For Puget Sound and coastal waters, the halibut season will be be similar to 2014. There will be, however, some additional fishing opportunities in the Columbia River area.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife set the upcoming halibut seasons using catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The recreational catch quota for all of Washington’s areas is 214,110 pounds, the same previous years.
Again, there will be no halibut fishing allowed off Tacoma and Olympia, and in Hood Canal, to protect threatened rockfish populations.
The state agency has revised the season structure for the Columbia River fishery to encourage anglers to fish for halibut there, according to Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator. The season for that area will run continuously instead of being divided between an early and late season.
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“We continue to look for ways to increase fishing opportunity in the Columbia River area, where the catch has been below the quota in recent years,” Reed said in a department news release.
Anglers will again be allowed to retain all bottomfish while having halibut onboard their boats in the nearshore section of the Columbia River fishery (Marine Area 1), which opens May 4 on a Monday-through-Wednesday schedule. Additional changes will allow anglers to retain flatfish – in addition to sablefish and Pacific cod – with halibut on board during the all-depth fishery that opens May 1 on a Thursday- through-Sunday schedule.
“In addition to some great halibut fishing, anglers can look forward to more opportunities to target bottomfish in Westport, Neah Bay and La Push,” Reed said in the release.
For the first time since 2008, anglers will be allowed to fish for lingcod in the Westport area (south of 46 degrees, 58 minutes North latitude and seaward of 30 fathoms) on Fridays and Saturdays, from July 1-Aug. 31.
In addition, anglers fishing in the deep waters in Marine areas 3 and 4, west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, will have more days to retain bottomfish, including lingcod. Starting this year, the 20-fathom (120 feet) depth restriction will be in place May 9-Labor Day, rather than May 1-Sept. 30.
The state agency considers management measures for coastal sport bottomfish fisheries every two years through the Pacific Fishery Management Council process.
Regulations approved by the council include depth restrictions and area closures designed to reduce encounters with yelloweye and canary rockfish in coastal waters. Anglers are also prohibited from retaining those species – and bocaccio rockfish – in parts of Puget Sound.
Anglers are encouraged to use a descending device to release these rockfish species, as well as other rockfish that anglers don’t intend to retain. Information about descending devices can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/bottomfish/rockfish/mortality.html .
In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there will be 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 department catch record card.