The seasons set late last week for inland waters are much more restrictive than in 2009, reflecting the fact that Puget Sound anglers last year landed more than 114,000 pounds of the big flatfish — nearly double their 57,400-pound quota.
Add that fact to a 15-percent general reduction in the Pacific Coast halibut quota by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, plus increased efforts to protect certain rockfish species, and you end up with shorter seasons and fewer fishing days. Washington anglers will be allowed a total of 201,000 pounds this year, compared to 224,000 pounds last year. The statewide recreational, commercial and tribal allowance is 810,000 pounds, compared to 950,000 pounds last year.
Many knowledgeable halibut anglers yelled foul, saying there's no way recreational fishermen could have boated 114,000 pounds of halibut on inside waters, but the state moved ahead by delaying the opener in Marine Areas 6-10 until May 1 and reducing the number of fishing days per week in all of Puget Sound from five days to three.
Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) retained its traditional opening date prior to the Memorial Day weekend, but closes earlier than it has in the past. On the coast, ocean regulations will remain essentially the same as last year, except that reduced quotas likely will be met earlier in the year.
The limit on all state waters open to halibut fishing remains one fish daily, no minimum size.
The seasons for 2010 are as follows:
Ilwaco, Marine Area 1: Opens May 1, Thursdays through Saturdays, until 70 percent of the quota is reached or July 18. Reopens Aug. 6, Fridays through Sundays.
Westport, Marine Area 2: Opens May 2, Sundays and Tuesdays. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open only May 23. The following week, fishing resumes on Sundays and Tuesdays. The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week.
Neah Bay, Marine Areas 3 and 4: opens May 13, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. Could reopen June 3 and 5.
Strait and Puget Sound: Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) opens May 28 through June 19, and Marine Areas 6-10 open May 1 through May 30, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, except for Memorial Day weekend when they open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Halibut fishing last year in areas 6-13 was open April 23 to June 5, five days per week.
The federal rule that halibut caught in an open area cannot be landed in a closed area concerned some anglers. Areas 8-1 and 8-2 were not originally to be opened to fishing and halibut caught on the banks of the eastern Strait could not have been landed in Everett. That problem was solved by opening areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9, along with most of the rest of Puget Sound. Another problematic rule going into effect on the inland waters May 1 prohibits bottomfishing deeper than 120 feet. It will apply to lingcod, rockfish and other groundfish species, but not to halibut.
The Port Angeles Salmon Club's 10th annual Halibut Derby runs May 29-30 out of the Port Angeles Yacht Club. First place this year is worth $5,000. Tickets (for one day or both) are $40. Buy tickets on line, or for more information contact Swain's General Store at 360-452-2357, or go to www.swainsinc.com. Brochures are available at Ted's Sport Center in Lynnwood (425-743-9505).
Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington said a fair percentage of local fishermen have been heading to the area in front of Victoria (with a valid Canadian fishing license), where the season is open 11 months, and coming back with mostly limits 35 to 70 pounds.
Steen also said salmon anglers have been hooking halibut incidentally on Hein Bank.
Nick Kester of All Star Charters in Everett said he's booking halibut trips now to run out of Everett and Seattle to areas off Port Townsend and Port Angeles, and some of the eastern banks such as Partridge. Last year was his first effort in that direction, and it proved successful, he said. The run is 60 to 90 minutes and allows six hours of fishing time. The largest halibut landed last year weighed 125 pounds, Kester said, and each trip normally results in at least two or three hookups.
Kester said he caught a halibut incidentally on Possession Bar last week, and knew of another taken off Point No Point the week before.
Results from the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club Blackmouth Derby on Saturday show there are still fish to be had in local waters as the winter season winds down. Some 100 ticket holders weighed in 30 fish, most from Saratoga Passage and most caught on herring, either whole or plug-cut. The weather wasn't bad and some really nice chinook took the top prizes (all entries were cleaned and gilled prior to weigh-in):
First place and $3,000 went to John Bullinger for a fish of 18.5 pounds, caught off Greenbank on herring. Norm Chaing took second, fishing aboard Tom Burlingame's Excel Charters, at 14.29 pounds, off Baby Island, on a green squid and Berkley Gulp. Third went to Debbie Buse, at 13.55 pounds, off Hat Island on a candlefish lure. Steve Stout generously donated his fourth-place prize of $250 to the club's youth organization, to help with young people's fishing activities.
Better weather finally allowed the Westport charter fleet to head out for black rockfish and lingcod late last week, resulting in good fishing. A spokesman at Deep Sea Charters (800-562-0151) said his boat brought in limits of both species Thursday, with the largest ling weighing slightly over 10 pounds.
SAN JUAN ISLANDS BLACKMOUTH
With the big Anacortes Derby coming up this weekend, reports from the San Juans indicate fishing is a little on the slow side. Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington said a 19-pound hatchery fish was caught last week off Humphrey Head, a few blackmouth were landed in Guemes Channel, and rumors are circulating of a wild-stock chinook off the west side of San Juan Island in the mid-20s. Point Lawrence also has been putting out some fish, Steen said.
Warmer spring weather recently kicked action up a notch for trout fishermen on local year-around lakes. Goodwin, Blackmans and Gissberg Ponds put out rainbows locally, while Big Lake, Campbell, Pass and Lone also were productive over the weekend.
East of the Cascades, Roses, Antilon, the seep lakes below O'Sullivan Dam, Lenice and Nunnally, Lenore, and a number of others are good bets right now. On April 1, a bunch more kick in, and biologists tap Upper and Lower Hampton, North and South Teal, and the Pillar-Widgeon chain as top prospects. Dry Falls Lake (selective gear) is a notoriously slow starter, but with warmer temperatures this winter, trout manager Chad Jackson said the lake could be much better on the opener. Dry Falls is expected to produce a mix of rainbows, tigers and browns, from 14 inches or so up to multipound carryovers.
Those looking for other species might check out Hutchinson and Shiner lakes in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, which, Jackson says, have developed into quality largemouth bass and bluegill waters.
BIG GAME DEADLINE
Deer and elk hunters have until March 31 to enter their names in a drawing for a 2010 multiple-season permit, which can greatly increase chances of harvesting an animal this year. A random draw by state personnel in early April allows for the issuance of 2,000 multiple-season deer permits, and 600 for elk. Winners will be eligible to purchase a special tag that allows them to participate in all general archery, muzzleloader and modern-firearm hunting seasons for deer or elk in 2010.
Hunters may purchase a multiple-season permit application at an authorized license dealer, via the Internet at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, or by calling 866-246-9453. The permit application is $6.50.
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