WDFW adds options for coastal halibut fishing,
shortens Puget Sound season
OLYMPIA – Anglers will have three fewer days to catch halibut in Puget Sound when the season opens in May this year but will have more opportunities for halibut fishing off the southern coast of Washington.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) sets halibut seasons using catch quotas for 2014 adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. This year’s recreational catch quota is 214,110 pounds for all of Washington’s areas.
“We’ve seen increased interest in Puget Sound halibut fishing in recent years,” said Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator. “As a result, we went over our quota there last year.”
To compensate, the department created overlap in halibut fishing seasons among Puget Sound marine areas, Reed said. In past years, halibut fishing was open in the western section of Puget Sound (Marine Area 5) on different dates than in the eastern region (Marine areas 6-10), allowing anglers to fish both areas. This year, the open seasons for both regions are more similar, requiring anglers to choose between regions.
This approach is designed to prevent the Puget Sound fishery from exceeding its quota, while minimizing cuts to each region’s season. Under this plan, anglers will have one fewer day to fish in the eastern region of Puget Sound but will have the same number of days to fish for halibut in marine area five, near Seiku.
Puget Sound recreational halibut anglers this year will be allowed to keep lingcod and Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet. This applies only in areas where retention is allowed for Pacific cod and lingcod and when halibut fishing is open in each of the Puget Sound marine areas.
Meanwhile, there will be more time to hook a halibut off the southern coast (Marine Area 1), where WDFW has increased the number of open days per week to four this season, up from three in 2013.
“We haven’t been reaching the quota in the Columbia River area of the Pacific Ocean, so we’ve attempted to create more halibut fishing opportunities in this area,” Reed said.
WDFW also has added a new nearshore fishery that will open Monday through Wednesday beginning May 5. Anglers will be allowed to retain bottomfish while having halibut onboard boats in the new fishery when it is open.
Reed noted that coastal seasons can be affected by weather, making it difficult to know exactly how long the quota will last.
In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.
2014 Puget Sound halibut seasons
Marine Area 5: The fishery will be open Thursday through Sunday, May 22-25, for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will open again May 29-31 and will be open one final day on Saturday, June 7.
Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: The fishery will be open May 9 and 10 and May 17. The fishery will be open Thursday through Sunday, May 22-25, for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will open again May 29-31 and will be open one final day on Saturday, June 7.
Marine Areas 11, 12, 13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.
2014 Pacific Coast halibut seasons
Marine Area 1 (Columbia River): Marine Area 1 opens May 1, four days per week (Thursday-Sunday) until 80 percent of the quota is achieved. If the early season quota (80 percent of the quota) is not obtained prior to Aug. 7, the fishery will continue four days per week (Thursday-Sunday), until the remaining quota is taken, or until Sept. 28, whichever occurs first. A new incidental halibut fishery will begin May 5 in the nearshore area and will be open Monday-Wednesday, which are the days the all depth fishery is closed. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/. The early quota is 8,564 pounds; the late quota is 2,141 pounds; the nearshore quota is 1,190.
Marine Area 2 (Westport): Marine Area 2 opens May 4, two days per week (Sunday and Tuesday) for three consecutive weeks. The area-wide fishery will be closed May 25 and 27. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will open the following Sunday and/or Tuesday and continue until the quota is reached, or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The northern nearshore area will open May 4 and continue seven days per week until the nearshore quota is reached, or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The quota for the area-wide fishery is 40,739 pounds; the quota for the northern nearshore fishery is 2,000 pounds.
Marine Areas 3 and 4 (La Push and Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 open May 15, two days per week (Thursdays and Saturdays) through May 24. If enough harvestable fish remain to be caught, the fishery will re-open June 5 and/or June 7 and possibly on additional days (Thursdays and Saturdays) depending on the amount of quota available until the quota is reached or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The combined quota for both areas is 108,030 pounds.
In Marine Areas 1-4, seasons will continue until the sub-area quotas are reached.