Washington State is allowing a summer and fall fishery for halibut along the coast, the first such season in well over a decade, in response to the closing of the 2020 spring season. The closure was part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order issued on March 25, closing all recreational fishing in the state.
“Although it looks a bit different from the typical halibut season that anglers might be used to, this approach continues to prioritize health and safety, economic investment into port communities, and time out on the water,” said Heather Hall, WDFW’s intergovernmental ocean policy coordinator in a news release. “We’re thrilled to see this season come together since envisioning it alongside stakeholders and public health officials earlier this summer.”
The first one-day opener in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will take place today (Aug. 6). It will then reopen on Aug. 13 for two days a week, Thursdays and Sundays, through Sept. 30.
Butch Smith of Coho Charters and Motel in Ilwaco said the late season is not normal.
“It’s an unusual starting date,” said Smith, “but then, 2020 has been unusual for everything.”
Smith reports that his boats were booked solid through the new season just two days after the opener was announced.
Wendy Beeghly of WDFW’s Region 6 also said interest has been high.
“This is the first time many people are targeting halibut this time of year,” she said. “We have gotten lots of calls about it. We should see some pressure.”
If the season does extend, Coho charters is ready to accommodate.
“Possibly, if the quota is not filled it could last longer, so we are going to shoot for the (full season), and if we get more halibut time, we’ll open the boats back up and do some more halibut fishing,” Smith said.
Summer fishing for halibut does not differ much from fishing in the spring, although it could vary a little.
“In the spring of the year they are there, dumb and hungry and pretty congregated up,” Smith said. “In summer, they might be spread out a little more, but basically they should be in the same areas. That’s what we have to go by, so we are going to try the traditional areas that we fish.”
He said those areas are all associated with the Astoria Canyon, a deep submarine canyon about 10 miles off the mouth of the Columbia River. The rift stretches from north of the Columbia River mouth to south of it and offers so much halibut habitat that anglers can spread out easily.
“It’s a huge area,” said Smith. “You don’t have to get right on top of other folks to fish this canyon.”
However, it is no easy matter to reel a big halibut up from depths of 450 to over 900 feet, which is what anglers will have to do to land one.
“It’s not for the meek of heart,” adds Smith. “People get a good sleep on the way home that’s for sure.”
Anglers will undoubtedly be fishing with all the usual halibut offerings.
“It will be artificial stuff, herring, squid; all the normal stuff that everybody uses when they go halibut fishing,” Smith said.
The halibut generally run from 15 to 30 pounds, but there are bigger fish out there that can run to 40 or 50 pounds. Smith also said anglers will occasionally find a true giant up to 100 pounds.
With so much interest, anglers that do not have a spot booked already may have a hard time finding an open seat. However, anglers that do not successfully find a slot on the charter boats for the halibut season are reminded that there are plenty of other options for ocean fishing this summer, including rockfish, lingcod, and tuna.
Halibut seasons, regulations
The limit is one halibut per day. All the regulations for this summer season are the same as in the spring seasons. Always check the regulations before you fish.
Marine Areas 1 and 2: Open Aug. 6, then beginning Aug. 13, open two days per week, Thursdays and Sundays, through Sept. 30, unless the quota is reached early. If the fishing pressure is low or the quotas are filling slowly, there may be openers on Aug. 28, Sept. 4 and Sept. 11.
In Marine Area 1, during the all depth fishery, anglers can retain flatfish, sablefish, Pacific cod, and lingcod north of the Washington-Oregon border when halibut are on board.
Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco/Chinook) Nearshore Area: Open Aug. 10. The nearshore fishery in Marine Area 1 will be open three days per week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday until the nearshore quota has been taken. Bottomfish may be retained with halibut on board in the nearshore area only.
Coho Charters and Motel: (360) 642-3333, 1-800-339-2646, or online at https://cohocharters.com/
Terry Otto’s weekly Southwest Washington fishing report and fishing forecast is now available online at Bob Rees’ “The Guides Forecast” at https://www.theguidesforecast.com/