Halibut anglers, from left, Nick Roberts, Bob Harrison and Craig Rice, teamed up to bring aboard this 190-pound halibut in May 2019 off Port Angeles. It’s the second halibut catch of more than 155 pounds that Harrison has been involved in since 2017. (Submitted photo)

Halibut anglers, from left, Nick Roberts, Bob Harrison and Craig Rice, teamed up to bring aboard this 190-pound halibut in May 2019 off Port Angeles. It’s the second halibut catch of more than 155 pounds that Harrison has been involved in since 2017. (Submitted photo)

OUTDOORS: Halibut opens in Strait, Puget Sound

WDFW proposing to close Morse Creek Wildlife Area Unit

A STAGGERED HALIBUT season schedule designed to promote day trips and limit overnight stays begins with today’s halibut opener in Marine areas 5-10.

Halibut will be open every other day through June or until quota totals are reached.

Open fishing dates begin today and continue Friday, Sunday, Tuesday and May 28 and 30, and June 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29.

Before all angling in the state was shut down for nearly six weeks to prevent potential transmission of the coronavirus in late March, Puget Sound halibut had been scheduled to open Thursdays and Saturdays from April 30 through May 16, Friday through Sunday over Memorial Day weekend, and Thursday through Saturday from May 28 through June 27, or until the quota was met.

Most fishing reopened May 5, with the exception of Pacific coast marine areas and halibut and shellfish statewide.

Anglers are encouraged to participate in these dates only if they can do so locally as part of a day trip, while also practicing physical distancing.

“In talking with public health officials and our partners at Washington’s ports, we think we’ve found a balance between being able to provide these opportunities and bring that value back into these communities, while also continuing to prioritize public health,” said state Department of Fish and Wildlife coastal region director Larry Phillips.

“These dates depend on anglers continuing to get outdoors responsibly – something we know folks can do because we’ve seen a lot of great examples of it these last couple of weeks.”

Fish and Wildlife advises anglers to only venture out if they are well-prepared and recommending anglers bring their own supplies for personal hygiene such as handwashing materials, toilet paper, and face masks or bandannas.

Anglers should be prepared to change plans if access sites are congested and to check in advance to make sure that intended access sites are open, and scout out some alternatives if need be.

Halibut remains closed in Marine areas 1-4, including La Push and Neah Bay, and those two locations are closed to non-residents, so there is no opportunity available for gas or supplies at those ports.

Similar to last year, anglers fishing for halibut in Marine Area 6 will not be able to retain lingcod incidentally caught when fishing for halibut seaward of the 120-foot depth boundary.

The depth restriction is designed to protect rockfish species, including yelloweye rockfish, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

However, lingcod retention will still be allowed seaward of the 120-foot depth restriction in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), which is outside of the area where yelloweye rockfish are listed.

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 halibut in any form while in the field and must record their catch on a Fish and Wildlife halibut catch record card. There is an annual limit of four halibut.

Be prepared to report your catch as recreational fish checkers will collect catch information at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound while following physical distancing guidelines.

Morse Creek closure?

Fish and Wildlife is proposing to close the Morse Creek Wildlife Area Unit near Port Angeles for up to a year to address chronic impacts to natural resources and public safety resulting from homeless encampments at the site.

The area was closed to the public last December, with the temporary closure scheduled to last until May 31.

“We believe it’s necessary to extend the Morse Creek Wildlife Area Unit’s closure for up to another year,” said Brian Calkins, coastal region wildlife program manager. “We want to reopen the unit as soon as we can make it safe for all visitors and protect valuable habitat.”

Calkins said the 133-acre property has been damaged by people dumping trash, cutting trees, digging holes, and clearing brush to build temporary structures.

WDFW is conducting an environmental review on this proposed action in accordance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and invites the public to provide input on environmental considerations through May 27.

People can submit comments online or by mail to Lisa Wood, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504.

Special hunt permits

Hunters can now submit special hunt applications through midnight Thursday for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep and fall turkey 2020 seasons in Washington.

“The original deadline was May 18,” said Eric Gardner, Fish and Wildlife Program director. “Unfortunately, the printed pamphlets shipment to our dealers have been behind schedule due to COVID-19 complications, so we want to give hunters a few more days to review and submit applications.”

A random drawing to select permit winners will be held in June. Hunters who receive special permits qualify to hunt beyond the times and places authorized by a general hunting license.

Instructions and details on applying for special permit hunts are on pages 16-17 of Washington’s 2020 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet.

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