Fishing guide Paul Kim (center), owner of Seattle Squid charter service in Seattle, and Taichi Kitamura (right) and David Chu of Seattle, hold up some nice halibut and lingcod they caught while fishing out of Westport.

2023 halibut recreational fishing opportunities likely mirror last season

Halibut catch quotas for the entire West Coast will be announced in late January with final approval occurring in March

Originally published in Northwest Yachting Magazine

Many boating activities have hit the pause button due to stormy weather, so now is the time to start looking ahead at spring halibut fishing options.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently conducted two public meetings where they released the preliminary structure of the 2023 halibut sportfishing proposals and provided a recap of how the 2022 season fared.

“The 2022 season generally went well although the early season (May and June) when halibut fishing is typically more productive, was hit hard by significant poor weather,” said Heather Hall, the WDFW intergovernmental ocean policy manager.

“We also heard high fuel prices reduced fishing effort, so we compensated for the low effort by adding additional days where we could, including during August and September,” Hall said.”

During 2022, the halibut catch sub-area quota off the northern coast at La Push/Neah Bay (Marine Areas 3 and 4) was 133,847 pounds with an actual total catch of 96,208 pounds (72% of the quota was caught); and for the south-central coast off Westport (Marine Area 2), it was 68,555 pounds with an actual total catch of 71,202 pounds (104%).

On the southern coast off the Columbia River/Ilwaco (Marine Area 1), it was 18,537 pounds with an actual total catch of 20,210 pounds (109%); and for the southern coast nearshore fishery, it was 500 pounds with an actual total catch of 43 pounds (9%).

The 2022 halibut catch quota for Puget Sound/Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Areas 5, and 6 to 10) was 83,210 pounds with an actual total catch of 64,778 pounds (78% although data didn’t include the Marine Areas 7 to 10 fishery from July to September).

A good-sized halibut is ready to come aboard a boat fishing off Neah Bay along the northern coast of Washington. Photo courtesy of Chase Gunnell.

The 2022 total catch sport quota for all Washington marine areas was 304,649 pounds with an actual catch of 252,441 (83%).

WDFW has worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in recent years to implement the flexible management provisions in the “Catch Sharing Plan” and this flexibility has yielded substantial benefits.

“We are hopeful the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) will adopt the same quota in 2023, which would set us up for similar recreational quotas, but those discussion still need to happen,” Hall said. “For the past four years, Area 2A (including Washington, Oregon, and California) has received a stable quota of 1.65 million pounds for all sectors.”

Here are WDFW’s 2023 season proposals, which are dependent on available quota for each marine area:

· Columba River/Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) — Open Thursdays and Sundays only from May 4 through May 21 and June 1–25; and open May 25 and June 29 only. If sufficient quota remains after June 30, WDFW will consider a fishery in August and/or September with dates to be determined. Nearshore area opens Mondays through Wednesdays only beginning May 8. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are on the WDFW website. The nearshore quota is 500 pounds.

· Westport (Marine Area 2) — Open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays only from May 4–23; and May 25 and May 30 only. If sufficient quota remains open June 15, June 18, June 22, and June 25 only. If sufficient quota remains after the all-depth fishery has closed, the northern nearshore area will open on the following Saturday. When quota is available, the nearshore area will be open daily until the remaining quota is taken. Coordinates for the nearshore fishery are on the WDFW website. If sufficient quota remains after June 30, WDFW will consider a fishery in August and/or September with dates to be determined.

· La Push/Neah Bay (Marine Areas 3 and 4) — Open Thursdays and Saturdays only from May 4–20 and June 1–24; and open May 26, May 28, and June 29 only. If sufficient quota remains after June 30, WDFW will consider a fishery in August and/or September with dates to be determined.

· Sekiu/Pillar Point area in eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Area 5) — Open Thursdays through Mondays only from April 6 through May 22; May 26–28 (Memorial Day weekend); and daily from June 1–30. 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 is only allowed when the lingcod season is open.

· Port Angeles area in eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and some parts of Puget Sound (Marine Areas 6, 7, 8–1, 8–2, 9 and 10) — Open Thursdays through Mondays only from April 6 through May 22; May 26–28 (Memorial Day weekend); and daily from June 1–30. To protect yelloweye rockfish, the retention of lingcod and Pacific cod is not permitted while fishing for halibut deeper than 120 feet in Marine Areas 6, 7, 8–1, 8–2, 9 and 10. If sufficient quota remains after June 30, WDFW will consider a fishery in August and/or September with dates to be determined.

In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. There is a four fish annual bag limit. Anglers must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.

Reminder that “barbless hooks” are required for all species in Marine Areas 5 through 13 — including for halibut and bottomfish — except when using forage fish jig gear to target forage fish (herring, sandlance, anchovy, sardine and smelt). See Marine Area Rules & Definitions in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules.

The IPHC will meet Jan. 23–27 in Victoria, B.C. to review seasons and quotas from Alaska south to California. The NMFS will make a final approval of Washington halibut seasons sometime in March or sooner.

You can find out more information by going to the WDFW halibut webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.

(This story was written by Mark Yuasa, who is a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Communications Manager and a longtime local fishing and outdoor writer. You can find it published in the December issue of Northwest Yachting Magazine.)

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.