MORE HALIBUT DAYS are coming, barring an overwhelming number of the slab-sized bottom fish coming in over the final two scheduled days of the Puget Sound/Strait of Juan de Fuca halibut season Saturday and Monday.
Heather Hall, who oversees halibut fisheries as part of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Intergovernmental Ocean Policy group, provided the most up-to-date information on halibut catches with data through Tuesday.
“Total catch through the June 21st opening is 42,339 pounds, leaving 35,211 pounds of quota remaining,” Hall wrote in an email. “The average weight last week was 15.32 pounds, down from an average weight of 16.27 pounds the week before.
“There will be no halibut days in July. If quota remains after the final day on [Monday] the fishery will re-open in August to provide anglers the opportunity to catch any remaining Puget Sound quota. If that happens, we are planning to align any additional Puget Sound halibut days with days that are scheduled to be open in Marine Areas 3 [La Push] and 4 [Neah Bay].”
The department hasn’t officially approved halibut openings off La Push and Neah Bay, but has proposed opening Thursday, Aug. 6, and remaining open Thursday through Saturday through Sept. 30, or until the quota is met.
So mark those dates now, anglers. Hatchery king fishing will be open in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and depending on chinook and coho quota totals, recreational salmon fishing could still be underway in the Pacific Ocean.
Fish and Wildlife police issued citations to two spot shrimp poachers while patrolling a recent Hood Canal Shrimp District recreational fishery opener.
Officer Mark Hillman and Sgt. Kit Rosenberger were on duty and contacted a boat as it headed toward a private beach on Dabob Bay near Quilcene toward the end of the four-hour shrimping window on June 15.
Upon contact with the boat, the officers did what they normally do when they speak to anglers on the water, they asked how the day of shrimping had gone.
The two men on board the boat replied that they thought they had caught just under their limits, which in the Hood Canal Shrimping District is 10 pounds of all shrimp with a maximum of 80 spot shrimp during June.
The suspects showed the officers a 5-gallon bucket half-filled with shrimp.
Rosenberger’s eagle eye noticed a second, nearly full, 5-gallon bucket of shrimp at the rear of the vessel tucked behind a number of items. Rosenberger asked the duo multiple times if all the shrimp they had harvested was on the boat and the officer’s report shows the two men pointed to the half-filled bucket each time and stuck to their claims that those shrimp were the only shrimp they had harvested.
“We gave them just about every chance to come clean and tell the truth about what was going on and they were adamant,” Rosenberger said. “They told their story and stuck to it.”
Rosenberger eventually confronted the pair and told them he knew they were lying about their catch and arrested them for failing to produce shrimp for inspection.
When Rosenberger and Hillman finished counting all the shrimp aboard the vessel, the two suspects were found in possession of almost 400 spot shrimp, 240 over the 80-spot shrimp per-person limit.
“It’s not an unheard-of amount, but it’s one of the bigger overages we have seen on Hood Canal the past few seasons,” Rosenberger said.
Four shrimp pots found on the vessel were forfeited due to the severity of the overfishing violation and the spot shrimp harvest was seized and donated to the Port Townsend Food Bank.
“It was definitely an egregious violation,” Rosenberger said. “The rationale was an egregious overlimit and the fact that they went out of their way to conceal the violations.”
Both men were cited with gross misdemeanors for first-degree unlawful recreational fishing and failure to submit catch for inspection.
“The case has been referred to the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office already,” Rosenberger said. “We are hopeful that the actions we took will help us achieve compliance in the near future.”
Discovery Bay closed
Shrimping has been closed in the Discovery Bay Shrimping District in Marine Area 6. Sunday was originally an open day, but the State Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday that Discovery Bay has been closed to shrimping for the season.
Shrimping also is open today and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Hood Canal, likely the most popular shrimping destination in the state.
Rosenberger patrolled the western Strait of Juan de Fuca over the weekend, checking in with anglers fishing for salmon and halibut.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the catches we saw,” Rosenberger said. “There were some good-sized kings caught and also a lot of coho, but that [species] is currently closed for retention. We saw pretty good compliance with people releasing coho.”
Rosenberger said some anglers were unaware a portion of Marine Area 4 is closed to salmon retention.
“The closure of salmon east of Sail Rock. Last Saturday we had quite a few people in that closure area. We took action to show them where they can legally fish.”
In Marine Area 4, the waters east of a true north-south line through Sail Rock are closed to salmon fishing through July 31.
Rosenberger said his boat had one contact Sunday for an angler retaining a halibut in Marine Area 4, which is closed to halibut fishing.
“Other than that, we didn’t see too many violations,” Rosenberger said.
Officers are still boarding boats if need be, such as the shrimping violations mentioned previously.
“We kind of do both, depending on the circumstances,” Rosenberger said. “We will have folks reel up and show their gear and show us the fish they have caught. We are boarding boats, and if we do, we are doing the best we can to wear a face mask and use hand sanitizer. We still have a job to do during COVID-19, and people have been pretty understanding.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].