Puget Sound halibut fishing season opens

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on May 18 set expected dates of this year’s Puget Sound halibut fishing season, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The halibut fishery kicked off in Marine Areas 5-10 — including Marine Area 6 that spans west of Port Angeles to Port Townsend — on May 20, and will remain open through the end of June on alternating days: May 22, May 24, etc., through June 29.

The season structure was revised from what was originally planned to allow the halibut fishery to proceed in a manner that is consistent with the guidelines to limit travel, state wildlife officials said last week.

Anglers are encouraged to participate in these dates only if they can do so locally as part of a day trip, while also practicing physical distancing, thy said.

“In talking with public health officials and our partners at Washington’s ports, we think we’ve found a balance between being able to provide these opportunities and bring that value back into these communities, while also continuing to prioritize public health,” Larry Phillips, WDFW coastal region director, said.

“These dates depend on anglers continuing to get outdoors responsibly – something we know folks can do because we’ve seen a lot of great examples of it these last couple of weeks.”

Anglers should only venture out well-prepared. WDFW is also recommending that people bring their own needs for personal hygiene; for example, handwashing materials, toilet paper, and face masks or bandanas.

Anglers are also reminded to be prepared to change plans if access sites are congested.

Anglers should be aware that the Port of Neah Bay is closed to the public, state officials noted; there is no moorage or fuel available at that location.

Similar to last year, anglers fishing for halibut in Marine Area 6 will not be able to retain lingcod incidentally caught when fishing for halibut seaward of the 120-foot depth boundary. The depth restriction is designed to protect rockfish species, including yelloweye rockfish, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. However, lingcod retention will still be allowed seaward of the 120-foot depth restriction in Marine Area 5, which is outside of the area where yelloweye rockfish are listed.

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 halibut catch record card.

There is an annual limit of four halibut.

Recreational fishery samplers will be available to collect catch information at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound while practicing physical distancing guidelines, state wildlife officials said.

Find information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons online at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.

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