OLYMPIA — Anglers fishing for halibut in Washington waters will have more halibut to catch during the 2019 season compared to recent years.
Recreational halibut seasons announced April 10 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are based on a statewide quota of 277,100 pounds, up by an average of 19 percent over the past three years.
Those fisheries are set to get underway May 2 in both state coastal waters and in marine areas 5-10 in Puget Sound.
Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) opens May 2, 5, 9, 12, 24 and 26 as long as there is sufficient quota. If quota remains after May 26, the Columbia River subarea would be open two days per week, Thursday and Sunday, until the remaining quota is achieved. The nearshore area opens to fishing May 6 on a Monday-through-Wednesday schedule. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut/columbia-river. The all depth-fishery will be managed to 14,627 pounds; the nearshore quota is 500 pounds.
Heather Hall, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, said the higher annual catch quota is the result of a new fixed allocation for fisheries in Washington, Oregon, and California approved by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in January.
Hall said that unique approach will allocate a total of 1.5 million pounds to halibut fisheries off the coast of those three states each year through 2022, barring any “substantive conservation concerns.”
Hall said the 2019 season is structured similar to recent years, with many of the fishing areas open at the same time. However, Hall noted that WDFW met with stakeholders last fall to establish halibut season dates that accommodate preferences in each management area.
Through that process, WDFW staff learned that Saturdays are important for the north coast (Neah Bay and La Push), while a Sunday opening is generally preferred on the south coast (Westport). The opening in the Columbia River subarea reflects requests that season dates overlap with those on the south coast off Westport.
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 halibut 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.
Because halibut fisheries are managed to a quota, anglers should check the WDFW website to ensure a specific area is open prior to fishing. Complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.