Anglers fishing for halibut in Washington waters can expect some changes in this year’s seasons, even though the state’s annual catch quota remains the same as in 2015.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) establishes halibut seasons using catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission for coastal fisheries from California to Alaska. This year’s quota for recreational halibut fisheries in Washington state is 214,110 pounds.
As in years past, the growing popularity of recreational halibut fishing will require adjustments in this year’s season, said Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator.
“Here and elsewhere, fishery managers are working to keep pace with the growing demand on the resource,” Reed said. “Strong catch rates continue to draw anglers to this popular fishery each year.”
One result, Reed said, is that the halibut catch in Puget Sound has exceeded the area harvest quota for the past four years. In response, this year’s halibut season in Marine Areas 6-10 in central Puget Sound will be reduced to eight days from 11 days last year.
That fishery will run concurrently with the one in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), where the season has been limited to eight days since 2013, Reed said.
The other major change this year is in Marine Areas 3 and 4 (La Push and Neah Bay), which will open May 7, May 12 and May 14, then close for a catch assessment.
“Last year, we scheduled four days of fishing before the catch assessment, but we had to cancel the fourth day on short notice, because the quota was taken sooner than ever before,” Reed said. “This year’s season is designed to avoid that situation.”
This year’s fishery in Marine Areas 3 and 4 will reopen in late May if sufficient capacity remains under the quota.
In Marine Area 1 off the mouth of the Columbia River, anglers also reached last year’s quota earlier than expected, although not until early June. That fishery is scheduled to run four days a week this year from May 1 until the quota is taken, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.
Anglers fishing the nearshore area of that fishery will again be allowed to retain bottomfish – such as flounder and sole – as well as halibut on days when the rest of the area is closed to halibut fishing.
“We continue to look for ways to increase fishing opportunity in the Columbia River area where the catch has been below the quota in recent years,” Reed said.
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.
Marine Area 2 (Westport): The fishery opens May 1 and runs two days per week (Sundays and Tuesdays) for three consecutive weeks, unless the quota is reached sooner. The primary fishery is closed May 22 and 24, but could reopen May 29 or 31 if sufficient quota remains. The northern nearshore area will open May 1 and continue seven days per week until Sept. 30, or until the nearshore quota is reached. The quota for the primary fishery is 40,739 pounds; the quota for the northern nearshore fishery is 2,000 pounds.