A HALIBUT CATCH update recently provided by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife shows plenty of quota remaining for the North Coast (Neah Bay and La Push) and Puget Sound, which includes Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).
A total of 919 anglers caught 612 halibut for a weight of 7,990.5 pounds from May 1-7 off the North Coast and 914 anglers brought in 473 halibut for a total weight of 7,226.4 pounds from May 8-14.
Catch-to-date through May 14 is 15,216.9, which is 12-percent of the North Coast’s 129,668-pound quota.
Puget Sound and Straits anglers have had a head start and have caught 23-percent or 17,918.2 pounds of the subarea’s 79,031-pound quota.
State estimates put across all subarea’s show 21-percent or 60,330.6 of the state’s 291,950-pound quota has been taken through May 14.
Quilcene’s Ward Norden, a former fisheries biologist and now a retired tackle maker, keeps track of trends in the Pacific Ocean and how those conditions may impact future fisheries.
“After many months of dramatically colder than normal ocean temperatures off the coast of the Pacific Northwest out over 1,000 miles, the situation has completely reversed in the last two weeks,” Norden wrote in on May 16.
“Now there is even a ‘heat bloom’ off the coast of southwest Washington as much as six degrees Fahrenheit above normal with no upwelling of nutrient rich water north of Cape Mendocino, Calif.
“These conditions will stifle any plankton bloom that our salmon smolts from northwest coastal waters depend on. Primarily effected will be next year’s coho and [off-year] pink salmon returns as well as 2025 sockeye returns and chinook returns for 2026 and 2027.
“The Pacific off our coast did this regularly in the 1990’s but rarely since. It could be connected with the powerful El Nino occurring on the equator at this time but probably not since there is a large mass of colder-than-normal water from S. California all the way to Hawaii blocking El Nino.”
I asked Norden if he thought this ocean warming was connected in any way to the lancetfish popping up on Oregon beaches and caught off Neah Bay.
He didn’t think so.
“This warm water anomaly didn’t even get started until May 11,” Norden said. “That is how fast this happened.”
Norden uses NOAA’s Coral Bleaching website’s Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly section which tracks the present and near-term future and the global anomaly archives which go back 20-plus years.
“In any case, mother nature is getting real creative this spring to make sure we scientists, or former in this case, are paying attention to who is really in charge,” Norden said.
“Hopefully, that recently discovered deep ocean current that feeds nutrients just into the Straits and Puget Sound gets going soon which will isolate us from the effects of warm water offshore. It feeds our rich plankton blooms here. That happened only once in the last 40 years back in the 1980s when I caught mackerel and barracuda off Possession Point. That was really fun though, even if salmon fishing the next couple years was the pits.”
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.