Anglers will have more opportunities for halibut fishing off the southern coast of Washington this season, but three fewer days to fish in Puget Sound when the season opens this week.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife set 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,” Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator, said in a news release. “As a result, we went over our quota there last year.”
To compensate, the department created overlap in halibut fishing seasons among Puget Sound 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.
That approach should 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 5, 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 when halibut fishing is open in each Sound marine area.
Meanwhile in Marine Area 1, the department has increased the number of open days of fishing to four this season, compared to three days 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 in the release.
The agency also has added a new nearshore fishery that will open Mondays-Wednesdays beginning May 5. Anglers will be allowed to retain bottomfish while having halibut onboard boats in the new fishery when it is open.
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 catch record card.
2014 HALIBUT SEASONS
Marine Area 5: Open May 22-25 for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will open again May 29-31 and will be open June 7.
Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: Open May 9-10 and 17. The fishery will be open May 22-25 for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will open again May 29-31 and June 7.
Marine Areas 11-13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.
Marine Area 1 (Columbia River): Opens May 1, four days per week (Thursday-Sunday) until 80 percent of the quota is caught. If the early season quota (80 percent of the quota) is not obtained prior to Aug. 7, the fishery will continue Thursdays-Sundays 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 Mondays-Wednesdays, which are the days the all depth fishery is closed. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are available online at 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): 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 areawide 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): Open May 15, two days per week (Thursdays and Saturdays) through May 24. If enough harvestable fish remain to be caught, the fishery will reopen June 5 and/or June 7 and possibly on additional 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 areas 1-4, seasons will continue until the sub-area quotas are reached.