Recreational halibut fishing, delayed for months by the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will open Thursday, Aug. 6, in Marine Areas 1 (Ilwaco/Chinook) and 2 (Westport), the Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Tuesday.
“Although it looks a bit different from the typical halibut season that anglers might be used to, this approach continues to prioritize health and safety, economic investment into port communities, and time out on the water,” said Heather Hall, intergovernmental ocean policy coordinator. “We’re thrilled to see this season come together since envisioning it alongside stakeholders and public health officials earlier this summer.”
The all-depth recreational fishery in Marine Areas 1 and 2 opens Aug. 6. Starting Aug. 13, the fishery will be open two days a week, Thursdays and Sundays, through Sept. 30 or until the quota is taken. Fish and Wildlife said if the number of anglers participating and the number of halibut caught is lower than expected, additional days may be added. Proposed additional days are, Friday, Aug. 28; Friday, Sept. 4; and Friday, Sept. 11.
When fishing in the deepwater lingcod closed area in Marine Area 2, anglers can keep lingcod on days open to all-depth halibut fishing.
In Marine Area 1, during the all depth fishery, anglers can retain flatfish, sablefish, Pacific cod, and lingcod north of the Washington-Oregon border when halibut are on board.
Marine Area 1 Nearshore Area opens Monday Aug. 10. The nearshore fishery in Marine Area 1 will be open three days per week — Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday — until the nearshore quota has been taken. Bottomfish may be retained with halibut on board in the nearshore area only.
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 state halibut catch record card.
There is an annual limit of four halibut. Recreational fishery samplers will be available to collect catch information at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound and the coast while practicing physical distancing guidelines.
Because halibut fisheries are managed to a quota, closures could happen quickly and anglers should check the Fish and Wildlife website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.
The department is asking anglers to continue to opt for trips close to home and practice physical distancing by keeping six feet apart. Anglers should also be sure to check ahead of time if their preferred fishing destination or launch area is open; many launches and beaches are managed under local, tribal, or federal jurisdiction, and may not be operating normally.