OUTDOORS: Additional halibut openings expected to be announced

NOTHING HAS BEEN officially announced, but Brandon Mason of Mason’s Olson Resort in Sekiu (360-963-2311) expects more time on the water to hunt for halibut after the Memorial Day weekend.

Mason is a member of the Puget Sound Sport Fishing Advisory Group. expects the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to announce more time on the water to hunt for halibut after the Memorial Day weekend.

Three two-day, Thursday/Saturday fishing windows are expected to be opened on the following dates: May 30 and June 1; June 13 and 15 and June 27 and 29.

This is dependent on quota availability, but after three of the first four days of the halibut season produced rough seas and high winds across much of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, catch totals are low enough to add additional time.

And remember today is an off-day in the halibut fishing schedule.

Halibut reopens Saturday.

Fee increase fails

Fish and Wildlife’s proposed fee hike recently failed in the state legislature and the Columbia salmon and steelhead endorsement will expire in a two-year budget approved by lawmakers.

A 2017 fee increase also failed to generate interest and votes leaving the department in the lurch. Fish and Wildlife eventually accepted a “one-time only” distribution of $10 million in general fund revenues while conducting a department-wide review of its operations for efficiency and to perform a zero-based budgeting exercise.

This time around, state representatives and senators introduced bills that would have raised license fees by 15 percent, with a $7 cap on bundled packages, and extended the Columbia River endorsement in a bid to close a $31 million budget gap.

Well, “one-time only” has happened once again.

The fee hike went down in flames — likely a result of sportsmen and women complaining they would be paying more while hunting and fishing opportunities continue to decline.

To partially fill the gap, lawmakers appropriated $24 million in general fund taxes this time around.

So it’s budget-balancing time and a number of programs are likely to be cut.

Fish and Wildlife may cut back the wildlife conflict prevention division that responds to troublesome animals, such as cougars and black bears. Certain hatchery operations that combine to produce 2.6 million steelhead, salmon and trout may be on the block along with the westside pheasant hunting program and the department’s ability to maintain its land and conserve species.

“There’s a fair amount for us to sort through in the next month to balance the budget in the face of a pretty significant shortfall,” Fish and Wildlife Policy Director Nate Pamplin told Capital Press.”

Razor dig approved

State shellfish managers have scheduled a “bonus” razor clam dig on Mocrocks Beach from Saturday through Monday.

The dig will be held on the following dates, low tides and beaches:

Saturday: 6:58 a.m.; -1.4 feet; Mocrocks

Sunday: 7:41 a.m.; -1.6 feet; Mocrocks

Monday: 8:23 a.m.; -1.6 feet; Mocrocks

The southern border of Mocrocks Beach is the Copalis River and the northern border of Mocrocks is the southern end of Quinault Indian Reservation, just south of the Moclips River.

Mocrocks includes the following popular areas: Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Seabrook, Pacific Beach and Moclips Beach.

Copalis Beach, just south of Mocrocks, will not be open.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2019-20 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig.

Anglers meet tonight

The North Olympic Peninsula’s top “fish cop,” Sgt. Kit Rosenberger of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement division, will speak tonight in Sequim.

Rosenberger is the guest speaker at tonight’s monthly meeting of the North Olympic Peninsula chapter of Puget Sound Anglers.

The event will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., with fish tales and raffle prize viewing starting at 6:30 p.m. and Rosenberger’s talk set for 7 p.m.

Rosenberger will discuss some of the bigger cases made during the last year, Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement staffing challenges on the Peninsula and provide some information on the orca whale situation.

He’ll also take questions from the audience.

I went out with Sgt. Rosenberger and Officer Bryan Davidson for a day spent policing summer chinook angling off Port Townsend in July 2016 and learned about some of the job’s challenges and rewards.

Those interested in working in the outdoors or law enforcement should plan on attending.

A business meeting which includes a financial report, government relations report, upcoming events discussions and fishing reports from members will follow Rosenberger’s talk.

Refreshments will be served.

A members raffle for fishing gear and a membership drawing (must be present to win) also will be held.

The club meets the third Thursday of each month and the public is welcome.

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