Rockfish Limit Likely To Dip Off Washington

Washington rockfish anglers are likely to see a lower bag limit this season due to increased catches of black rocks last year and a reduced quota for 2017.

Fishery managers will recommend allowing seven a day, down from 10 under current coastwide regulations.

That’s the word out of a meeting yesterday with the Pacific Fishery Management Council and which will help keep this year’s black rockfish catches under the federal Magnuson Stevens Act limits, according to WDFW’s Heather Reed.

PAULA HILL OF BOSTON HARBOR SHOWS OFF A PAIR OF NICE BLACK ROCKFISH SHE CAUGHT WHILE ON A GUIDED TRIP OUT OF WESTPORT IN 2015. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Stock assessments in recent years have found the population of black rocks healthy, but also increasing catches, especially last year.

Reed says that with 2016’s reduced salmon fisheries, it’s likely that more angler effort was focused on the plentiful species that makes up 88 percent of Washington’s rockfish harvest.

Last year saw a catch of 369 metric tons, while 2015 yielded 305 metric tons.

But the annual recreational limit for 2017 has been been capped at 287 metric tons, or 632,727 pounds. There is no commercial rockfish fishery in Washington waters; tribal fishermen are allocated their own 18 metric tons.

Reed acknowledges that the proposed reduction she will take to the Fish and Wildlife Commission will be hard on anglers and charters.

Black rocks are a “bread and butter” fish that get fishermen through tough seasons, like last year, she says.

Sportfishing advisors were part of the discussions and had feared the limit might go as low as six rockfish a day.

By comparison, Oregon anglers may keep six black rockfish in their seven-fish marine bag limit, down from seven last year.

If there’s any good news, it’s that after 14 years of being off limits as the stocks were rebuilt, canary rockfish are set to reopen in Marine Areas 1 and 2.

Reed says that anglers advised moving cautiously forward because the species is similar to yelloweye rockfish.

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