Halibut anglers will enjoy this line-tugging news.
The Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca halibut fishing seasons were announced this past week, and expectations in spring and early summer should be decent.
“The inner-marine halibut fisheries will be pretty much the same as 2013,” said Heather Reed, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal marine resources policy coordinator.
The sport-catch quota for Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca east of Sekiu is 57,393 pounds, which is identical to last season.
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The proposed halibut season in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca near Port Angeles, San Juan Islands, and northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 6 to 10) will be open May 9-10, May 17, May 22-25, May 29-31 and June 7.
The western Strait of Juan de Fuca off Sekiu will be open for halibut fishing on May 22-25, May 29-31 and June 7.
Hood Canal, and south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 11, 12 and 13) will be closed to protect poor rockfish populations.
“We’ll get the official word out sometime in March, and don’t anticipate any changes,” Reed said. “We have a good rationale the proposed dates will keep the catch under the quota.”
This comes on the heels of preliminary coastal halibut fishery dates decided two weeks ago by state fisheries managers.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission adopted a quota of 960,000 pounds — down slightly from 999,000 last year — for commercial, sport and tribal fisheries, also known as Area 2A, which covers Washington, Oregon and California.
The slice of the sport fishery pie in Washington is 214,110 pounds, which is the same as last year.
The season off Neah Bay and La Push opens May 15 with fishing 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 with fishing allowed Sundays and Tuesdays only through May 20. Catches will also be assessed for additional openings. There will 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 with fishing allowed Thursdays 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 beginning May 5, and is open Mondays to Wednesdays.
The Ilwaco quota is 9,516 pounds for the early-season and 2,379 pounds for the late-season fisheries
The limit in all marine areas will remain one halibut daily with no minimum size limit.
Catch Limit reduced
Those planning on heading out into northern Puget Sound, properly known as Marine Catch Area 9, should be aware that the daily catch limit for hatchery chinook will be reduced from two to one beginning Monday.
This news came to light recently when state fisheries managers noticed that catches in North Sound had been remarkably good this past month.
Both undersized and legal-size chinook encounters were nearing the allowable catch guideline set forth by state Fish and Wildlife, and as agreed upon by the federal fishery and tribal agencies.
It was the hope of state fisheries and the sport fishing advisory members that this reduced catch limit will slow down the catches to keep the salmon fishing season in North Sound only open until the planned closure date of April 15.
This same action happened last year in North Sound, but occurred in March.