THE FLATFISH GOLD rush begins Friday, the opening day of halibut season off the coast, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and in much of Puget Sound.
Halibut seasons are established by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife using catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission for coastal fisheries from California to Alaska.
Our state’s recreational halibut fisheries will be managed to a quota of 225,366 pounds this season, slightly less than in 2017.
This year’s overall recreational halibut quota would have been about 11,000 pounds lower if not for a shift in quota from the commercial sablefish fishery, which catches halibut incidentally. The commercial fishery’s allocation of halibut was reduced in an effort to provide more opportunity for recreational halibut anglers.
I credit the work of Sequim angler Dave Croonquist and the Olympic Peninsula Salmon and Halibut Coalition for focusing the state’s attention on the commercial sablefish fleet’s incidental halibut take and getting those halibut pounds returned for recreational anglers.
Like 2017, marine areas in Puget Sound, the Strait and on the coast — with the exception of Marine Area 1 — will be open on the same days throughout the season. Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will be open through Saturday.
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 fish in any form while in the field and must record their catch on a catch record card.
The state also adopted a new annual limit for halibut this season. Anglers can retain an annual limit of four halibut.
2018 Puget Sound/Strait of Juan de Fuca halibut seasons
Marine areas 5-10 will be open Friday and Sunday and again May 25 and 27.
The Puget Sound/Strait of Juan de Fuca fishery will be managed to an overall quota of 60,995 pounds. Depending on available quota, areas will re-open to halibut fishing June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30.
In Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) halibut anglers can retain lingcod and Pacific cod (true cod) caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open.
• Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) will open Friday and Sunday and again May 25 and 27, as long as there is sufficient quota. Depending on available quota, additional fishing days may be scheduled for June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. The combined quota for both areas is 111,632 pounds.
Fishing regulations include depth restrictions and area closures designed to reduce encounters with yelloweye rockfish, which must be released under state and federal law. Anglers are reminded that a descending device must be on board vessels and rigged for immediate use when fishing for or possessing bottomfish and halibut.
The Coastal Conservation Association’s Regional Fisheries Director, Heath Heikkila, will be the featured speaker at the Thursday, May 17th meeting of the North Olympic Peninsula chapter of Puget Sound Anglers.
The meeting will be held in Sequim at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave. A social half-hour with fish stories and a chance to view raffle prizes begins at 6:30 p.m. Heikkila will begin his presentation at 7 p.m. and the club’s business meeting, which includes a financial report, government relations report, upcoming events discussions and fishing reports from members, will follow.
Heikkila has nearly two decades of experience in working with regional natural resources, including time spent working as a policy advisor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) where he focused on endangered salmon recovery efforts on the West Coast.
With CCA, Heikkila is intimately involved in fisheries advocacy issues at the highest level whether in Olympia, or Washington D.C. He will share more about CCA’s efforts in this state, along with discussing how the organization works and how to get more involved in fisheries issues.
For more information, visit www.ccawashington.org.
Refreshments will be served, a raffle for fishing gear is planned as well as a membership drawing (must be present to win).
Annual Kids Fishing Day
The annual Kids Fishing Day at the Carrie Blake Park reclamation pond is Saturday, May 19.
The horn will sound at 8 a.m. to open fishing and the event concludes at 2 p.m. Hot dogs and soft drinks are available for fifty cents.
Puget Sound Anglers co-sponsors this event with support from Fish and Wildlife and the City of Sequim.
The Anglers club pays to feed the trout that are donated by Fish and Wildlife after being raised at the Hurd Creek Hatchery.
The trout are planted in the city-operated pond in the days leading up to the event.
Kids 14 and under are eligible to fish and keep two fish. A separate pond for kids under 4 is available.
Poles, bait and plenty of assistance from club volunteers is provided. Club volunteers will clean, bag and ice the kids catch for the trip home.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]