State announces new bottomfish regulations for 2021 with expanded angling opportunity

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Contact: Heather Hall, Intergovernmental Fisheries Policy Coordinator, 360-902-2487
Public Affairs Contact: Eryn Couch, 360-890-6604

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Marine Area map for the 2021 coastal bottomfish season. 

This news release has been updated to reflect that it is unlawful to retain yelloweye rockfish in any marine area.

OLYMPIA-Fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced a March 13 opener to coastal recreational bottomfish and lingcod fishing with expanded angling opportunities.  

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which sets harvest limits for many bottomfish species in coastal and state waters, set the 2021 allowable harvest target for yelloweye rockfish for Washington’s coast at more than double the 2018 limit, reflecting the yelloweye stock’s progress toward rebuilding. The allowable harvest limit is set to account for mortality of discarded yelloweye.  

“By building on changes that were implemented in 2019 and 2020 we are able to provide more opportunity for anglers in new areas, while continuing to protect yelloweye rockfish populations,” said Heather Hall, WDFW intergovernmental fisheries policy coordinator. 

WDFW considered stakeholder feedback from three 2020 public meetings in drafting its recommendations for this year’s season. Hall noted that this input has been a crucial part of developing bottomfish regulations for the next couple of years. 

Improved health of the yelloweye rockfish stock in this case translates to added opportunity for anglers. For example, the 120 feet (20 fathom) depth restriction in Marine Areas 3 and 4 will only be in place from June 1 through July 31 compared to June 1 through Labor Day last year. In addition, anglers can retain more rockfish species seaward of the 120 feet (20 fathom) depth restriction on days open to the recreational halibut fishery in those areas.  

Similarly, in Marine Area 2, fishery managers will relax depth restrictions and area closures intended to reduce encounters with yelloweye rockfish, allowing more access to deep water areas and more lingcod. Fishery managers also relaxed the deep-water lingcod closure areas in Marine Area 1 and added more rockfish species to the bottomfish that anglers can retain on all-depth halibut days.  

Anglers should check the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations and WDFW’s emergency rules page at fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/ before heading out, and download the Fish Washington mobile app for up-to-date regulations at their destination. Anglers should also be aware of existing conservation areas. See details in the regulations pamphlet on pages 104 and 108. It is unlawful to retain yelloweye rockfish in any marine area. 

Coastal bottomfish season:  

Marine Areas 1 through 4: 

  • Allow five flatfish in excess of the nine fish daily limit in all coastal marine areas west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line. The five flatfish do not count toward the daily bottomfish limit. 

Marine Area 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line): 

  • Allow yellowtail and widow rockfish retention seaward of the 120 ft. depth restriction in July and August.  

Marine Areas 3 and 4 (west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line):

  • The 20-fathom depth restriction will be in effect beginning June 1 through July 31
  • Yellowtail and widow rockfish retention will be allowed seaward of 120 ft. (20 fathoms) in July.
  • The retention of the following species is allowed seaward of 120 ft. (20 fathoms) on days open to the recreational halibut fishery: Pacific cod, sablefish, lingcod, bocaccio rockfish, silvergray rockfish, canary rockfish, widow rockfish, and yellowtail rockfish.

Marine Area 2: 

  • The 30-fathom depth restriction will be in place beginning May 1 through May 31.
  • Lingcod retention will be allowed seaward of the deepwater lingcod closure June 1 through June 15 and September 1 through September 30.
  • The Washington south coast and Westport yelloweye rockfish conservation areas will be open to recreational fishing at all times.

Marine Area 1:

  • Fishery managers will allow anglers to retain lingcod seaward of the deepwater lingcod closure June 1 through June 15 and September 1 through September 30.
  • In addition to sablefish, Pacific cod and lingcod north of the Washington – Oregon border, anglers are allowed to retain yellowtail rockfish, widow rockfish, canary rockfish, redstriped rockfish, greenstriped rockfish, slivergray rockfish, chilipepper, bocaccio, and blue/deacon rockfish on all-depth halibut days.

WDFW is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Individuals who need to receive this information in an alternative format, language, or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact the Title VI/ADA Compliance Coordinator by phone at 360-902-2349, TTY (711), or email (Title6@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see https://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation.