Tag Archives: halibut

Rough Days At Sea Series I: High Pressure At The High Spot

A run out to the South Coast halibut grounds in an open-bow boat nearly turns disastrous for Oregon anglers when a storm hits.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories from Coos Bay-area angler Jim Pex.

By Jim Pex

Going out on the ocean in a small boat is not much different than hiking into a wilderness area. You never know what you might see or what unique experiences await you. Like the wilderness, one does not go to sea unprepared, nor does one venture forth without a guide or some personal experience. When things go wrong and you’re not ready for them, it can be lonely out there, putting your life and those with you in danger. Ancient mariners were well aware of the dangers and risked their lives based on their personal skills.

The ocean is mysterious in that conditions change from day to day, sometimes from moment to moment. There is a thrill in going out there and dealing with the unknowns that come your way. But beware, your primary resource, the weatherman, may not be your friend.

THE WEATHER CAN TURN FAST ON THE OREGON COAST, HITTING HARDER AND WITH MORE INTENSITY THAN FORECASTERS SOMETIMES PREDICT. (JIM PEX)

About 10 years back, I had a friend named Jim who was running a guide service on the ocean. It usually was for rockfish and he only ran out a few miles from the safety of the bar and the inner bay. He had a 22-foot aluminum boat with an open bow that was not built for rough ocean conditions, but on a good day was certainly adequate. The boat had a large motor as the main and a smaller one for trolling or just backup.

My friend had taken the Coast Guard classes and had what we call a six-pack license to take up to six people fishing. Getting the license requires passing an exam, so the expectation is that the licensed captain knows what he or she is doing. Jim had been out on the pond on a number of occasions, so we thought he was capable. In talking to him, you could tell he was confident of his skills out there.

JIM GOT A CALL FROM A CLIENT who wanted to catch a halibut. The best place to do so in our area is called the Bandon High Spot. This is an underwater plateau located between Bandon and Port Orford and about 15 miles west from shore. The bottom rises from 700 to 800 feet deep to 400 to 500 feet deep. It is a hangout for large halibut and a great spot to fish, if you can get there.

The downside is that it is distant from any support such as the Coast Guard or a safe harbor. Unlike on land, there are no roads, no tow trucks and no immediate help if things go wrong at sea. If you capsize out there, it is unlikely anyone is going to find you until much later.

The front of the high spot from the Coos Bay bar is south, 27 miles distant. It is 15 miles south of Bandon and about the same distance from Port Orford. Bandon is not much of a refuge if things go wrong since it is difficult to get across the bar most of the time. Port Orford is OK but there is no trailer boat launch; you need to have your boat lifted on and off the water with a large crane, provided you have the appropriate straps.

THE BANDON HIGH SPOT CAN BE REACHED FROM COOS BAY, BANDON AND PORT ORFORD, TWO OF WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO SUMMER AFTERNOON NORTHWESTERLIES. (NOAA)

CHECKING THE WEATHER, IT LOOKED TO BE sunny with a light wind out of the north when Jim started for the Bandon High Spot. Waves were forecast to be 3 to 4 feet, not a bad day to go fishing. Actually, it was about as good as it ever gets out there. Another friend named Leonard was also on board for this trip as a deckhand. The rest of this story is based on what Leonard told me weeks later.

Jim left the Charleston harbor at daylight and made the 27-mile run downwind to the High Spot. Since he was running with the wind and waves, the trip was comfortable and made at good speed. They arrived about an hour and a half later and there were a few other boats around. It is good to have a little company when you are this far from home.

Fishing 500 feet down with a hand-crank reel is a test of one’s endurance. To get to the bottom requires 2 pounds of weight off the end of a stiff rod. Herring is usually the bait of choice. Leonard said fishing was slow that day but they managed to get their limit of three halibut over several hours.

By that time the other boats were gone. As Jim, Leonard and their client had fished, the wind had increased and the waves doubled in size. In nautical slang, “The sheep was on the water” by the time they wanted to leave. This means there were whitecaps on the waves from the wind. In this case, the wind was straight out of the north, the waves from the northwest. Getting back to Charleston meant heading north into the seas and wind.

Jim finally shipped the rods and tackle and told the others to sit tight for the trip back home. He said it looked like it might be lumpy and slow; four to five hours of running was a possibility. He turned the boat into the seas, pushed the throttle but could make very little headway at displacement speed without shipping water over the bow. Keep in mind this boat had an open bow that was very slow to drain when taking water. It seems they never make the bow scuppers large enough in these boats; I think they were designed for rain, not waves.

A STORM LASHES THE PACIFIC OFF THE CAPE ARAGO LIGHTHOUSE NEAR CHARLESTON. (JIM PEX)

GETTING ON PLANE DID NOT SEEM LIKE A possibility and a long trip home was becoming more realistic. However, there is a technique in which one can put the power to the throttle and get up on top of the waves and basically run from wave top to wave top, but the conditions must be just right. Jim knew this and decided to give it more gas.

He hit the throttle and got on top of the first wave – and immediately launched the boat into the air like a water skier flying off a jump. The boat came down hard, knocking the other two to the floor. Undaunted, he kept on and plowed the center of the next wave instead of going over it. That wave came over the bow and filled the open bow with water, making the boat front heavy.

Jim apparently panicked and pushed the throttle harder and took another wave head on. This wave was higher than the windshield and passed over the heavy bow. It struck the windshield with such force that it knocked the glass out of the frames. Then as the green water passed through, water and windshield took out all of his dash electronics. Finally, as the moving wall of water passed along the boat, it struck the three people on board. Jim was hit first, by the glass and water, and was momentarily dazed. He had a hold of the steering wheel but the other two were less prepared and were carried by the water. The client nearly went over the side but managed to grasp a seat back with one hand while balancing on the gunnel. He hung on well enough to get back in the boat. Leonard was carried by the wave to the rear engines and did a face plant into the main motor. He was momentarily knocked senseless and the engine was all that kept him in the boat. He said he probably had “130” imprinted on his forehead from the emblem on the motor. All three were now soaked and frightened. None had experienced anything like this.

Jim backed off on the throttle as the wave passed through. Now they were at idle with a load of water sloshing back and forth inside the boat. Everything was floating and other waves were lapping at the sides as they tried to regroup. On the boat, the distance between the waves and the top of the boat sides is called the freeboard. Freeboard went from a couple feet to just inches with all that water on board. Fortunately, a few buckets were floating around and so they started to bail. The boat was now sideways to the oncoming waves and rocking violently as the crew gathered themselves. The vessel did have a bilge pump, but this was way beyond what the small unit could handle.

Since there were no longer any other boats in the vicinity, Jim quickly grabbed the VHF mic and tried to hail the Coast Guard, shouting “Mayday, mayday!” But there was no response as the radio was dead and the antenna was gone. Their cell phones were also wet, and out of range anyway.

Using buckets, the client and Leonard bailed water as Jim turned the boat south for a slight reprieve from the rising seas. They were alone, sea conditions were worsening, they had no radio to obtain help and their navigation instruments were dead also. There was not so much as a hand-held compass on board for guidance. If they took on any more water, they could capsize. And with land at least 15 miles away, no one would consider them missing for several hours. A life jacket was of little value when hypothermia in these cold waters was the Devil. Imminent death by drowning was racing through their minds. Was this it? Were they going to die? In this moment of terror, there was an upside: the engine was still running, and they were still afloat.

THE SIGHT OF THE ROCKY ISLANDS OFF PORT ORFORD AND THE AUTHOR’S BOAT FISHING THE REEF NEARBY WERE GODSENDS THAT SAFETY WAS NEAR FOR THE MEN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, THOUGH, THE FOG was beginning to set in up north, so the decision was made to run for Port Orford. They could see Humbug Mountain and Orford Rocks to the east and knew Port Orford was over there somewhere. Jim had never been there from the seaward side, so he pointed the boat in that direction, thus making some headway in the wind while the waves lapped at the boat’s port side. At least they were underway despite not knowing for sure where they were going or if conditions might change before they got there.

As Jim steered, the other two continued to bail water. They were all cold, wet and fearful as the seas continued to whitecap. Yet their situation slowly improved as they continued to bail water. The trip in seemed impossibly slow.

When they got closer to shore, the sea conditions improved, and they recognized what they though must be Orford Rocks and knew the port was somewhere around there. Everyone got excited when they spotted a boat fishing the reef near the rocks. They approached while making the emergency signal, raising both hands above their head and crossing them back and forth. I was in that boat fishing the reef. I saw the signal and recognized their boat.

“This is weird,” I thought. “Where did they come from?”

I hadn’t seen their rig at the dock when we’d launched.

Jim came close enough to me that I could shout directions for getting to Port Orford. I also made eye contact with Leonard. I would bet that if he thought there was any way he could have gotten off that boat and onto mine, he would have jumped. I did not know the client but he looked like he had literally escaped death. His clothes were soaked and disheveled, his hat was gone and his expression was grim.

Jim and his crew made it to the port. It was what we seafarers call a “kiss the dock moment.” They had to tie up until they could reach Jim’s wife, who retrieved the truck and trailer in Charleston and brought it the 50 miles down  to Port Orford.

Again, the port doesn’t have a regular boat launch. Vessels have to be lifted in and out with a crane. By the time Jim’s wife arrived, it was dark and someone lent them some straps to get their boat out of the water.

For all the effort and terrifying moments at sea, they were no longer in possession of the halibut, as the ice chest with the fish had gone overboard when the wave had passed through the boat.

PORT ORFORD IS THE ONE HARBOR ON THE OREGON COAST WHERE BOATS HAVE TO BE LIFTED IN AND OUT OF THE WATER. WHEN THE CREW ARRIVED THERE, IT WAS A “KISS THE DOCK MOMENT,” THE AUTHOR WRITES. THEY’D LOST THEIR HALIBUT, WERE SOAKED AND SHIVERING, BUT THE SKIPPER HAD BROUGHT THEM IN ALIVE. (RAY GILDEN, PFMC)

THE OCEAN IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO FISH on a good day. But conditions can change in a hurry. It is up to the captain to recognize the changes and respond based on the kind of boat and his boating skills. Despite the conditions, Jim was successful in getting himself, his crew and his boat to safety. He eventually got his boat fixed and had enough wisdom to never go back to the Bandon High Spot again with it.

One thing is for certain: If you survive these kinds of wilderness experiences, it makes you a whole bunch smarter. The upside from the events of this trip was that it caused the rest of us to put together ditch bags that included portable communications, compass, GPS and flares. You never wish for a day like Jim had, but if it comes someday, we hope to be better prepared.

Then, one day the ocean turned on me, as it can happen with very little notice. That’s another story to be told. NS

Editor’s note: Jim Pex is an avid angler based out of Coos Bay and enjoys fishing for albacore, salmon and rockfish. He is retired and was previously CEO of International Forensic Experts LLC and a lieutenant with the Oregon State Police at its crime laboratory. Pex is the author of CSI: Moments from a Career in Forensic Science, available through Amazon.

Offshore Lingcod, Other All-depths OR Bottomfish Fair Game Starting Sept. 3

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

Anglers will be able to fish for bottomfish at any depth beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3. 

LINGCOD LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT BY ROGER GOODMAN OUT OF NEWPORT ARE FAIR GAME DEEPER THAN 40 FATHOMS (240 FEET) OFF THE OREGON COAST STARTING SEPT. 3. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The rule limiting fishing to inshore of 40 fathoms, which keeps yelloweye rockfish mortality below the annual limit, was originally scheduled to run through the end of September. However, fishery managers have determined that enough 2019 yelloweye rockfish quota remains to remove the seasonal depth restriction early this year. 

The move to all-depth fishing in early September will give anglers more opportunity to head offshore for lingcod and other bottomfish. In addition, a shift of some fishing effort to deeper waters may reduce incidental catch of nearshore species such as copper rockfish, which has already reached the annual limit.

“A lot of anglers really look forward to the fall all-depth bottomfish season, especially for offshore lingcod,” said Maggie Sommer, ODFW marine fisheries manager. “Opening to fishing at all depths at the beginning of September this year should allow anglers to take advantage of this additional opportunity while weather and ocean conditions remain good.”

This change also means that all-depth halibut anglers may retain bottomfish on the same trip, since this is allowed when the sport bottomfish and halibut fisheries are both open at all depths.  

For more about bottomfish regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/sport-bottomfish-seasons

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Oregon Halibut Limit Upped, But 3 Rockfish Species Must Be Released

THE FOLLOWING ARE PRESS RELEASES FROM ODFW

Sport anglers may keep two halibut beginning Aug. 23

NEWPORT, Ore. – Beginning Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, anglers may keep two Pacific halibut each day in the sport halibut fisheries in the Central Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon Subareas (subareas south of Cape Falcon to the OR/CA Border).

(ODFW)

Because a substantial amount of the annual quota remains available in these areas, fisheries managers determined that the daily bag limit can be increased to two fish per day. “We had some challenging weather and conditions this year that kept anglers in port during most of the all-depth weekends,” said Lynn Mattes, sport halibut project leader for ODFW.

The Central Oregon Coast Subarea summer all-depth halibut fishery is open every Friday and Saturday until the summer season all-depth quota of 57,941 pounds is taken or Oct. 27, whichever comes first.

The Central Oregon Coast Subarea nearshore fishery and the Southern Oregon Subarea fishery remain open with 23,588 pounds and 8,955 pounds remaining respectively. Additionally, there are approximately 82,000 pounds remaining from the Central Oregon Coast spring all-depth fishery.

For additional information see the Sport Halibut Webpage: https://myodfw.com/pacific-halibut-sport-regulations

Release copper, quillback and China rockfish beginning Friday, Aug. 23

NEWPORT, Ore.—Anglers must release copper, quillback, and China rockfish when fishing from a boat, beginning 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 23 as the harvest guideline for these species has been met.

Copper, quillback, and China rockfish are the most commonly caught (and relatively easy to identify) members of a group of 11 nearshore rockfish species that are managed together, representing 98 percent of the total catch of that group. Other species in this group (including brown and gopher rockfish) are rarely caught and are not affected by the retention closure.

Recreational fisheries for other rockfish species, such as black, blue, and deacon rockfish, along with lingcod, also remain open. Harvest of these species is well within guidelines and no early closure of the bottomfish season is expected for the remainder of 2019.

The retention closure only applies to fishing from a boat as catch of copper, quillback, and China rockfish fishing from shore is infrequent and contributes a very small amount of additional mortality. Anyone fishing from shore may continue to retain these species, although ODFW encourages release of uninjured copper, quillback, and China rockfish.;

Use of a descending device to release rockfish is required when fishing deeper than 30 fathoms, and recommended at any depth for fish that are not able to submerge on their own.

ODFW began working with anglers earlier in the month to voluntarily reduce catch of these species to stave off the need for additional action. “We had just started to reach out to the recreational fishing community with a request to not target copper, quillback, and China rockfish, and to consider releasing any caught by accident if they weren’t injured by capture or barotrauma,” said Maggie Sommer, ODFW marine fisheries manager. “We were encouraged to hear from some charters and anglers that they were making an effort to avoid these species and thank them for their efforts.”

However, updated fishery data for the first two weeks of August pushed catch estimates much higher than expected. The retention closure is needed in order to ensure that other fisheries aren’t affected, and the coastwide sustainable catch limit is not exceeded.

For more information on recreational bottomfish seasons, visit https://myodfw.com/sport-bottomfish-seasons

For rockfish identification tips including an ID quiz, visit https://myodfw.com/articles/rockfish-identification-tips

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2020 Washington Halibut Season Meetings Coming Up Aug. 29, Late Oct.

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

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is hosting two public meetings to discuss season structure and proposed dates for the 2020 sport halibut season.

The meetings will be held on Aug. 29 and Oct. 28, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St.

HALIBUT ANGLERS LIKE JAKE MANDELLA WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO VOICE THEIR OPINIONS ON WASHINGTON’S 2020 SEASONS AT A PAIR OF UPCOMING MEETINGS IN MONTESANO. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

At the Aug. 29 meeting, state halibut managers will review the 2019 season and work with stakeholders to develop a range of preliminary options focused on general concepts such as ways to extend the season length and maximize fishing opportunity.

At the second meeting on Oct. 28, in addition to refining the options developed at the first meeting, WDFW staff will collect further public input, review tide calendars for next spring, and select specific season dates that attempt to balance needs across various fishing communities and charter and private fishing interests.

“The sport halibut fishery is very popular, and these meetings are a good opportunity to provide input,” said Heather Hall, coastal policy coordinator for WDFW.

These meetings will allow WDFW to gather stakeholder input prior to meetings of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) in September and November.

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

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Meetings Coming Up On Future Oregon Halibut, Bottomfish Seasons

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. 5 to gather input on the 2020 recreational halibut season and start discussing the 2021-2022 recreational bottomfish seasons. People who can’t attend meetings can also listen in via Webcast (details below).

NEWPORT WILL HOST ONE OF SEVERAL MEETINGS NEXT WEEK ON COMING YEARS’ HALIBUT AND BOTTOMFISH SEASONS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

At the 2019 annual meeting, the International Pacific Halibut Commission approved a 1.5 million pound catch limit for Area 2A for 2019-2022. This is the first time fishery managers know the quota going into this series of public meetings, which should help guide the discussions for the 2020 halibut season.

Additionally, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is starting the process to set quotas and seasons for the 2021-2022 bottomfish seasons. No major changes to the fishery are being proposed, but ODFW is looking for input from anglers on adjustments to sport bottomfish regulations.

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

The meetings will be held:

  • Salem, Monday, Aug. 5, 6-8 p.m. at ODFW Headquarters (4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE) in the Commission Room.
  • Newport, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 6-8 p.m. at the Marine Resources Program office, 2040 SE Marine Science Drive (ODFW’s parking lot is closed due to construction. ODFW visitors should park at the HMSC Visitor Center and follow the signs on foot to ODFW) This meeting will also be webcast, details below.
  • Brookings, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 6-8 p.m. at the Chetco Public Library, 405 Alder St.
  • North Bend, Thursday, Aug. 8, 6-8 p.m. in North Bend at the Public Library, 1800 Sherman Street.

Anglers who wishes 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 the end of the day on Friday, Aug. 2.

To join the webcast of the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/545952877
You can also dial in using your phone.
(For supported devices, tap a one-touch number below to join instantly.)
United States: +1 (646) 749-3122
– One-touch: tel:+16467493122, 545952877#
Access Code: 545-952-877
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/545952877

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June 28 Added To Halibut Days On Marine Areas 1-10, Oregon Waters North Of Falcon

THE FOLLOWING ARE AN EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE AND A PRESS RELEASE FROM WDFW AND ODFW

Marine areas 1-10 to open for halibut fishing Friday, June 28 

Action:  In addition to days that are already scheduled, opens recreational halibut fishing on Friday, June 28 in coastal marine areas 1 through 4 and Puget Sound areas 5 through 10.

WASHINGTON HALIBUT ANGLERS LIKE AMANDA SPIEGEL, HERE WITH A NICE FLATTIE CAUGHT OUT OF PORT ANGELES, WILL GET ANOTHER DAY TO CATCH THE BIG FISH. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: June 28, 2019.

 Species affected:  Pacific halibut.

 Location:  Marine areas 1 through 10.

 Reason for action:  Adding an additional fishing day for all coastal areas will provide Washington sport halibut anglers with the opportunity to catch the remaining 2019 sport quota.

The 2019 sport halibut season dates were established prior to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) making their final decision on the 2019 quota, which was significantly higher than anticipated.

WDFW has added several fishing days to the season this year in response to the higher quota and several poor weather days. The Washington sport quota that the IPHC adopted for 2019 was also approved for the next three years. WDFW staff looks forward to working with stakeholders to identify changes to the season structure for 2020 and beyond that is more in line with the higher quota that will be in place through the 2022 season.

 Additional information: Summary of open sport halibut days for all marine areas.

 Marine Area 1:

All-depth: Open Friday, June 28.

Nearshore: Open seven days per week until further notice.

Marine Area 2:  Open Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29.

Marine areas 3 and 4: Open Thursday, June 27; Friday, June 28; and Saturday, June 29.

Puget Sound (MA 5-10): Open Thursday, June 27; Friday, June 28; and Saturday, June 29.

Marine area 5: It is permissible for halibut anglers to retain Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open. The lingcod season is closed in this area for the remainder of the year.

Retention of lingcod and Pacific cod seaward of 120 feet is not permitted on halibut days in marine areas 6-10.

Marine areas 1-10:  Daily limit of 1 halibut per angler, with no minimum size limit.  Annual limit of 4. All catch must be recorded on WDFW catch record card.  Possession limits remain the same.

Marine areas 11-13 are closed.

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The Columbia River Subarea (Leadbetter Point, WA to Cape Falcon, OR) all-depth halibut fishery will be open for one additional day on Friday, June 28.

After the most recent openings in Washington, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined there is enough quota remaining in the overall Washington recreational quota to have all Washington subareas, including the Columbia River Subarea, open on June 28.

Since Washington and Oregon co-manage the Columbia River Subarea, and have license reciprocity, anglers fishing out of Oregon ports in the subarea will be allowed to participate in the all-depth halibut fishery on June 28 as well.

Additional opportunities to fish for Pacific halibut also remain open in other areas of Oregon:

  • The all-depth halibut fishery in the Central Oregon Coast Subarea is scheduled to be open July 4-6, with the potential for the additional back-up dates of July 18-20 to open, if quota remains.
  • The summer all-depth season is scheduled to begin on Aug. 2-3 and be open every other Friday and Saturday until Oct. 31, or the quota of 67,898 pounds has been met.
  • Off the Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain) anglers may fish for halibut inside the 40-fathom line, seven days per week beginning June 1 through Oct. 31, or attainment of the harvest quota (32,591 pounds) for that fishery.
  • The area between Humbug Mountain and the OR/CA Border is open to all depth for Pacific halibut seven days per week through Oct. 31, or until the quota of 11,322 pounds has been met, whichever comes first.

Days on which Pacific halibut fishing is open will be announced on the NOAA Fisheries hotline (1-800-662-9825) and posted on the ODFW Marine Resources Program Website.

Westport, La Push, Neah Bay Halibut Season Extended

THE FOLLOWING ARE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICES FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Recreational halibut fishing to open for additional day in Marine Area 2

Action: Opens recreational halibut fishing on Saturday, June 29 in Marine Area 2 (Westport).

WITH ENOUGH ROOM STILL IN THE QUOTA, WDFW HAS ADDED MORE HALIBUT FISHING DAYS TO WASHINGTON’S MIDDLE AND NORTH COAST. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately.

Species affected: Pacific halibut.

Location: Marine Area 2 (Westport).

Reason for action: There is sufficient quota to open recreational halibut fishing for an additional all depth fishing day in Marine Area 2. Poor weather continues to contribute to low catch in Marine Area 2 and opening another day will provide anglers additional time to catch the remaining sport quota.

Additional information: The following is a summary of open sport halibut days for all marine areas.

Marine Area 1: Nearshore: Open seven days per week.

Marine Area 2: Open Saturday, June 29.

Marine Areas 3 and 4: Open Saturday, June 22; Thursday, June 27; and Saturday, June 29.

Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5-10): Open Saturday, June 22; Thursday, June 27; and Saturday, June 29.

Marine Area 5: It is permissible for halibut anglers to retain Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open.

Retention of lingcod and Pacific cod seaward of 120 feet is not permitted on halibut days in Marine Areas 6-10.

Marine Areas 1-10: Daily limit of 1 halibut per angler, with no minimum size limit. Annual limit of 4. All catch must be recorded on WDFW catch record card. Possession limits remain the same.

Marine Areas 11-13 are closed.

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More sport halibut days to open in Marine Areas 3 and 4

Action: Open recreational halibut fishing on Thursday, June 27 and Saturday, June 29 in Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

Effective date: Immediately

Species affected: Pacific halibut

Location: Marine Areas 3 and 4.

Reason for action: There is sufficient quota to open additional days for the sport halibut fishery in Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay). Adding these days will provide Washington sport halibut anglers with more fishing days and maximize the opportunity to catch the remaining sport quota.

WDFW Adds Halibut Days For Westport, Straits, Sound

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

Sport halibut season dates added for 2019

Action:  In addition to dates already announced, recreational halibut fishing will be open Thursday, June 6 in Marine Area 2.  Recreational halibut fishing will be allowed on six additional fishing days in Marine Areas 5 through 10, those dates are; Thursday, May 30; Saturday June 1; Thursday, June 13; Saturday, June 15; Thursday, June 27; and, Saturday, June 29.

MOST THOUGH NOT ALL WASHINGTON MARINE AREAS WILL SEE MORE OPEN DAYS AFTER LOW EARLY CATCHES. A TRIP ON THE BRINY BLUE OFF THE EVERGREEN STATE’S COAST YIELDED WHITE-MEATED FILLETS FOR HALIBUT ANGLERS DAVE ANDERSON AND HIS FATHER-IN-LAW MAURY KINCANNON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date: Immediately

Species affected:  Pacific halibut

Location:  Marine Area 2 and Marine Areas 5 through 10

Reason for action: The 2019 sport halibut quota approved by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in January 2019 is approximately 25 percent higher than 2018.  The higher quota, combined with lower catch in Marine Areas 5-10 during the early season, allows for more sport halibut fishing days than were anticipated when the season dates were set last fall. To maximize sport fishing opportunity in this area, six additional fishing days will be added following the Thursday, Saturday season structure proposed by stakeholders.

In addition, another fishing day on Thursday, June 6, will be opened for recreational halibut fishing in Marine Area 2.

The all depth recreational halibut fishery in Marine Area 1 will continue on May 24 and 26. The nearshore area will remain open Mondays through Wednesdays until further notice.  No changes are proposed to the recreational season dates in Marine Areas 3 and 4 at this time.

The sport halibut fishery is managed to a federal quota. WDFW will continue to track catch as the season progresses and make adjustments as needed to provide opportunity while keeping catch within the quota.

Additional information: 2019 sport halibut season dates:

Marine Area 1:

All-depth: Open Thursday, May 2; Sunday, May 5; Thursday, May 9; Sunday, May 12; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26.

Nearshore: Open Monday’s through Wednesday beginning May 6.

It is permissible to retain lingcod when halibut is on board north of the Washington-Oregon border on days open to the recreational halibut season.

Marine Area 2:  Open Thursday, May 2; Sunday, May 5; Thursday, May 9; Sunday, May 12; Friday, May 24; and Thursday, June 6.

Marine Areas 3 and 4: Open Thursday, May 2; Saturday, May 4; Thursday, May 9; Saturday, May 11; Saturday, May 18; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26; Thursday, June 6; Saturday, June 8; Thursday, June 20; Saturday, June 22

Puget Sound (MA 5-10): Open Thursday, May 2; Saturday, May 4; Thursday, May 9; Saturday, May 11; Saturday, May 18; Friday, May 24; Sunday, May 26; Thursday, May 30; Saturday, June 1; Thursday, June 6; Saturday, June 8; Thursday, June 13; Saturday, June 15; Thursday, June 20; Saturday, June 22; Thursday, June 27; and, Saturday, June 29

Marine Area 5: It is permissible for halibut anglers to retain lingcod and Pacific cod caught while fishing for halibut in waters deeper than 120 feet on days that halibut fishing is open and when the lingcod season is open.

It is not lawful to retain lingcod or Pacific cod seaward of 120 feet on halibut days in MA 6-10.

Marine Areas 11-13 are closed

Marine Areas 1-10:  Daily bag limit of 1 halibut per angler, with no minimum size limit.  Annual limit of 4. All catch must be recorded on WDFW catch record card.  Possession limits remain the same.

Information contact: Heather Hall, Coastal Policy Coordinator, 360-902-2487.

Fort Casey Ramp Damaged During Winter Storm But Still Usable

Heads up, Whidbey Island halibut and lingcod anglers: If you launch at Fort Casey for this week’s openers, you won’t have floats to tie up to after putting your boat in or while taking it out.

THE DECEMBER WINDSTORM BROKE A WOODEN BREAKWATER AND WAVES POUNDED THE FLOATS AT THE FORT CASEY STATE PARK BOAT RAMP. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

A December storm pummeled a breakwater and broke a piling for the floating docks, which were also damaged, at the water access site next to the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry terminal dock.

Brett Payne, a Washington State Parks ranger for the middle part of the island, says you can still put in and take out. It just will be less convenient without the piers.

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE STORM IMPACTING THE BOAT RAMP FROM THE BLUFF AT FORT CASEY. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

He said that his agency is working to get a permit to put in a temporary dock, though it may take some time to get that go-ahead.

Payne said that because of the damage, complexities of permitting and funding needed, it could be a year before the ramp is back to how it was before the storm.

AFTER THE STORM. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

In the meanwhile, anglers and other boaters are being asked to be patient and courteous with one another as this year’s fishing seasons begin.

Wednesday, May 1, marks the lingcod opener and Thursday, May 2, is the first halibut opener of the season in Marine Area 9, which the Fort Casey ramp provides access to.

Later in the month shrimping opens and then in July crabbing will be a go.

In late July these waters will open for hatchery summer Chinook, while coho will be going in late August and September.

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