Spring is the time to start pursuing one of the bigger and deepest-dwelling fishes in the sea.
The sport fishing season for halibut — known for their tasty white-fleshed meat and barn-door sized proportions — opened Thursday off Ilwaco and Sunday at Westport with thousands of anglers expected to turn out.
“I got a report from (Coho Charters in Ilwaco) that most got limits (one per angler) on the Thursday opener,” said Heather Reed, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal marine resource policy coordinator, whose department has noticed an uptick of sport angler interest in recent years.
This season’s sport catch quota is 214,110 pounds for the Washington coast and Puget Sound waterways.
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Ilwaco is open Thursdays to Sundays only, and will close once 80 percent of the 8,564 pound quota is achieved. If the initial quota isn’t reached before Aug. 7, the fishery will stay open with an additional 2,141 pounds and will close once that is achieved or Sept. 28, whichever occurs first.
A new incidental halibut fishery off Ilwaco will begin Monday in the near-shore area and is open Mondays to Wednesdays with a quota of 1,190 pounds. Anglers can keep bottomfish while also having halibut on board their boat.
Westport is open Sundays and Tuesdays through May 20, and closed May 25 and 27 with a quota of 40,739 pounds. If enough remains, the fishery will reopen June 1 and/or June 3 and continue until the quota is reached or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.
The northern near-shore area off Westport opens Sunday and remains open daily until a quota of 2,000 pounds is attained or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.
La Push and Neah Bay open May 15 with fishing allowed Thursdays and Saturdays only through May 24. If enough of the quota of 108,030 pounds remains, then fishing will reopen June 5 and/or June 7, and continue until the quota is reached or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.
In the western Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu, halibut fishing is open May 22-25, May 29-31 and June 7 only. The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, the east side of Whidbey Island and northern and central Puget Sound will be open May 9-10, May 17, May 22-25, May 29-31 and June 7 only.
In Puget Sound areas, sport halibut anglers can catch lingcod and Pacific cod while targeting halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet. This is allowed only in areas where anglers can keep lingcod and Pacific cod.
The marine-wide limit for halibut is one daily with no minimum size limit.
Paddling festival at Lake Sammamish
The Northwest Paddling Festival is Friday and Saturday at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah with more than 300 kayaks and paddleboats on display and available for folks to demo.
There will be more than 60 vendors, sea kayak tours, introductory on-water classes, latest gear and boats, a paddling challenge and food trucks.
Brad Hole, who set the kayak catch record for the largest halibut, and Todd Switzer, a Pro Team Member of the Kayak Academy, will conduct seminars and they will also provide on-water demos.
The event is free to attend, and a $7 fee to demo canoes, paddleboards and kayaks. Hours are 2 to 7 p.m. on Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Details: northwestpaddlingfestival.com
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