Recreational anglers can expect this year's halibut seasons to be similar to 2010 in Puget Sound, but may see more days of fishing off the coast. That is the likely scenario under new catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
There again will be no fishing in the South Sound, as fishery managers strive to protect declining rockfish stocks.
This year’s quota for Washington, Oregon and California is 910,000 pounds, up 12 percent from 2010. In Washington, sport anglers will be allowed to catch 216,489 pounds, up 12.3 percent from 192,699 pounds last year.
That will translate into improved fishing opportunities in Washington’s coastal waters, said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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In Puget Sound, where the sport catch has exceeded harvest guidelines the past two years, this year’s higher sub-quota should helped to avert further cutbacks in fishing opportunities, Reed said.
“This year’s quota, together with shorter seasons adopted last year, will bring the catch more in line with the allowable harvest,” Reed said in a news release. “We took a big step toward stabilizing the fishery last year, and the higher quota will help to accommodate the growing popularity of halibut fishing in Puget Sound.”
This year’s catch quota for Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca is 58,155 pounds, up 15 percent from 50,542 pounds in 2010. Like last year, most areas of the Sound will be open for halibut fishing three days a week – Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – with some exceptions as noted below.
Marine areas 6 through 10, from Low Point to the Southworth Ferry Dock, will be open May 5-29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26-June 18.
Halibut fishing will remain closed in marine areas 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (southern Puget Sound) to protect three species of rockfish listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.
The structure of the coastal halibut season will be similar to last year, Reed said. Fishing in marine areas 1-4 will remain open so long as there are halibut remaining to be caught under the area quotas.
“This year’s coastal quotas are up by more than 17,000 pounds,” Reed said. “Depending on catch rates during the course of the season, that could translate to extra time on the water in some areas.”
All areas open to fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, a possession limit of one fish while on the vessel, and a possession limit of two fish in any form once the angler is on the shore.
The 2011 recreational halibut seasons approved for Washington’s marine areas are:
Ilwaco: Marine Area 1 will open May 5, three days a week, Thursdays through Saturdays, until 70 percent of the quota is reached or until July 17. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5 and continue three days a week (Fridays through Sundays) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The 2011 catch quota is 15,418 pounds.
Westport/Ocean Shores: Marine Area 2 will open on May 1, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open only May 22. The following week the fishery will resume the Sunday and Tuesday structure until the quota is reached. The northern near-shore area will be open seven days a week, until the quota is reached. The 2011 catch quota is 43,500 pounds.
La Push/Neah Bay: Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 12, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 21. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen the week of June 2. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 16. The 2011 catch quota is 108,792 pounds.
Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound: Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles, Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 5-29. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 26-June 18. These fisheries will be open three days a week, Thursdays-Saturdays and closed Sundays- Wednesdays except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Thursday through Sunday. The 2011 combined catch quota for these areas is 58,155 pounds.
For additional information, call the Fishing Hotline at 360-902-2500 or check the department website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut.