Tag Archives: pacific ocean

Rough Days At Sea Series III: First Trips Offshore

The author’s an old salt now, but his initial trips onto Oregon’s briny blue were memorable in their own ways.

By Jim Pex

When I was of elementary-school age, my father brought me from our hometown in Central Oregon to Winchester Bay to go fishing. Winchester Bay used to be called the salmon capital of the West Coast. In those days there were lots of fish and charters often came in with limits of coho.

Dad got us both seats on a charter boat and I was so excited. Getting to go out on a boat in the ocean was an experience by itself, a thrill beyond all thrills. My father and I were the first to get on board and he quickly selected the seats closest to the transom. No one challenged us for them, as the other fishermen jockeyed for the seats up near the middle of the boat. We just knew these were the best seats.

THE OCEAN WAS AND WASN’T LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT FOR AUTHOR JIM PEX, WHOSE FIRST TRIP WAS MARRED BY VOLUMINOUS SEASICKNESS AND HIS SECOND WITH WHITE-KNUCKLE SKIPPERING, BUT HE HASN’T LOOKED BACK EITHER. (JIM PEX)

The deckhand gave us fishing rods and we placed them in the pole holders next to us. Every fisherman had his own pole, including me. Once everyone was seated, the captain gave us some safety instructions and we were underway.

I STILL REMEMBER THE WAVES AS WE headed out. The boat would climb up the tall waves and come crashing down the other side, sending water spraying over the cabin and onto those of us seated in the back of the boat. Each time the water came aboard, my father and I got the worst of it, and it was cold. Now I knew why no one had been seeking the transom seats.

The up and down motion of the boat was constant, and my father was not talking, just trying to keep it together. I doubt we were underway more than 15 minutes before he tossed up breakfast. I saw it coming and quickly looked the other way and covered my ears. I was doing OK, but his unmistakable sounds were soon joined by others on the boat. Dad was able to tip his head over the gunnel and cast his stomach contents into the deep without me seeing all the action.

But a woman sitting behind me had totally lost control. I turned and looked at her at times and she appeared unconscious while her partner held her in her seat. To this day I can still see her. She would awaken, roll around in her seat as the boat moved in the waves, then cast more stomach contents in my direction and lose consciousness again. As if it were a signal, Dad would spew more fluids beside me every time he heard the woman belch forth.

RICHARD PEX, JIM’S DAD, “LOVED TO FISH” – HERE HE IS WITH A SALMON CAUGHT IN THE 1980S – BUT HE ONLY MADE ONLY ONE TRIP ONTO THE OCEAN WITH HIS SON, A MEMORABLE BONDING EXPERIENCE. (JIM PEX)

By the time we reached the first can, some others were joining in on the action. Even at my young age, I could not believe people paid good money for this experience. I would cover my ears, close my eyes and turn away from anyone making the guttural sounds and calling out to someone named “Huey!”

Despite the cacophony on deck, I did see a few people catch fish. Even my father’s rod went down, but the deckhand had to bring it in as he was having another conversation with the cold, green waters of the Pacific Ocean.

In spite of it all, I had held up and kept breakfast down for quite some time. Then it happened, my father vomited before I could close my eyes and turn my head. I saw it, and that was all that it took. I heaved up everything.

By now, Dad and I were huddled together trying to cope with the conditions, but sharing the moment each time one of us let go. First, there were the initial tones from the woman behind us, then father and son would join in on the chorus. I was on the inside seat, so I just puked on the floor. The sight of it added to the aroma and I continued to lose control of everything. By this time, neither of us wanted to be on that boat. We were miserable and the seas were not letting up.

My parents were divorced, and I think we made this trip so dad and I could do some bonding. We did.

It seemed like an eternity, but we finally got back to the dock. There the deckhand smiled and handed us our fish. We took them to the cleaning table, but the sight of guts gave both of us the dry heaves. We were weak and exhausted, and there was nothing left to come up. I don’t recall what we did with the fish, but I know that was the last time my father set foot on a boat going onto the ocean.

In later years my father would tell us about the end of World War II and his return to the United States. His company made the trip back to America on the Queen Mary, one of the largest vessels afloat at that time. He related that he puked every day of the crossing, and all he could do was lie on his back in a bunk. If he got up, he puked. I have no idea why he thought he could do a charter fishing trip, but for purposes of bonding, it was memorable.

AS AN ADULT, I OBTAINED EMPLOYMENT IN Eugene and that put me within a couple hours of the ocean. I did not know anyone who had an ocean boat but I just could not get past the call of the sea either. I would take the family to Newport or Winchester Bay and wander the beaches, watching the waves and the sea life that passed by. Then we would always stop by the fish-cleaning station to see what people were catching. It was clear in my mind that I needed a boat.

For weeks I studied the want ads, Craigslist and the Boat Trader looking for something trailerable and affordable. I did not have much of a budget, considering I had a house, four children and a wife. I finally came upon a fiberglass boat that had not been used in a long time. Stored in a barn, it was for sale at a good price and needed some work, which I was willing to do.

THE CALL OF THE SEA WAS STRONG WITH PEX, WHO RECALLS WANDERING THE BEACHES ON THE OREGON COAST AND NEEDING A BOAT. EVENTUALLY HE ACQUIRED A 20-FOOT FIBERGLASS APOLLO, BACKGROUND, WHICH NEEDED A WEE BIT OF WORK TO MAKE SEAWORTHY. (JIM PEX)

I purchased the 20-foot fiberglass Apollo boat and took it home. It was equipped with a V8 engine and an outdrive. There was a slight problem in that we lived in town and did not have much room to store a boat. So I parked it in the driveway and was very proud of my new purchase, a potential dream come true. I don’t think my neighbors were as excited about this apparent eyesore, as they did mention it a few times.

But I shined up the hull, and worked on the engine and got it running. Just one problem: The wooden stringers under the motor mounts were rotten and the boat could not be used until I fixed this problem. The motor needed to be attached to something solid, so I spent hours upside down in the hold with a chisel and hammer cleaning out the old wood and opening up the fiberglass. I was finally able to insert some pressure treated wood and fiber-glassed it in to support the engine. Later I found a cheap depth finder and Loran and installed them as well. I was ready to fish. I just needed a place to go and some brave fishermen to go along.

There was another slight problem: I had never taken a sport boat on the ocean. In fact, I had not been on the ocean since my childhood experience with my father. Checking around with my friends I found two, Hugh and Jim, who said they had ocean experience and would go with me. So on a Friday afternoon, we loaded all our fishing poles and other gear into the boat and left Eugene for Winchester Bay, where we’d heard the bite was on for coho.

A couple hours later we pulled into the parking lot at Winchester and could hardly contain our excitement for the next day’s fishing adventure. The afternoon wind was up but we figured we would be out early and back before it picked up the next day.

None of us had much money, so we slept on the boat that night. The three of us told stories while in our sleeping bags. There wasn’t much room, but it was doable. I found it difficult to sleep because the wind was blowing so hard that it was rocking the boat while it was still on the trailer. We ended up talking most of the night and finally dozed off in the early hours of the morning.

BEFORE DAYLIGHT WE WERE UP AND READY TO GO. One look outside found the fog as thick as pea soup, so we launched and just tied up in the boat basin in anticipation of the fog clearing. Not long after daylight, the wind picked up and blew off the fog.

We three musketeers motored out into the bay and headed for the bar. I saw a few boats go out, so I thought it must be OK. I had no idea what to look for, so I followed the south jetty out. A Coast Guard vessel was sitting on the bar and with an incoming tide, the passage to the ocean did not look too bad. They honked their horn at us, and we honked back, not sure at the time what that meant; heck, maybe they were just being friendly. Hugh and Jim did not say anything, so I just continued out.

As I reflect back on that moment, I’m not sure their silence was from confidence or fear. When we got to the bar, the waves seemed pretty high but they were just rollers, not breaking. Once past the bar, we got our gear in the water and fished for a couple hours without so much as a bite. By this time the tide had changed to outgoing, the wind picked up and the fog rolled back in. I got disoriented in the fog and it took all three of us following a deck compass and moving north to find a jetty.

There was another small problem: Which jetty were we looking at? There is a north jetty and a south jetty. It’s hard to tell which one you are facing when you can’t see the other one in the fog. The Loran worked, but we did not know how to interpret the data.

About this time, the Coast Guard got on the radio to tell boaters they were going to close the bar. If you were out on the ocean, you had best get back in. I looked at my two experts and realized they did not know any more about what to do than I did. It was time for panic with this sudden revelation and my heart rate was doing mach ten. Going in on the wrong side of the jetty could put me on the beach.

The swell was getting tall with the outgoing tide and we were running out of time as we waited outside the jetties. I did not know what to do. Suddenly a charter boat appeared out of the fog, turned around and went back in. I am sure it was divine intervention; the good Lord was pointing the way back home. I quickly lost sight of the charter in the fog, but I now knew which side of the jetty to follow upriver. I hit the throttle just as the Coast Guard was closing the bar to all recreational boats.

The wind was whistling by now and I was trying to get on the back of a swell to ride it in; at least that is what I thought I was supposed to do. Problem was, these were standing waves and the current was running out. I managed to get up enough speed to top a swell, fly down the inside and then jump onto another standing wave.

After what seemed like hours, we reached the inner bay where it made a turn to port. We all breathed a big sigh; we were going to make it. The fog had thinned as we’d run inland and we could see the Coast Guard station now and they were flying two flags. I knew enough to know that meant gale force winds. The three of us were glad to be inside and slowly made our way to the boat landing a few more hundred yards up the river. We had no fish, but were happy to be there.

WITH TWO FRIENDS CLAIMING EXPERIENCE ON THE OCEAN, PEX AND PALS HEADED FOR WINCHESTER BAY FOR WHAT WOULD BE ANOTHER MEMORABLE TRIP ON THE OCEAN – TWO FOR TWO! (JIM PEX)

THERE WERE SEVERAL PEOPLE AROUND THE LANDING, but nobody was volunteering to catch our boat at the dock. I told Hugh and Jim I would motor up easy to the dock into the wind. They could then jump out and hold the boat while I went and got the pickup and trailer.

All went as planned as I inched my way to the dock, where they jumped out and grabbed the railing. I was about to shut off the engine when they shouted that they could not hold the boat in the wind. I went back to the helm and immediately put the boat in reverse. I would simply back up, go around the dock and let the wind push the boat up to the dock. The solution to the wind was that simple.

I put the boat in reverse and started backing up. But there was a problem: As I was looking back toward the transom, I could not get the boat to respond to the wheel. We were not turning as I expected.

Then I heard a loud voice up front and turned around to see Jim hanging from the bow railing at the front of the boat. Both of his hands gripped the rail and his feet were in the water. His head was just high enough over the bow that I could see the fear in his wide eyes. Apparently he had failed to let go of the boat in time and lost his balance. Grabbing the rail on the boat was all that prevented him from doing a swan dive into the water.

“Hang on, Jim,” I yelled, “and I will get you back to the dock.”

For the dock to hold its position, there are steel pilings every 10 feet. When I hit the throttle, the boat jumped forward. In the attempt to get Jim to the dock, I scraped him off on one of the pilings and in a splash, he was in the water. I backed up this time to sounds of more yelling. It was probably better that I could not hear the words in the wind.

Hugh reached out and grabbed Jim by the back of the life jacket and pulled him out of the water and onto the dock. I was doing my best not to laugh, but you can only bite your lip for so long. Somewhere there must be a word for a hilarious disaster. It would be appropriate here – maybe calamity?

The folks around the dock had stopped to watch the show but made no attempt to assist. From shoreside, it had to be funny.

The boat responded now when I shifted in reverse and I went around the dock and let the wind push me in. As I tied off, Jim sloshed up to me and said he was physically OK, but in front of several laughing people, his feelings were a little hurt. I apologized profusely but could not help but laugh too as I watched the water drain from his clothing as he sloshed back up the dock making that “swish, swish” sound on his way to dry land.

We got the boat out of the water, Jim put on some dry clothes and we finally had a good laugh together on the way home.

We had no fish to our credit, but we had had a lifetime of memories from a weekend with more thrills than three guys could have imagined. It all could have ended differently, but it didn’t. NS

Editor’s note: Author Jim Pex is an avid angler based out of Coos Bay and who 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.

Mon.-Thurs. Added For Last Week Of Oregon Central Coast Any-Coho Fishery

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

From Friday, Sept. 20 through Sunday, Sept. 29, anglers can keep any legal sized salmon they catch in the ocean on the central Oregon coast after fishery managers increased the popular non-selective coho fishery to seven days a week for the final week of the fishery.

LORELEI PENNINGTON SHOWS OFF A WILD COHO CAUGHT DURING A PAST SEPTEMBER SEASON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The ocean non mark selective coho fishery between Cape Falcon and Humbug Mountain opened Aug. 31 on a schedule of each Friday through Sunday and open for all salmon including coho. During the first three open periods of the season, anglers have landed a total of 8,935 coho out of the quota of 15,640, which leaves eaving 6,700 coho remaining to be caught.

“Fishery managers felt they could open seven days a week for this last part of the season and still remain within the coho quota,” said Eric Schindler, ocean salmon supervising biologist for ODFW. “The non-selective coho fishery in September has been very popular with most anglers, and adding a few more days will provide a few more chances for anglers to catch some nice coho.”

The daily bag limit is two legal size salmon (Chinook >24”; coho >16”; steelhead >20”).  Anglers are reminded that single point barbless hooks are required for ocean salmon angling or if a salmon is on board the vessel in the ocean.

The all-salmon-except-coho fishery from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain will remain open through the end of October.

For more information about fishing opportunities including the latest regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/

Record Oregon Albacore Catch But Smaller Tuna Too

As Oregon’s recreational albacore fishery has hit new highs this summer, the size of the tuna also appears to be the lowest it’s been over the last decade and a half.

Preliminary stats from state ocean samplers show that the 96,919 brought back to ports up and down the coast through Sept. 8 have averaged just 25.67 inches, more than 3 inches shorter than the average since 2004, 28.9 inches.

CORVALLIS-BASED OUTDOOR WRITER RANDALL BONNER SHOWS OFF ONE OF MANY ALBACORE CAUGHT ON A TRIP ABOARD THE TACKLE BUSTER OUT OF DEPOE BAY. (RANDALL BONNER)

So what does that mean?

“I suspect that we have a strong younger age class that is available to the fishery,” says ODFW’s Eric Schindler in Newport. “The 2019 length frequency that I just saw from the commercial fishery has an almost identical footprint to what we are seeing in the recreational fishery.”

Typically, sport anglers don’t go as far out as the commercial boats, but that both fleets are catching similarly sized fish likely indicates a pretty big biomass of them out there. In freshwater, kokanee sizes can be smaller in large year-classes, and bigger in smaller ones.

ODFW stats show a pretty uniform average range of albacore sizes from the Astoria Canyon to the California state line, with Winchester Bay and Newport on the low end (25.23 and 25.31 inches) and Pacific City and Brookings at the high (26.3 and 26.22 inches).

A total of 1,276 have been measured so far this year.

The year 2005 saw the highest average length for albies across the coast, 30.55 inches. Last year’s fish were also on the smaller side overall, averaging 26.5 inches.

Still, 2019 is more than making up for slightly smaller tuna with a catch that is now more than 53 percent higher — and still climbing — than the next closest year, 2012’s 63,167.

“Catch per unit of effort (albacore per tuna angler trip) this year is also the highest observed at 6.6 albacore per angler,” Schindler adds. “For comparison, in 2012 it was 3.9 and 2007 it was 4.4 per trip.”

The year 2007 is when albie fishing exploded off Oregon, with nearly 60,000 landed, roughly as many as were caught in the previous six seasons combined.

EVEN IF INDIVIDUAL FISH HAVE BEEN ON THE SMALLER SIZE, CATCHES HAVE BEEN PROLIFIC — THE BEST EVER — FOR OREGON TUNA FISHERMEN. (RANDALL BONNER)

A table from Schindler shows that Charleston-based fishermen are reeling in the most tuna, followed by the Winchester Bay and Garibaldi fleets.

That last port was where late August’s Oregon Tuna Classic was held, and according to organizer Del Stephens, it marked quite a turnaround from late July’s out of Ilwaco — “a totally different scene.”

“We went from the fish barely arriving and in scarce numbers to lots of tuna and in some cases within 25 miles of shore for most of August,” he stated in a press release reporting on OTC results. “What a switch, but that’s albacore fishing in the Northwest.”

Interestingly, this year’s new high mark follows two relatively down seasons, with catches from roughly 17,500 to 25,000.

It also comes as NOAA recently warned of a large pool of overly warm surface water off the Northwest Coast. Anglers have been hooking more southerly species this summer, including bluefin, striped marlin, dorado and yellowtail.

Even as that is not good news for our salmon and coolwater ecosystems, if the ocean cooperates for tuna anglers, it could mean larger fish next year.

“Right now, I am hoping that it is a strong incoming year class, because those younger fish should be available next season, but with broader shoulders by then,” Schindler says.

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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Washington’s Ocean Salmon Season Opens June 22; ‘Great Ops’ For Coho

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

Sport anglers will have the opportunity to reel in salmon off the Washington coast starting Saturday, June 22.

That’s when all four marine areas open daily to fishing for Chinook and coho salmon, said Wendy Beeghley, a fishery manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

GARY LUNDQUIST AND GRANDDAUGHTER MARIAH SHOW OFF A PAIR OF HATCHERY COHO CAUGHT OFF WESTPORT LAST SUMMER ABOARD LUNDQUIST’S BOAT, THE “SKYHOOK.” (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

“Anglers can expect some great opportunities to fish for coho this summer,” Beeghley said. “With increased numbers of coho projected to return, we have a much higher catch quota for coho this year in comparison with the last few years.”

The coho quota for 2019 is 159,600 fish, up 117,600 over last year. Meanwhile, the Chinook catch quota is 26,250 fish, which is 1,250 fewer fish than 2018’s quota.

In marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport), anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

Anglers should be aware the daily limit for the section of Marine Area 4 east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line is listed incorrectly for June 22-July 31 in 2019-2020 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet. The daily limit for the area during that timeframe is two salmon.

Although all four marine areas are scheduled to close Sept. 30, Beeghley reminds anglers that areas could close earlier if the quota is met. A section of Marine Area 3 also will re-open Oct. 1 through Oct. 13, or until a quota of 100 Chinook or 100 coho is met.

Throughout the summer, anglers can check WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/ocean for updates.

More information about the fisheries can be found in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, available at license vendors and sporting goods stores and online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

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/.

Crabbing Closed From Coquille North Jetty To CA Border Due To Domoic Acid Levels

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announce the immediate closure of recreational and commercial crabbing from the north jetty of the Coquille River, which includes the bay in Bandon, to the California border due to elevated levels of domoic acid.

This includes crab harvested in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties. The recreational crabbing season in the ocean closed coast-wide on Oct.15.

The announcement extends last week’s recreational closure. Crab harvesting from the north jetty of the Coquille River to the Columbia River remains open in bays and estuaries, and on beaches, docks, piers, and jetties.

Despite the closure, crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants remain safe for consumers.

For more information, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page at: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/ShellfishClosures.aspx

May 4 Start For Washington’s Halibut Season; Quota Up By 23,652 Pounds

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

Anglers fishing for halibut will notice a change this year with consistent halibut seasons across all Puget Sound and ocean areas, except marine waters near the mouth the Columbia River.

The scheduled season dates are May 4, 6, 11, 21 and 25, and June 1 and 4, provided there is sufficient quota to accommodate all these fishing days. These dates apply to halibut fishing in Puget Sound marine areas 5-10 and in ocean marine areas 2-4.

TERRY WIEST SHOWS OFF A HALIBUT CAUGHT DURING A PAST OPENER WHILE FISHING 600 FEET OF WATER WITH BLACK LABEL HERRING AND A SALMON “STRIP TEASE.” (TERRY WIEST/STEELHEADUNIVERSITY.COM)

Halibut fishing in Marine Area 1 also gets under way May 4, but will be open four days per week (Thursday through Sunday) until the quota has been met.

State halibut seasons are established by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), using catch quotas adopted by the International Pacific Halibut Commission for coastal fisheries from California to Alaska.

Heather Reed, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, noted that this year’s quota for recreational halibut fisheries in Washington state is 243,667 pounds – an increase of about 23,652 pounds from 2016.

“We expect that the effort to align halibut season dates, together with a higher quota for the state’s recreational fisheries, will result in a longer season than what anglers have experienced in past years,” Reed said.

Halibut fishing has become an increasingly popular sport in Washington, making it difficult to predict how quickly anglers will reach the harvest limit for any given area, Reed said. The new season structure will help to ensure the state does not exceed federal quotas, with periodic catch assessments in each fishing area, she said.

Anglers should check the WDFW website for the latest information on openings before heading out, she said.

In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and two-fish possession limit in the field, and no minimum size restriction. Anglers must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

As in past years, Puget Sound marine areas 11, 12 and 13 will remain closed to halibut fishing.

In Marine areas 5 and 6, lingcod and Pacific cod can be retained in waters deeper than 120 feet on days when the recreational halibut fishery is open.

Additional changes in halibut-fishing rules that take effect for specific waters this year include:

  • Marine Area 1: Anglers will be allowed to keep a lingcod when halibut are on board during the all-depth fishery, but only when fishing north of the Washington-Oregon border during the month of May. The nearshore area in Marine Area 1 will open three days per week (Monday through Wednesday) beginning May 8 until the nearshore quota is taken. Bottomfish can be retained when halibut are onboard in the nearshore area.
  • Marine Area 2 (Westport): Beginning the Saturday after the all-depth fishery closes, the nearshore fishery will open seven days per week until the quota is taken.

Marine areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line: Bottomfish fishing will be restricted to the area shoreward of 20 fathoms (120 feet) beginning May 1 through Labor Day. Lingcod, sablefish, and Pacific cod can be retained seaward of 20 fathoms (120 feet) on days open to recreational halibut fishing.

Anglers should check the WDFW website for complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/.