Anglers can look forward to another dandy spring and summer halibut fishery off the Washington coast.
“Everything came out pretty well for our sport halibut fisheries as far as catch quotas, which will remain the same as 2013,” said Heather Reed, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal marine resources policy coordinator. “We have the seasons fairly well determined for the coast.”
The International Pacific Halibut Commission recently adopted a quota of 960,000 pounds — down slightly from 999,000 last year — for commercial, sport and tribal fisheries in Area 2A, which covers Washington, Oregon and California.
The sport fishery in Washington will be allowed a catch of 214,110 pounds, which is the same as last year.
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The proposed halibut fishery off Neah Bay and La Push is set to open May 15, and fishing will be allowed Thursdays and Saturdays only through May 17. Catches will then be assessed to see if additional openings are possible.
Last year, the northern coastal quota was gobbled up in the first three days of fishing. The catch quota this season is 108,030 pounds.
Westport, on the south-central coast, opens May 4, and fishing will be allowed Sundays and Tuesdays only through May 20. Catches will then be assessed for additional openings. There will also be a near-shore halibut fishery off Westport open daily beginning May 5 until the quota is achieved. The catch quota is 42,739 pounds, and 2,000 pounds is reserved for the near-shore fishery.
Ilwaco opens May 1, and fishing will be allowed Thurdays to Sundays. This area will remain open during spring and summer unless 80 percent of the quota is caught before mid-July. There will also be a near-shore halibut fishery starting May 5, and it is open Mondays to Wednesdays.
“The near-shore fishery is something new for the Columbia River area, and you’ll be able to retain incidentally caught halibut only when the offshore fishery isn’t open,” Reed said.
The Ilwaco quota is 9,516 pounds for the early-season and 2,379 pounds for the late-season fishery.
State Fish and Wildlife will have a meeting for stakeholders and the public on Monday at 9:30 a.m. at the Natural Resources Building, Room 175 A, in Olympia to look at proposed coastal and inner-Puget Sound halibut fisheries.
The Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca east of Sekiu catch quota is 57,393 pounds, which is the same as last year.
Last season, the eastern Strait and Puget Sound was open May 2-31 with fishing allowed Thursdays to Saturdays, except for Memorial Day when it was open Thursday to Sunday. The western Strait off Sekiu was open May 23 to June 8 with fishing allowed Thursdays to Saturdays, except for Memorial Day when it was open Thursday to Sunday.
The limit in all areas will remain one halibut daily with no minimum size limit.
Final approval of halibut seasons will be announced in early March.
Spring chinook seasons set
Fisheries managers finalized what looks to be an optimistic Columbia River spring chinook season. The decision came to light on the heels of an upriver Columbia River spring chinook forecast of 308,000, compared last year’s 141,400 and an actual return of 123,100.
Fisheries officials also noted a light snow pack makes it unlikely that fishermen will have to deal with high, turbid water like in recent past fishing seasons.
The Lower Columbia River up to Bonneville will be open from March 1 to April 7, and closed for commercial fishing March 25 and April 1. The Lower Columbia kept catch will be 12,400 adult fish.
The lower river is currently open for hatchery spring chinook below the I-5 Bridge.
When fishing opens March 1, boat and bank anglers can fish upstream to Beacon Rock, and bank fishing will be allowed from Beacon Rock up to the boundary just below Bonneville Dam.
The Columbia River from above Bonneville to the Washington-Oregon border upstream 17 miles above McNary Dam will be open from March 16 through May 9. Bank anglers can also fish from Bonneville up to the Tower Island power lines during this time frame. The kept catch would be 1,325 adult fish.
The daily limit will be one hatchery chinook in all open sections. Barbless hooks are required, and wild unmarked salmon and steelhead must be released.
State fishery managers also decided to open sturgeon fishing in Bonneville Pool now through Feb. 17 or until 300 to 350 fish are caught, whichever comes first.
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