OLYMPIA – The recreational halibut fishery off the coast of Neah Bay and La Push will close at the end of the day May 18 after just five days of fishing, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Fishery managers estimate that anglers will have hauled in their initial 85,856-pound quota of halibut by the time the fishery ends off the north coast in marine areas 3 and 4.
“That’s a new record,” said Phil Anderson, a special assistant to WDFW director Jeff Koenings. “Last year, it took anglers seven days to catch a similar-sized quota.”
North coast anglers will get at least one more day of fishing on June 22, because a portion of the area’s quota is set aside for a second opening. An extra day or two may also be possible, depending on the final catch estimate from this month, Anderson said.
Weighing an average of 31 pounds, halibut caught off the north coast were about 5 pounds heavier than last year, hastening progress toward the poundage-based quota, Anderson said.
But the primary factor for this year’s accelerated harvest has been the record number of anglers participating in the fishery, he said.
“We counted nearly 1,500 anglers on the water the one Saturday the fishery was open,” Anderson said. “With that kind of fishing pressure and large fish, the quota goes pretty quick.”
The north coast isn’t the only area to close to halibut fishing in record time this year. As previously announced by WDFW, the halibut fishery off Westport in Marine Area 2 will close at 11: 59 p.m. today (May 17). That fishery has run five days per week since May 1.
Once the north coast fishery closes tomorrow, Marine Area 1 off Ilwaco will be the only ocean area still open for halibut fishing, although most areas of Puget Sound also remain open to angling for the big flatfish.