Rockfish and lingcod fishing out of Westport and across Marine Areas 1-3 opened Tuesday after a two-month closure due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the opener, which includes Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, late Friday. It includes bottomfish, shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters and other species as described in the state’s fishing rules pamphlet.
According to the Fish and Wildlife statement, halibut and razor clam harvest will remain closed in these areas for now due to continued port closures and concerns about the spread of coronavirus in local communities. As reported Saturday in the Daily World, razor clam harvest has been closed for the season.
Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) also remains closed to all recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting.
“We’ve continually said we will only open fisheries when local communities feel it is safe to do so, and with the full cooperation of public health officials,” said Larry Phillips, Fish and Wildlife coastal region director. “While not everything is reopening right away, this is a huge step toward returning to typical fishing seasons along the coast. Some of Washington’s best fishing takes place in the ocean, and we’re excited to see people getting back out there, even if the experience is somewhat different.”
Westport charter boats
Charter boats were allowed to return to work, with some stringent guidelines.
The charter boat Slammer posted on its Facebook page Friday they would resume trips Thursday, May 28. The Slammer can take 8-12 people per trip — Phase 2 guidelines say no more than eight can be aboard from individual households, but if there are enough booking from a single household the Slammer can handle 12. The same day, the charter boat Predator posted it will also resume May 28 and can carry 11 anglers with the maximum eight households.
All charter boats require clients to bring their own face masks, which must be worn while riding in the cabin of the boat, and social distancing must be maintained. Clients are urged to bring their own hand sanitizer and their own pen to sign in for the trip. A full list of charter boat and other recreation requirements can be found online at http://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/COVID19Phase1and2OutdoorRecreationGuidance.pdf.
Anglers interested in booking a trip with a charter or guide should check in with the operator regarding their availability. Fish and Wildlife and charter/guiding industry representatives continue to work with the Governor’s Office to reopen operations under the phased approach to outdoor recreation. Many of these businesses, which are critical to the economic stability of coastal communities, are currently restricted or not operating at full capacity.
Public launch, access
A source at the Westport Marina said Tuesday the recently-improved public boat launch at the end of North Wilson Avenue near the Coast Guard station, open only to “essential use” for the past month and a half, is now open to the public. Open too is the fishing boardwalk at the marina.
As for other launches, you should check ahead of time if they are open. Some local marinas or facilities – including tribal lands – remain closed, and anglers should be prepared to change plans if their first choice is closed or too congested. Notably, the Makah and Quileute reservations, including marinas and all services, remain closed to visitors as of Friday. Anglers should not attempt to access the ocean from these areas.
“Additional fishery closures may be implemented if anglers attempt to launch from closed access sites,” warned Fish and Wildlife.
Anglers will also need to follow state guidelines by continuing to recreate in their local communities, traveling only with family or other members of their immediate household, and practicing physical distancing by keeping six feet apart.
“We’re reopening in consultation with local public health officials, and consistent with the governor’s phased approach,” Phillips said. “It’s extremely important that we all continue to do our part to keep ourselves and our communities safe and healthy.”
Halibut fishing remains closed as of Tuesday. So far salmon season appears to be on track for a June 20 opener, if proposed rules are approved in early June. Quotas are small for the Westport subarea — 9,800 Coho, 12,460 Chinook — and the limit will be one Chinook only June 20-28, when fishing will be open every day. Starting June 29 and through Sept. 30, if the quota holds out, fishing will be open five days a week with a two-salmon limit, one of which may be a Chinook. The minimum size for Chinook will be 22 inches throughout the season.