together," Anderson said. "With so much interest in halibut fishing, we want to give as many people as possible a chance to participate in the fishery."
The closure announced today by WDFW does not affect other coastal halibut fisheries currently under way off Westport and Ilwaco, which have their own quotas. Also not affected are halibut fisheries now open in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. For the latest information on halibut fisheries, anglers can check the department's website or call the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500).