Thousands of anglers are gearing up to pursue one of the largest and deep-dwelling fishes in local marine waterways.
The sport fishing season for halibut — known for their tasty white-fleshed meat and barn-door sized proportions — will open Thursday (May 4) and Saturday (May 6), and May 11 in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the coast off Neah Bay, La Push and Westport.
State Fish and Wildlife will assess catches after May 11 to see if fishing can reopen on May 21 and possibly May 25. Beyond that, if enough remains in the quota then it could reopen on June 1 and/or June 4.
Ilwaco on southern coast also opens Thursday (May 4) with fishing allowed Thursdays through Sundays of each week. The near-shore fishery off Ilwaco opens Monday (May 8) with fishing allowed Mondays through Wednesdays of each week.
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The marine-wide limit for halibut is one daily with no minimum size limit.
The total Washington sport catch quota this year is 237,762 pounds (214,110 pounds last year as well as in 2015 and 2014).
The entire West Coast catch quota for sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial fisheries is also up with a quota of 1.33-million pounds compared to last year’s 1.14-million pounds.
This year, the sport halibut fishery in Puget Sound — including areas from Sekiu to Port Angeles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca — is a quota of 64,962 up from 57,393 pounds last year.
The northern coast off Neah Bay and La Push has a quota of 115,599 pounds compared to an actual catch of 107,417 pounds last year with a catch quota of 108,030.
The south-central coast off Westport has a quota of 50,307 pounds, and 2,000 reserved for a near-shore fishery compared to an actual catch of 43,785 pounds with a catch quota of 42,739.
The southern coast off the Columbia River — co-managed with Oregon — has a catch quota of 12,799 pounds with 500 pounds going toward a near-shore fishery. Last year, Ilwaco anglers caught 11,895 pounds under a catch quota of 11,009.
On the downside with the shift in the sport-fishing season structure was the cancellation of the Port Angeles Salmon Club’s Memorial Day Halibut Derby, which had been an ongoing and popular event since 2001.