OUTDOORS: April offers options including the start of halibut fishing

APRIL IS A PRIME month for anglers, with halibut opening April 22 in Marine Areas 6-10, the traditional lowland lake opener on the fourth Saturday of the month and the looming announcement of the coming salmon seasons.

Halibut dates, long known unofficially, were an-nounced this week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Anglers who like to fish off Port Angeles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca or Puget Sound will get the initial crack at the flatfish.

“An earlier opening in the Puget Sound region has been something that stakeholders have been interested in for several years,” said Heather Hall, the department’s intergovernmental fisheries policy coordinator. “Because catch in the Puget Sound region has been below the quota for the last couple of years, we were excited to implement measures like the earlier start and consecutive open days per week to provide anglers with more fishing days to catch the quota for that area.

Marine Areas 6-10 will open April 22-24 and 29-30; May 1, 6- 8, 13-15, 20-22 and 28-30; June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26 as long as there is sufficient quota.

Sekiu (Marine Area 5) will open May 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22 and 28-30; June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26 as long as there is sufficient quota.

Puget Sound has an overall quota of 78,291 pounds.

To reflect angler preferences, Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) and La Push (Marine Area 3) will open on Saturdays. Both the Makah and Quileute reservations remain closed to the public, so anglers will have to launch and land in other areas.

The two areas will be open May 6, 8, 13, 15, 20, 22, 28 and 30; June 3, 5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24 and 26, as long as there is sufficient quota. The combined quota for both areas is 128,928 pounds.

Halibut limits are one per angler per day with no size restrictions and four per season.

North of Falcon

The North of Falcon salmon-season setting process continues with dire restrictions still in play for coastal and Puget Sound coho.

Queets and Snohomish rivers’ coho stocks are failing to respond to rebuilding efforts that began in 2017.

Coastal treaty troll tribes have taken the drastic step this year of proposing a zero option for ocean harvest of Queets River coho. Discussions are ongoing to develop marine and freshwater seasons that will allow some fishing opportunity while achieving the stock’s conservation objectives. Poor returns spurred the tribes to propose a zero option for all ocean coho fisheries for the first time in 2016.

Stillaguamish chinook also could constrain king seasons in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Leland report

Lake Leland in Jefferson County is open to angling year round.

“The lake is starting to warm, and the lake water is up over 40 degrees so the ‘holdover’ trout are starting to feed a little more,” Quilcene’s Ward Norden said. “The annual spring trout plant has not happened yet. Dozens of year-round lakes in Snohomish and other counties have also not received their spring trout plants yet.

“My guess is that the cooler than normal weather has slowed the growth of the trout in the hatcheries as has happened in some past years. With all those lazy cormorants sitting on that log at Lake Leland every day waiting for the plant, it is probably best to let the trout get a little larger at the hatchery.”

Lake Leland did get a small plant of 260 small rainbows in mid-March, but the wait continues for the bigger fish plant.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.

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