Sports

Anglers lose days to catch halibut

Anglers will have fewer days to catch halibut this year under recreational fishing seasons announced in March by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The largest single factor affecting this year's fishery is a 15-percent reduction in the Pacific coast halibut quota set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, said Michele Culver, a state regional director.

"That reduction will really take a bite out of tribal and state fishing opportunities in Washington and other West Coast states," Culver said. "This year's quota reflects a reduction in halibut stocks from Alaska to California."

This year's quota for Washington, Oregon and California is 810,000 pounds, down from 950,000 pounds in 2009.

In Washington, sport anglers will be allowed to catch 192,699 pounds of halibut compared to 214,110 pounds last year.

Constraints on fishing opportunities will be most apparent in Puget Sound, due to the combination of this year's reduced quota and an excessive catch last year, Culver said. WDFW estimates that Puget Sound anglers caught more than 114,000 pounds of halibut in 2009 - well over the 57,393-pound quota.

To ensure that the halibut fishery in Puget Sound stays within the quota, the fishing season in most marine areas (6-10) were delayed until May 1. Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) retains the traditional opening date just before the Memorial Day weekend but will close earlier than in the past.

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca/Puget Sound, Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) is open May 28-June 19. Marine areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open May 1-30. These fisheries are open three days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday through Wednesday except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.

On the north coast (LaPush/Neah Bay), Marine areas 3 and 4 are open on May 13, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 3 and 5. If a sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 17. The 2010 catch quota is 101,179 pounds.

As in previous years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) remains closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions. Portions of marine areas 2, 3 and 4 also will be closed to fishing for halibut and bottomfish to reduce the chance that anglers will unintentionally catch yelloweye rockfish. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all coastal marine areas.

All Washington waters open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, and a possession limit of two fish in any form.

For additional information, call the Fishing Hotline at 360-902-2500 or check the state fish and wildlife Web site at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/creel/halibut/.

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