Tag Archives: halibut

Higher Quota For Washington Halibut; 2019 Proposed Opener Dates Set

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Anglers fishing for halibut in Washington waters will have more halibut to catch during the 2019 season compared to recent years.

Recreational halibut seasons announced today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) are based on a statewide quota of 277,100 pounds, up by an average of 19 percent over the past three years.

WASHINGTON HALIBUT ANGLERS LIKE AMANDA SPIEGEL, HERE WITH A NICE FLATTIE CAUGHT OUT OF PORT ANGELES, CAN LOOK FORWARD TO A LARGER QUOTA IN 2019. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Those fisheries are set to get underway May 2 in both state coastal waters and in marine areas 5-10 in Puget Sound.

Heather Hall, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, said the higher annual catch quota is the result of a new fixed allocation for fisheries in Washington, Oregon, and California approved by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in January.

Hall said that unique approach will allocate a total of 1.5 million pounds to halibut fisheries off the coast of those three states each year through 2022, barring any “substantive conservation concerns.”

“The Makah Tribe proposed a fixed quota for all recreational and commercial fisheries, not just for tribal fisheries,” Hall said. “That initiative will help to stabilize fisheries in all three states.”

Hall said the 2019 season is structured similar to recent years, with many of the fishing areas open at the same time. However, Hall noted that WDFW met with stakeholders last fall to establish halibut season dates that accommodate preferences in each management area.

Through that process, WDFW staff learned that Saturdays are important for the north coast (Neah Bay and La Push), while a Sunday opening is generally preferred on the south coast (Westport). The opening in the Columbia River subarea reflects requests that season dates overlap with those on the south coast off Westport.

Unlike previous seasons, anglers fishing for halibut in Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) will not be able to retain lingcod incidentally caught when fishing for halibut seaward of the 120-foot depth boundary. Hall said the depth restriction is designed to protect rockfish species, including yelloweye rockfish, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“Higher halibut quotas in the next few years will likely mean more fishing days, which increase the chance that anglers fishing for halibut will encounter ESA-listed rockfish,” she said. “If we continued to allow lingcod retention outside of the depth restriction in Marine Area 6, it could affect rockfish recovery.”

However, lingcod retention will still be allowed seaward of the 120-foot depth restriction in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), which is outside of the area where yelloweye rockfish are listed.

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 WDFW catch record card. There is an annual limit of four halibut.

Because halibut fisheries are managed to a quota, anglers should check the WDFW website to ensure a specific area is open prior to fishing. Complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.

Season details are listed below. Because halibut are regulated by the National Marine Fisheries Service, these dates are considered preliminary until the federal rulemaking process is complete.

Proposed 2019 Puget Sound halibut seasons

  • Marine areas 5-10 open May 2, 4, 9, 11, 18, 24, 26, June 6, 8, 20, and 22 as long as there is sufficient quota. Puget Sound will be managed to an overall quota of 77,550 pounds.
  • Marine areas 11, 12, and 13 will remain closed to halibut fishing to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

Proposed 2019 Pacific Coast halibut seasons

  • Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) opens May 2, 5, 9, 12, 24 and 26 as long as there is sufficient quota. If quota remains after May 26, the Columbia River subarea would be open two days per week, Thursday and Sunday, until the remaining quota is achieved. The nearshore area opens to fishing May 6 on a Monday-through-Wednesday schedule. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut/columbia-river. The all depth-fishery will be managed to 14,627 pounds; the nearshore quota is 500 pounds.
  • Marine Area 2 (Westport): The all-depth fishery opens May 2, 5, 9, 12, and 24 as long as there is sufficient quota. If sufficient quota remains, the northern nearshore area will open on the Saturday after the all-depth fishery closes and will continue seven days per week until the overall quota is taken. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut/south-coast. This area will be managed to an overall quota of 62,896 pounds.
  • Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) will open May 2, 4, 9, 11, 18, 24, 26, June 6, 8, 20, and 22, as long as there is sufficient quota. The combined quota for both areas is 128,187 pounds.

Fishing regulations include depth restrictions and area closures designed to reduce encounters with yelloweye rockfish, which must be released under state and federal law. Anglers are reminded that a descending device must be onboard vessels and rigged for immediate use when fishing for or possessing bottomfish and halibut.

Information about descending devices can be found on WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/rockfish

Halibut Skippers Convicted Of Unlawful Fishing

Two Washington South Coast skippers were convicted late last month by a jury of nearly 20 fishing violations that occurred during chartered halibut trips, according to a WDFW press release.

HALIBUT AWAIT PROCESSING BACK AT PORT IN THIS IMAGE FROM A RECENT TRIAL INVOLVING MULTIPLE FISHING VIOLATIONS. WDFW SAYS THAT TWO ILWACO CHARTER SKIPPERS HIGH-GRADED CUSTOMERS’ CATCHES TO ENSURE THEY WENT HOME WITH LARGER FISH, BUT SOME SMALLER ONES APPARENTLY DIED AFTER BEING HELD IN LIVEWELLS, ACCORDING TO WITNESS TESTIMONY. (WDFW)

The culmination of an 18-month-long investigation and eight-day trial in Pacific County District Court before six jurors and with more than 25 witnesses called found David Gudgell, 58, of Seaview guilty of 10 counts of second-degree unlawful fishing and brother Robert Gudgell, 57, of Longview guilty of eight, WDFW says.


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They face up to three months in jail, as well as fines of $1,000 for each conviction, at their March 13 sentencing, according to a report in a local newspaper that followed the case closely.

The brothers were found not guilty on 10 other counts, but the jury did find David Gudgell guilty of one count of wasting fish, a gross misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of just under a year in jail and $5,000 fine.

The case began in 2017 with tips from fishermen that small halibut caught at sea had been held in a livewell on David Gudgell’s boat, Westwind, according to WDFW.

On the run back to Ilwaco, he and a deckhand tossed overboard “up to seven halibut, three of which had had their gills cut, keeping the bigger fish to ensure that the boat returned to port with only the legal limit,” according to the agency.

That spurred game wardens to take an undercover trip on another Pacific Salmon Charters fleet boat, as well as interview “more than 100 customers who described similar experiences on multiple vessels,” including Robert Gudgell’s boat, the Katie Marie, according to WDFW.

Some halibut apparently were able to swim off under their own power, while others “sank like a leaf falling from the sky,” game wardens state.

“This illegal activity is what we call called high-grading,” said WDFW Capt. Dan Chadwick. “It’s something we’re watching for and we rely on tips from the public; they were our eyes and ears on this one. The case would not have been possible without their testimony and the support of the community, including the many local charter boat captains who were appalled by this behavior.”

During the trial, Robert Gudgell explained why he came up with the idea for a livewell, according to reporter Natalie St. John of the Chinook Observer, who covered the investigation as well as the trial.

In her story out yesterday, she wrote that “there were times when deckhands couldn’t immediately deal with fish that came on board, for example, in very rough waters or when more than one customer brought in a fish at the same time. He said he believed it kept the animals healthier and happier, and was safer for passengers than leaving fish lying on the deck. Gudgell strongly denied throwing dead fish overboard.”

“I’m a conservationist,” Robert Gudgell said at trial, according to St. John. “I don’t kill stuff just to kill. I don’t do it.”

“He said his personal definition of ‘high-grading’ merely meant making sure customers get the largest fish, and crewmembers take home the smaller fish,” St. John wrote. “He said it was common practice on charter boats.”

But according to WDFW officers, “this type of illegal behavior isn’t typical of ethical charter captains who recognize that their livelihoods depend upon sustainable fish population,” the agency press release states.

West Coast fisheries are governed by the overarching International Pacific Halibut Commission, which establishes quotas for each state and which are further subdivided between marine areas. Catches are closely monitored to keep from exceeding limits.

According to state figures, the average Ilwaco halibut has weighed from 14 to 18 pounds in recent seasons. Chartered trips are listing for around $200 or so. Since last year, both private and for-hire boats have been required to have descending devices rigged up for “immediate use” when targeting halibut.

WDFW’s investigation was led by Officer Todd Dielman.

“We are very grateful for the efforts put forth by Pacific County Deputy Prosecutors Joe Faurholt and Ben Haslam who worked tirelessly on this case,” said Capt. Chadwick. “We would also like to thank the witnesses who provided firsthand accounts of these violations.”

The Point? There’s A Lot Of Good Spots For Winter Blackmouth — Yuasa

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

The holidays are a time where one needs to not only enjoy all the food and festivities, but to soak in the fun and enjoyment of what the Pacific Northwest fishing scene has to offer.

Instead of constantly fretting about what goes under the Christmas tree let us have a sneak peek at what you can find swimming around Puget Sound and other waterways in the weeks and months ahead.

LOGAN SMITH DID WELL ON THE DECEMBER BLACKMOUTH OPENER IN MARINE AREA 8-2. FISHING WITH HIS DAD, CHAD, THEY ALSO CAME IN WITH A SECOND RESIDENT CHINOOK PLUS SIX DUNGENESS CRABS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Many salmon anglers are waiting to ring in New Year’s Day by hitting the winter chinook opener on Jan. 1 in northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Areas 7, 9 and 10), but you can get a jump start on bringing home a fresh salmon from some other locations.

Hatchery chinook for the holiday dinner table are free game right now in south-central Puget Sound (11); the east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).

Top choices include the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; Point Dalco on south side of Vashon Island; Elger Bay; Camano Head; Hat Island; Onamac Point; Fox Point; Point Fosdick; Anderson Island; Lyle Point; and Devil’s Head and Johnson Point.

A good sign is the WDFW fish check from Sunday (Nov. 25) at the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma that showed nine boats with 12 anglers taking home five chinook and one chum.

Another great way to gauge how success will be since chinook fishing in Areas 8-1 and 8-2 has been closed for quite a long time – since early spring of 2018 to be precise – is the Everett Salmon & Steelhead Club and Puget Sound Anglers Salmon Derby on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 1-2). The derby headquarters is Bayside Marine in Everett. Cost for the Everett Steelhead & Salmon Club’s side pot is $10 per angler, and Puget Sound Anglers side pot is $100 per boat. Weigh-in station is the Everett boat launch on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday between 12:30-1 p.m. You must be in line by 1 p.m. There will be a potluck on Sunday. Details: 425-530-0017 or 4salebydavemiller@gmail.com or 425-501-4024 or 206-730-0469 or rgarner@aol.com.

The sleeper spot that doesn’t garner as much attention during the winter is Hood Canal (Area 12). Look for hungry blackmouth around Misery Point, Hazel Point, Pleasant Harbor, Toandos Peninsula, Seabeck Bay and Seal Rock.

Those who hold out for the New Year’s Day festivities should try Possession Bar; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Jefferson Head; West Point; Point Monroe; Southworth; and Allen Bank off Blake Island.

In the San Juan Islands put your time in around Waldron Island; Parker Reef; north side Orcas Island; Rosario Pass; Tide Point; Decatur Pass; Obstruction Pass; McArthur Bank; Point Lawrence; and Thatcher Pass.

If you get my “point” there’s a lot of “points” mentioned in the previous three paragraphs to get on the water during the holidays. No “point” pun intended!

Keep in mind that encounter rates and catch guidelines will dictate how long each area stays open so I’d go sooner than later.

In Area 7, WDFW set the bar of not exceeding 3,176 total unmarked chinook encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In Area 9, the encounter ceiling prediction is 10,004; and in Area 10 it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates between Jan. 11 and 18.

Those heading out before Dec. 31 should bring along some crab pots to set in some parts of Puget Sound. Marine areas open daily are Strait of Juan de Fuca east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line to Port Angeles; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; and a section of northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

Word on Tengu Blackmouth Derby

There is a small group of anglers who brave the elements every winter during the Tengu Blackmouth Derby – an event that began shortly after World War II in 1946 – that is held on Elliott Bay.

Normally the derby (the oldest in Puget Sound) starts during October when Area 10 opens for winter hatchery chinook.

However, this year’s non-retention of chinook delayed the event to coincide with the Jan. 1 reopener of Area 10.

(TENGU BLACKMOUTH DERBY CLUB)

The derby has been tentatively set to be held on Sundays from Jan. 6 through Feb. 24 at the Seacrest Boathouse (now known as Marination) in West Seattle.

“We’re trying to figure out specifics related to the derby like costs, logistics and if Outdoor Emporium can sell our derby tickets for us,” Doug Hanada, the Tengu Derby president, said of what will be the 73rd year of the derby.

The derby is named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth, and just like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.

Last year, a total of 18 blackmouth were caught and the winning fish of 9 pounds-15 ounces went to Guy Mamiya. Justin Wong had the most fish with a total of five and followed by John Mirante with four fish.

To further test your skills, only mooching is allowed in the derby. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted.

In past years, the derby runs from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. every Sunday. Hanada was checking to see if rental boats and motors will be available this season. Last year, the membership fee was $15 and $5 for children age 12-and-under.

Halibut fishery blooming this spring

The Pacific Fishery Management Council wrapped up meetings in San Diego during early November to decide halibut fishing dates that will enable anglers to make preliminary plans although catch quotas won’t be finalized until later next month.

The tentative halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) are May 2, 4, 9, 11, 18, 24 and 26; and June 6, 8, 20 and 22. At Westport (2) the tentative dates are May 2, 5, 9, 12 and 24.

At Ilwaco (1) the opening dates will be decided through consultation with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife although the Washington subarea dates proposed are May 2, 5, 9, 12, 24 and 26.

If quota remains the Ilwaco subarea would reopen two days per week (Thursday and Sunday) after May 26.

Additional fishing dates could be added to an area if their sport catch quotas aren’t achieved.

The IPHC will meet Jan. 28-29 in Victoria, B.C. to set catch quotas from California north to Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.

Exciting news for 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series

The 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series calendar has been set with 15 events from January through November of 2019.

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).

I’m really stoked about our new grand prize boat valued at $75,000, which is a Weldcraft Rebel 202 Hardtop Series from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered by a Yamaha 200 and 9.9hp motors on an EZ Loader Trailer.

Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success are Raymarine Electronics; Dual Electronics; WhoDat Towers; Scotty Downriggers; Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco/Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

There is a full-blown list of places to go during the holidays so take a break from the frenzied shopping sprees, mall madness and giftwrapping chores to go out and fish.

I’ll see you on the water!

2019 Washington Halibut Seasons Subject Of Upcoming Public Meeting

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will host a public meeting in Montesano in early October to discuss management options and select proposed dates for the 2019 statewide halibut season.

LA PUSH HALIBUT ANGLERS SHOW OFF A GOOD GRADE OF FISH CAUGHT ON A SPRING 2018 OUTING. (DAVE ANDERSON)

The meeting will be held Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St.

State halibut managers will provide an overview of specific options under consideration by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) for recreational fisheries in Marine Areas 1 (Columbia River) and 2 (Westport) for 2019. WDFW will consider public comments received on those options in developing recommendations to the PFMC before the federally established council meets in November.

“The options reflect suggestions made by anglers to improve the state’s halibut fishery,” said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for WDFW. “The halibut fishery is very popular and this meeting is a good opportunity to provide input.”

In addition to status quo, options under consideration include:

Revising the season opening date in Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) so that it aligns more closely with the openings in other marine areas.

Changing the number of days of the week the Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) all-depth fishery is open from three days per week to two.

Clarifying that the nearshore fishery in Marine Area 2 (Westport) will open if sufficient quota remains after the all-depth fishery closes.

At the Oct. 9 meeting, WDFW will also solicit input from the public and facilitate a discussion on the proposed season dates for the statewide season in Marine Areas 2-10. As part of those discussions, WDFW staff will review the tide calendars for next May and June and work to balance the needs across various fishing communities and charter and private fishing interests.

During the discussion, factors considered will include maximizing opportunity, extending the season length, and accommodating traditions relative to opening dates and planned fishing derbies.

More information about the specific options described above can be found online at https://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/J1b_Supp_WDFW_Rpt1_SEPTBB2018.pdf

For more information on the season-setting process visit PFMC’s website at http://www.pcouncil.org/pacific-halibut/background-information/.

2019 Halibut, Bottomfish Seasons Subject Of 4 ODFW Early Aug. Meetings

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW will host a series of public meetings the week of Aug. 6 to gather input on the 2019 recreational bottomfish and halibut seasons. People who can’t attend meetings can also listen in via Webcast (details below).

MORE YELLOWEYE ROCKFISH WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR HARVEST DURING OREGON’S 2019 SALTWATER FISHERIES. (ODFW)

One key change for next year is that beginning in 2019, the amount of yelloweye rockfish that all fisheries, including recreational fisheries, are allowed to impact will be going up. This increase in yelloweye rockfish should allow for some additional opportunities. However the quotas for many other bottomfish species will remain at current levels or decrease a bit. ODFW will be seeking input on how to balance the season structure and regulations to stay within these allocations.

“It’s important that we hear from a wide range of anglers before making decisions on the 2019 seasons,” said ODFW Recreational Halibut and Bottomfish Project Leader Lynn Mattes.

The meetings will be held:
Monday, Aug. 6, 6-8 p.m. in Salem at ODFW Headquarters (4034 Industrial Drive SE) in the Commission Room.
Tuesday, Aug. 7, 6-8 p.m. in Newport at the Marine Resources Program office, 2040 SE Marine Science Drive.  This meeting will also be webcast, details below.
Wednesday, Aug. 8, 6-8 p.m. in Brookings at the Southwestern Oregon Community College, Curry Campus, 96082 Lone Ranch Parkway.
Thursday, Aug.9, 6-8 p.m. in North Bend at the Public Library, 1800 Sherman Street.

Anglers who wish to provide input but cannot attend a meeting in person or via the webcast can contact Lynn Mattes at 541-867-4741 ext. 237 or lynn.mattes@state.or.us or Christian Heath at 541-867-4741 ext. 266 or Christian.t.heath@state.or.us.  Background information will be posted on the ODFW sport bottomfish and sport halibut webpages by Aug. 3.

Webcast details:
Join from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/173547725
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3122
Access Code: 173-547-725
First GoToMeeting? Do a quick system check: https://link.gotomeeting.com/system-check

North Coast, Straits, Sound Halibut Anglers Get One More Day

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Action:  Recreational halibut fishing will re-open for a final day in Marine Areas 3 and 4 (La Push and Neah Bay) and marine areas 5 through 10 in the Puget Sound on Saturday, June 30.

ANDIE HOLMBERG SPORTS A BIG SMILE AFTER LANDING HER FIRST-EVER HALIBUT, CAUGHT OFF FRESHWATER BAY NEAR PORT ANGELES EARLIER THIS SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Saturday, June 30, 2018.

Species affected: Pacific halibut.

 Location: Marine Area 3 (La Push), Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) and marine areas 5-10 (Puget Sound).

 Reason for action: Recreational catch estimates from the recent halibut opener on June 21 and June 23 indicate that there is sufficient quota remaining to open recreational halibut fishing for one final day on Saturday, June 30.

 Additional information: Anglers should note that lingcod retention is not allowed in waters deeper than 120 feet in Marine areas 5 and 6 now that the recreational lingcod season is closed.  All other areas are closed to recreational halibut fishing for the remainder of the year.

This rule conforms to federal action taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

More Details On That Giant East Strait of Juan de Fuca Halibut

No, Tom Hellinger won’t be sharing his secret halibut spot anytime soon, though he does offer a hint.

“I can give you the coordinates,” says the 59-year-old Puget Sound angler who hooked a true barndoor late last month. “All the way on the bottom.”

SCREENSHOTS FROM A VIDEO SHOT BY ANGLER TOM HELLINGER’S DAUGHTER ALEISHA HELLINGER FROM THE ROOF OF THE BOAT SHOW THE FINAL STAGES OF TOM’S BATTLE WITH THE 79-INCH HALIBUT AND CELEBRATION IMMEDIATELY AFTER BRINGING IT ABOARD. (ALEISHA HELLINGER)

But the Whidbey Island resident is sharing more details of his remarkable catch, a 6 1/2-plus-foot-long halibut estimated at between 254 and 265 pounds.

“It’s pretty humbling to catch a fish like that,” says Hellinger, who likened it to harvesting a trophy bull elk. “They’re pretty majestic.”

Though unofficial, the fish is within 25 to 35 pounds of the state record, caught out at Swiftsure Bank in the late 1980s.

“I was really blessed to be part of that and have my kids be there,” Hellinger adds.

They were out somewhere on the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday, May 27.

With his daughter Aleisha Hellinger, son Caleb Hellinger and fishing partner Luke Reid all angling off the back of the 24-foot Hewescraft, Hellinger went up to the bow.

“I told the kids I was going to catch the big one,” he says.

LUKE REID, ALEISHA HELLINGER, TOM HELLINGER AND CALEB HELLINGER POSE WITH TOM’S BIG CATCH AS WELL AS LUKE AND ALEISHA’S 30- AND 40-POUNDERS FROM THE SAME TRIP. (TOM HELLINGER)

With him he took an Okuma SST halibut rod paired with a Tica reel he’d picked up on sale at a boat show and strung with 80-pound T.U.F. Line.

“The cheapest rod and reel on the boat,” Hellinger jokes in a salty three-minute video Aleisha shot.

With a whole black-label-sized herring and large pink squid on a 10/0 Gamakatsu off a spreader bar and nylon leader on the business end, he used 50 ounces of weight to keep the rig on bottom in 100-plus feet of water.

Hellinger says it was only about five minutes after he began fishing that the bait got the interest of something big.

“He set up hard on it,” Hellinger recalls. “He took 50 to 60 yards of line, just ripped it off. I had to thumb it to stop it, then set the hooks again.”

He says the fish felt solid, “like being hooked into a wall.”

TOM HELLINGER POSES WITH HIS BARNDOOR-SIZED HALIBUT, A FISH HE WAS BOTH “GRATEFUL AND THANKFUL” TO CATCH. (TOM HELLINGER)

Calling Caleb over, he handed the rod to him with some instructions.

“I’ve got a nice fish on, so work him nice and slow,” Hellinger counseled. “We’ll see what comes up.”

He said it took about 40 minutes for Caleb to bring the halibut up to the surface.

“It came up like the mothership — flat, flat as could be. Everybody had that ‘oh, my gosh’ moment. This is a barndoor.”

The initial attempt at getting a harpoon into the fish failed.

“The fish came out of the water immediately. I’ve never seen one do that. It did a 180 and ran down the side of the boat and snapped off the harpoon line,” Hellinger says.

He coached Caleb to let it run, but soon his son said he couldn’t fight it any longer and for his father to take the rod back.

“My pleasure,” Hellinger responded.

THE CREW AND THE HALIBUT. (TOM HELLINGER)

This has been a pretty good halibut season for the longtime employee of Freeland’s Nichols Brothers shipyard, with five between he, Aleisha and Reid — “five times more than usual.”

“I consider it fortunate to get one a season,” Hellinger says.

He says there have been some strings of years with none, and that with Washington’s tightly controlled fishery — with its preplanned and staggered retention days that don’t always align with good weather — he’d even been considering whether it was worthwhile any longer to chase them.

But now, with a big one on, Hellinger found a good spot along the gunnel and fought the seabeast for another 40 minutes, the fish’s movements telegraphing up the line and down the rod into his arms.

“It’s a different feel, like a magic carpet ride. When you hook up, you can feel that undulating swimming motion” that differentiates the flat-sided fish from others like large dogfish, he says.

Where the halibut had come up belly down the first time, now it rose head up as its fight waned.

They took another shot at it with the harpoon, and this time the halibut came at the boat.

“It was something else, like a whitewater event, waves coming over the gunnel,” he says.

As Reid and Caleb stood by with gaffs, Aleisha urged caution and encouragement from the boat’s roof as she took a video of the scene.

Both men then got good purchases with their meathooks, and with a three-count, they slid the halibut over the rails into the stern, where it thrashed blood over the white deck.

The celebrations began immediately with high fives, hugs, whoops of joy — and more than a little disbelief about what this was that they’d just fought out of the depths twice.

Indeed, there still be monsters here, and the Hellinger halibut is just the latest bit of evidence that also includes a series of Straits 200-pounders caught in 2010, the 11-foot Hanford Reach sturgeon, the Tripod Buck, the Scablands Buck, the Fife Buck

As they inspected the fish, Hellinger says they saw that his hook had bent to within 15 degrees of being straightened.

“If we hadn’t got him when we did …,” he says, recalling other hooks over the years that have cracked.

Hellinger admits to taking some flak on a Facebook page that he should have let the fish go. An article last year in the Peninsula Daily News by outdoor reporter Michael Carmen shows that that’s common whenever big halibut are landed here.

But this one also led a good, long life and was able to contribute to the gene pool multiple times over the decades.

Even as we’ll never know exactly how heavy Hellinger’s halibut was because of the impossibility of finding a certified scale during the back half of Memorial Day Weekend — a search detailed in the Whidbey News-Times, which broke the story of the catch — it is safe to say that based on standard length measurements for halibut, his single 78 3/4-inch-long fish accounted for more than 1% of the entire Puget Sound poundage landed over the May 11, 13, 25 and 27 openers, according to WDFW stats. It’s also more than 10 times as heavy as this season’s average flattie here.

Hellinger says its head weighed 42 pounds alone. The fish yielded 140 pounds of fillets, he told Q13, as well as 1 1/2 pounds of coveted halibut cheek meat.

“I was just really thankful and grateful,” Hellinger says. “You don’t really realize how rare that is. Big fish are rare. To be an hour from my home and catch something like that is special.”

WDFW Sets Last Halibut Days For Areas 1-10

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Action: Sets the final season dates of recreational halibut fishing for marine areas 1-10.

THE BARNDOOR OF THE YEAR MAY HAVE ALREADY BEEN CAUGHT, BUT WASHINGTON HALIBUT ANGLERS LIKE TAMMY FINDLAY WILL HAVE A FEW MORE DAYS TO TRY FOR FAT FLATTIES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Locations and effective dates:

Marine Area 1 (Columbia River): The nearshore fishery, which has been open seven days a week, will close for the season at the end of the day on June 20.

The all-depth fishery, which has been closed, will reopen June 21 only.

Marine Area 2 (Westport): The nearshore fishery, which has been open seven days a week, will close at the end of the day on June 6.

Both the nearshore and all-depth fisheries will reopen for a single day on June 21, then close for the season at the end of the day on June 21.

Marine areas 3-10: Will open June 16, June 21, and June 23.

Species affected: Pacific halibut

Reason for action: There is sufficient quota remaining to open recreational halibut fisheries in Marine Area 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) and Marine Areas 5-10 (Puget Sound) on Saturday, June 16 and Saturday, June 23.

In addition, in order to maximize all-depth fishing opportunity, the nearshore area in Marine Area 2 will close at the end of the day Wednesday, June 6, and recreational halibut fishing will re-open at all depths in coastal marine areas 1-4 (with the exception of the Marine Area 1 nearshore fishery) and Puget Sound marine areas 5-10 on Thursday, June 21.

Additional information: As previously announced, recreational halibut fishing is already scheduled to be open June 7 and June 9 in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) and marine areas 5-10 (Puget Sound)

The nearshore fishery in Marine Area 1 (Columbia River) remains open seven days per week until the end of the day June 20.

This rule conforms to federal action taken by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

Halibut Reopening June 7, 9 In Marine Areas 3-10

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Marine areas 3-10 to re-open for halibut fishing;
all-depth halibut fishery in Marine Area 2 to close

Action: Marine areas 3 through 10 will re-open for halibut fishing Thursday, June 7, and Saturday, June 9.

ANDIE HOLMBERG SPORTS A BIG SMILE AFTER LANDING HER FIRST-EVER HALIBUT, CAUGHT OFF FRESHWATER BAY NEAR PORT ANGELES. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

In Marine Area 2, the all-depth halibut fishery is closed effective immediately while the nearshore fishery will open seven days per week beginning Saturday, June 2.

Effective dates and locations:

Marine Areas 3-10: Open recreational halibut fishing Thursday, June 7, and Saturday, June 9.

Marine Area 2 (Westport): Close the all-depth fishery effective immediately; open the nearshore area seven days per week beginning Saturday, June 2.

Species affected: Pacific halibut

Reason for action: There is sufficient quota remaining to continue the recreational halibut fishery in Marine Areas 3 and 4 (Neah Bay and La Push) and the Puget Sound region (Marine Areas 5 – 10) on Thursday, June 7, and Saturday, June 9, without risk of exceeding the quota.

Through May 27, the total catch in the all-depth recreational halibut fishery in Marine Area 2 was 41,258 pounds, which is 93 percent of the quota and does not leave sufficient quota to open the all-depth halibut fishery for another day. However, some quota is reserved in this area to allow for a nearshore recreational halibut fishery once the all-depth fishery is closed. The nearshore area will open to recreational halibut fishing on Saturday, June 2, seven days per week until the quota is taken.

The quota will be adjusted to include the remaining quota from the all-depth fishery.

Other information: The nearshore halibut fishery in Marine Area 1 remains open seven days per week until further notice.

These rules conform to management actions taken by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Information contact: Heather Reed, (360) 902-2487.

Week On The Water Yields Sturgeon, Halibut, Ling, Rockfish Fillets, Lots Of Fun

Editor’s note: The following blog was written and submitted by Dave Anderson

by Captain Dave Anderson

The 20th of May was the beginning of a fishing-packed week for not only myself but also family and friends. My father-in-law Maury and I rolled down to Astoria to go sturgeon fishing with Bret Dickerson, owner of Columbia River Sport Fishing.

We met up and left the dock by 5:00 a.m. on Monday the 21st. After a short run out of Astoria we were setting lines just as the sun was starting to rise above the trees. It wasn’t even five minutes and we had sturgeon hammering baits!

GUIDE BRET DICKERSON HOLDS MAURY KINCANNON’S FIRST STURGEON, CAUGHT IN MID-MAY IN THE COLUMBIA ESTUARY. (DAVE ANDERSON)

First fish we brought to the boat was just short of the slot limit. A few minutes later we had another dandy sturgeon on the end of the line. This fish ended up being Maury’s first sturgeon and it was a keeper!

For another hour or so this went on with great action. We hit a bit of a lull as the tide was turning, but it quickly turned around about an hour and a half before the 2:00 p.m. closure.

At 2:00 pm, the closure hit and lines were in just as the wind machine turned on. We ended up with a handful of keepers and our group couldn’t have been happier!

THERE’S MORE TO ASTORIA THAN BUOY 10 SALMON, AS DAVE ANDERSON WILL ATTEST. THE WATERS HERE ARE GOOD IN LATE SPRING FOR STURGEON FISHING, AND THIS YEAR’S RETENTION SEASON CONTINUES WITH TWO MORE OPENERS, JUNE 2 AND 4. (DAVE ANDERSON)

Jump forward a few days to Thursday afternoon. I headed out to one of my favorite places on the coast of Washington – La Push. This is where I met my friend Captain Kerry of Offshore Northwest to take a group of my friends fishing. This has become an annual trip in which we typically fish the second week of the La Push halibut season.

THE SUN SETS OVER JAMES AND LITTLE JAMES ISLANDS, AT LA PUSH, A GOOD LAUNCH POINT FOR MORE REMOTE WATERS ON WASHINGTON’S NORTH COAST. (DAVE ANDERSON)

Friday morning we ran out in a fairly lumpy ocean to make our 30-mile run to the grounds. We hit pay dirt immediately and had great action with lingcod and filled the boat quickly with limits of quality fish.

After moving around a bit we found a good patch of aggressive halibut. We ended up with early limits on both lingcod and halibut. Captain Kerry and I had a good chuckle when we looked at our watches and said to each other, “It’s only 8:45!”

ANDERSON WITH A TASTY LINGCOD. (DAVE ANDERSON)

Saturday we were able to sleep in before heading out to grab limits of sea bass. Not too far out of La Push we found a good patch and we were reeling in doubles after doubles of feisty sea bass! These fish are so fun to catch you can’t help but giggle like a little kid while reeling them in over and over.

Sunday morning we were greeted with a beautiful ocean! It was probably one of the best halibut ocean conditions a person could ask for. Cruising at 34 knots it took us under an hour to get to the grounds. Once we got there we started picking away at our fish. It wasn’t nearly as fast and furious as Friday, but we ended up reeling in a good grade of halibut and lingcod and headed back to the barn by 11:30 a.m.

A GOOD GRADE OF HALIBUT FOR THE CREW. (DAVE ANDERSON)

The best action this past weekend came off the good ol’ Montana Dave-built 13-inch-by-3/4-inch pipe jig with a 12/0 Mustad treble hook. Bait also worked, but the pipe jig definitely outproduced the bait!

All in all it was a fantastic week of fishing! I love being able to take advantage of the great resources the Pacific Northwest has to offer! Being able to spend time on the water and have fun with friends and family, I can’t ask for anything better! Life is good!

DAVE ANDERSON’S PIPE JIGS, THE MAKING OF WHICH WAS FEATURED IN THE MAY 2016 NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN RIG OF THE MONTH. (DAVE ANDERSON)