The fishing season for halibut will be shorter in Puget Sound this year, but anglers fishing off the southern coast of Washington will have an extra weekend day to fish for the big flatfish under catch quotas for 2013 adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
This year’s recreational catch quota for all of Washington’s areas is 214,110 pounds.
The quota for the spot fishery in Puget Sound is the same as it was last year, but fishing time will be curtailed to compensate for exceeding last year’s quota, said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
This year’s seasons were reduced by five days in the eastern region (Marine Areas 6-10) and nine days in the western region (Marine Area 5) to compensate for exceeding last year’s quota.
“Catch rates were up again in Puget Sound last year, so we had to make some adjustments,” Reed said. “In doing that, we made sure the seasons will open on the traditional opening dates, so folks can plan their annual halibut fishing trips well in advance.”
On the state’s southern coast, the catch quota will also remain the same as last year, but the catch fell short of the quota by about 4,000 pounds last year. In response, the days of the week open to fishing out of Ilwaco and Chinook will change from Thursday through Saturday last year to Friday through Sunday this year, Reed said.
“Having another weekend day open to halibut fishing should provide more access to the halibut fishery in this area,” she said.
Reed noted that coastal seasons can be affected by weather, making it difficult to know exactly how long the quota will last.
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 WDFW catch record card.
2013 Puget Sound halibut seasons
- Marine Area 5: From May 23-26, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for Memorial Day weekend. From May 30 through June 1, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then will be open for one final day on Saturday, June 8.
- Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: From May 2-4, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 16-18, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 23-26, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for Memorial Day weekend. The fishery will be open May 30 and 31, Thursday and Friday.
- Marine Areas 11, 12, 13: These areas will remain closed to halibut fishing this year to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.
2013 Pacific Coast halibut seasons
- Marine Area 1 (Columbia River): Marine Area 1 opens May 3, three days per week (Friday-Sunday) until 80 percent of the quota is achieved. If the early season quota (80 percent of the quota) is not obtained prior to August 3, the fishery will continue three days per week (Friday-Sunday), until the remaining quota is taken, or until Sept. 29, whichever occurs first. The early quota is 9,516 pounds; the late quota is 2,379 pounds.
- Marine Area 2 (Westport): Marine Area 2 opens May 5, two days per week (Sunday and Tuesday) for three consecutive weeks. The area-wide fishery will be closed May 26 and 28. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will open the following Sunday and/or Tuesday and continue until the quota is reached, or until Sept. 29, whichever occurs first. The northern nearshore area will open May 5 and continue seven days per week until the nearshore quota is reached, or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The quota for the area-wide 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): Marine areas 3 and 4 open May 9, two days per week (Thursdays and Saturdays) through May 18. If enough harvestable fish remain to be caught, the fishery will re-open May 30 and/or June 1 and possibly on additional days (Thursdays and Saturdays) depending on the amount of quota available until the quota is reached or Sept. 28, whichever occurs first. The combined quota for both areas is 108,030 pounds.
In Marine Areas 1-4, seasons will continue until the sub-area quotas are reached.
Image courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife