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#1030372 - 05/19/20 01:02 PM Puget Sound halibut opens May 20
bushbear Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/26/02
Posts: 4668
Loc: Sequim


Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
May 18, 2020
Fish Program Contact: Heather Hall, 360-902-2487
Public Affairs Contact: Eryn Couch, 360-890-6604

Puget Sound Halibut fishery to open for select dates starting May 20

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today the expected dates of this year’s Puget Sound halibut fishing season, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The halibut fishery will open in Marine Areas 5 through 10 beginning May 20 through June 30 on alternating days. The season structure was revised from what was originally planned to allow the halibut fishery to proceed in a manner that is consistent with the guidelines to limit travel. Anglers are encouraged to participate in these dates only if they can do so locally as part of a day trip, while also practicing physical distancing.

“In talking with public health officials and our partners at Washington’s ports, we think we’ve found a balance between being able to provide these opportunities and bring that value back into these communities, while also continuing to prioritize public health,” Larry Phillips, WDFW coastal region director. “These dates depend on anglers continuing to get outdoors responsibly – something we know folks can do because we’ve seen a lot of great examples of it these last couple of weeks.”

Anglers should only venture out well-prepared. WDFW is also recommending that people bring their own needs for personal hygiene; for example, handwashing materials, toilet paper, and face masks or bandanas. People are also reminded to be prepared to change plans if access sites are congested. Fishers are also reminded to check ahead to ensure that your intended access site is open and be aware of some local alternatives. Anglers should be aware that the Port of Neah Bay is closed to the public, there is no moorage or fuel available at that location.

Similar to last year, anglers fishing for halibut in Marine Area 6 will not be able to retain lingcod incidentally caught when fishing for halibut seaward of the 120-foot depth boundary. The depth restriction is designed to protect rockfish species, including yelloweye rockfish, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

However, lingcod retention will still be allowed seaward of the 120-foot depth restriction in Marine Area 5, 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 halibut catch record card. There is an annual limit of four halibut. Recreational fishery samplers will be available to collect catch information at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound while practicing physical distancing guidelines.

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

Season details are listed below.

2020 Puget Sound halibut seasons

Marine Areas 5 – 10 will open May 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, June 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29.
Puget Sound will be managed to an overall quota of 77,550 pounds as long as there is sufficient quota.
Marine Areas 11, 12, and 13 will remain closed to halibut fishing to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

2020 Pacific Coast halibut seasons

Marine Areas 1 – 4: will remain closed for now, WDFW will continue to work with public health officials and partners at coastal Washington ports to develop a halibut season opening plan for coastal marine areas.

#1030455 - 05/20/20 09:40 AM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
GodLovesUgly Offline
Repeat Spawner

Registered: 04/20/09
Posts: 1217
Loc: WaRshington
Hein Bank Buoy
Wind Speed (WSPD): 15.5 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 19.4 kts

Yeah it makes sense they would open it today now that it will be blowing 15-35 for the next 3-4 days straight.

I can't help but see the irony in the fact that it was closed to protect public safety, and then opened during a Small Craft Advisory....
When I grow up I want to be,
One of the harvesters of the sea.
I think before my days are done,
I want to be a fisherman.

#1030528 - 05/20/20 02:35 PM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
Krijack Offline
Repeat Spawner

Registered: 06/03/06
Posts: 1202
Loc: Tacoma
Years ago I remember one ocean opening that occurred on one the largest tidal exchanges of the year. Only time I known of that we turned around and came back in. I remember talking to my bother in law's dad who was a commercial fisherman in the area. He laughed when he heard we attempted to go out. Seems all the commercial guys stayed in, knowing it would be too rough. He stated he had heard of a couple of boats that had to be rescued that day, including one that got slammed so hard with a wave that it crushed the windshield and swamped the boat. I have no doubt that they know exactly what they are doing.

#1030534 - 05/20/20 03:10 PM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
GodLovesUgly Offline
Repeat Spawner

Registered: 04/20/09
Posts: 1217
Loc: WaRshington
I have a seaworthy vessel and am posting from my sofa. So that shows you where I stand on the forecast. It’s just disappointing, good tides and better weather all last week.
When I grow up I want to be,
One of the harvesters of the sea.
I think before my days are done,
I want to be a fisherman.

#1030551 - 05/20/20 09:05 PM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
bushbear Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/26/02
Posts: 4668
Loc: Sequim
Not good conditions today for sure. That said, there were some who went out. By 2 p.m., there was one fish checked at Sekiu, one fish checked at Ediz Hook (Port Angeles), and two fish checked at John Wayne Marina (Sequim). No trailers in the lots at Ediz Hook and Yacht Basin in PA at 2 p.m.

There were still a few boats out at Sekiu after 2 p.m. Rumor was that a couple more fish had been caught.

Friday forecast isn't looking much better. Sunday is more promising.

#1030587 - 05/21/20 09:11 PM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
RUNnGUN Offline
Repeat Spawner

Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 1044
I'm not a halibut fisherman but, what's the problem opening for a week straight to account for poor weather days and tides ect. for safety and opportunity?
"After fishing for Steelhead for over 45 years, Steelheading as I know it is gone in Puget Sound!"

#1030589 - 05/22/20 07:56 AM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
Carcassman Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 11/21/07
Posts: 5831
Loc: Olema,California,Planet Earth
The fear in this Corona-age is that successive open days will attract large crowds from urban areas and thereby increase the risk of spread.

That, and despite the belief that Fish Managers are Minor Gods, they aren't very good at predicting weather. If they said, "we're not opening because it's likely to be windy" there would be be same hue and cry that the stay at home orders are getting.

#1030608 - 05/22/20 11:24 AM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
bushbear Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/26/02
Posts: 4668
Loc: Sequim
The virus concerns are a major component this year and why the Puget Sound fishery went to every other day. The original schedule for Puget Sound was for 33 days of fishing on a Thursday/Saturday schedule starting April 16 for MAs 6-10 and Sekiu was scheduled to open with the ocean fishery.

With the virus shutdown and anticipating an opening after May 5, the schedule was going to be adjusted to Thursday/Sunday and MA 5 was brought back into Puget Sound. Four days per week were to make up for lost days if the fishery could have opened around the 14th. County health concerns resulted in the every other day schedule to hopefully reduce the expected influx of out of area anglers. On the NOP, we're hoping that appropriate distancing and masking protocols are followed by everyone.

Additionally, there is the monitoring of the fishery. By going to every other day, the creel check crews can spread out their work week. The season will end when the qouta is reached or June 29. WDFW sampling protocols are such that the Dept won't overlap a salmon and halibut season.

The ocean fishery is still up in the air. Odds are that it most likely will happen in August or September after the coastal salmon season is closed. Discussions are on-going about opening the ocean bottomfish fishery.

#1030655 - 05/22/20 02:26 PM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
OceanSun Offline
Repeat Spawner

Registered: 07/01/04
Posts: 1197
Loc: North Creek
Why not overlap salmon and halibut? I know they'll say so when they flyover they know all the boats they count are fishing for one or the other. Why not do the flyover and then prorate effort according to the percentages gathered at the dock? Seems like a big hit to our potential fishing experience for their intellectual laziness.
. . . and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and have dominion over the fish of the sea . . .

#1030666 - 05/22/20 05:06 PM Re: Puget Sound halibut opens May 20 [Re: bushbear]
bushbear Offline
River Nutrients

Registered: 08/26/02
Posts: 4668
Loc: Sequim
Ocean Sun

When we were discussing options for the Puget Sound halibut fishery through the Stay Home-Stay Healthy quarantine and recognizing that we'd probably lose some of our days, I asked a number of questions relating to the monitoring needs and floated the idea of being able to overlap the final few days that we would have left with the start of our salmon season July 1.

Here is the answer I received from the Puget Sound Sampling Unit:


The Puget Sound Sampling Unit anticipates our new hires for halibut sampling in the Strait to start May 5th. The HR paperwork is in the process. This will be their first day of work and will be completing hiring paperwork and training in the following days until the fishery opens. We typically hire people a week prior to the start date of any fishery. With the advent of COVID-19, we are having to implement many additional measures and the sampling unit is working extremely diligently to be prepared for whatever day halibut does open.

Regarding the CRC funding, it is a very small portion of the overall funding for the sampling unit, covering three positions for some or all of the halibut months. Since halibut didn’t open in April, we haven’t used those funds yet, but have substituted them with other sources so staff can still do hiring and preparation. Those funds will only be used for halibut and are allotted over a two year period.

If we have overlapping salmon and halibut seasons, we would very likely need to hire additional staff, since the sampling designs are significantly different for each of those fisheries, not just a case of asking some additional questions. I can provide you details at a later time on the methods if you would like that information. A difference from the past is that we now do in-season management for halibut on the Strait, which requires much more intensive monitoring. We typically do a 1:4 in Area 5 with boat exit counts and 100% in Area 6 with aerial counts, which could get complicated if other fisheries are open. We need to ensure that we meet our obligations and requirements for both species.

Another concern is that with physical distance requirements and public compliance are we going to able to adequately collect the data that is needed for these fisheries? We are and will continue to refine our protocols to do our work safely, which is our main priority, and will require everyone’s cooperation.

Thank you.



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