Opinion Columns & Blogs

2014 halibut openings set, inside fishery reduced

With the 2013 personal use halibut season's overage and underage in the books, compensating adjustments, announced Monday, March 31, to Washington's 2014 openings in various marine zones will mean slightly shorter inside seasons and a little more time to jig along the far south coast.

Changes to this year's Puget Sound fishery stem from last spring's effort in which the 'inside' catch cap was exceeded. Managers say an uptake in the number of anglers (effort) and staggered openings in the two inside sub-zones during last year's proscribed opportunity led to the landing of too many hook and line caught flatties.

The opposite is the case for the Marine Area 1 halibut fishery where anglers recently have not been catching their allotted portion of the Washington sport allocation say managers.

For 2014, a total of 11 halibut fishing days will be available for anglers plying in Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 beginning May 9. Eight dedicated flattie fishing days will occur in Marine Area 5 beginning May 22 and they will coincide with the inner area openings so anglers will have to make an either/or choice.

A multi-tasking mechanism also has been added to the Puget Sound fishery to easy a little of the pinch fishers may feel. Anglers jigging in 120 feet of waters or deeper will be able to keep coincidentally boated lingcod and Pacific cod on halibut days.

To enable Ilwaco- and Westport-based halibut anglers to catch their due, regular early and late fisheries are planned. A near-shore alternative has been added to this spring's slate of opportunities in Marine Area 1. Together these fisheries are intended to target about six percent (11,895 pounds) of the overall Washington sport fishery quota of 214,110 pounds.

Washington is bound to manage its non-treaty personal use and commercial fisheries to keep their annual takes at or below the strict poundage limits set for them by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The IPHC is a bi-lateral panel of Canadian and U.S. commissioners who, with the aid of a significant technical staff, annually studies, deliberates on and sets harvest and other policies concerning halibut fisheries Northeast Pacific waters.

As long as fishery efforts and consequences do not exceed their specific allocations, jurisdictions such as states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Washington's treaty tribes are free to organize and set their own terms for recreational, commercial and ceremonial/subsistence fisheries that pursue halibut.

For more details about Pacific halibut and the 2014 personal use halibut fishery, read Sunday's hunting and fishing column.