The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) released plans for the 2023 halibut fishing season, which will kick off Thursday, April 6 in some areas.
The 2023 season is said to be structured similarly to last season.
The coastal season adds Tuesdays in May to Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2) to improve angler access to quota.
Otherwise, the coastal season structure follows a familiar schedule with Thursdays and Saturdays open at La Push and Neah Bay (Marine Area 3 and 4), and Thursdays and Sundays open at Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2) and Ilwaco (Marine Area 1).
The recreational season is based on a statewide quota of 281,728 pounds. The annual catch quota of 1.52 million in 2023 is the result of an allocation that the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) approved in January for fisheries in Washington, Oregon, and California.
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 while in the field and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card. There is an annual limit of four halibut. Anglers cannot fish for, retain, possess, or land halibut into a port located within an area that is closed to halibut fishing, except anglers can land halibut that were lawfully retained in Marine Area 5 into a port within Marine Area 4 when Marine Area 4 is closed.
The season details are listed below. Halibut fisheries are managed to a quota, and areas will close when the projected quotas will be taken.
Anglers should check the WDFW website to ensure a specific area is open prior to fishing. Complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons can be found on the WDFW bottomfish and halibut webpage.
2023 Pacific Coast halibut seasons
- Ilwaco (Marine Area 1): The all-depth fishery opens May 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 25; June 1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29 if there is sufficient quota. The nearshore area opens to fishing May 8 on a Monday-through-Wednesday schedule. Coordinates for the Columbia River nearshore fishery can be found on the WDFW halibut webpage. The all- depth fishery will be managed to 18,375 pounds; the nearshore quota is 500 pounds.
- Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2): The all-depth fishery opens May 4, 7, 9,11,14,16,18, 21, 23, 25, 30. If sufficient quota remains the all-depth fishery will open June 15, 18, 22, 25 depending on available quota. If there is remaining quota, the northern nearshore area will open on the Saturday after the all-depth fishery closes and will continue seven days per week until the overall quota is taken. Coordinates for the south coast nearshore fishery can be found on the WDFW halibut webpage. This area will be managed to an overall quota of 64,376 pounds.
- Neah Bay and La Push (Marine Areas 3 and 4) opens May 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, 20, 26, 28; June 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, 29 if there is sufficient quota. The combined quota for both areas is 129,668 pounds. Anglers cannot fish for, retain, possess, or land halibut into a port located within an area that is closed to halibut fishing.
2023 Puget Sound halibut seasons
- Sekiu and Pillar Point (Marine Area 5) and East Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound (Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) will open April 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13,14, 15,16,17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30; May 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28; June 1-30 as long as there is sufficient quota. Puget Sound will be managed to an overall quota of 79,031 pounds.
- Tacoma-Vashon Island, Hood Canal, and South Puget Sound (Marine Areas 11, 12, and 13) are closed to halibut fishing to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.
Fishing regulations include depth restrictions and area closures designed to reduce encounters with yelloweye rockfish, which must be released under state and federal law. Anglers are reminded that a descending device must be on board vessels and rigged for immediate use when fishing for or possessing bottomfish and halibut. Information about descending devices can be found on WDFW’s webpage.