The coastal bottomfish and lingcod seasons open this week and new rules are in place.
The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife report that growth within the two rockfish species over the recent years will provide new fishing opportunities for rockfish, Pacific cod, whiting, sole, lingcod, cabazon, and more than a dozen other bottomfish species in ocean waters.
According to a release, the new rules state that anglers can catch up to nine bottomfish per day – including up to seven rockfish, two lingcod, and one cabezon – plus three additional flat fish.
Heather Hall, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, tells KXRO that several changes put in place will provide new fishing opportunities.
For Westport, updated rules mean the 30-fathom depth restriction will be in place from March 9 through May 31, two weeks less than in previous years. Similar to past years, lingcod retention will be allowed seaward of 30 fathoms on days open to the recreational halibut fishery. The deepwater area will then be open from June 1 through June 15, giving anglers the opportunity to target lingcod in that area.
Of these updated measures, Hall said none will boost fishing opportunities more than a decision made last December by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to increase the sport fishery’s incidental catch limit for yelloweye rockfish. The new limit is 17,196 pounds, compared to 7,275 pounds last year.
That action was based on a stock assessment conducted by the NMFS that showed that the yelloweye population is growing faster than previously estimated.
Because yelloweye rockfish are still the focus of a federal rebuilding plan, anglers must release any of those fish they intercept, Hall said. However, year’s higher allowable incidental catch limit will increase fishing opportunities for other bottomfish in deepwater areas.
New fishing rules approved for the coming season vary by area from north to south:
Deepwater fishing rules will remain unchanged in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), because WDFW does not impose depth restrictions in those waters. However, anglers will be allowed to keep lingcod on halibut trips during the entire halibut season rather than just during the month of May.
More information on Washington’s 2019 bottomfish season is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/.