Whoever said first timers can’t have some luck and catch a nice halibut.
My brother-in-law Ryan Nakata of Mercer Island, and his friends Jason Sandmaier of Mercer Island and Chris Smith of Bellevue had been planning a halibut fishing trip prior to the opener on April 23, but didn’t know much about it.
In turn Ryan decided to call me for some tips as they were “chomping at the bit,” to go fishing in their new boat a 22-foot C-Dory.
I told them where to buy the tackle, what type of gear and bait to use, and then led them toward some places that should be good to catch halibut.
On Sunday morning with all the advice and research in hand they left Mercer Island through the Ballard Locks and hit Shilshole Bay then headed north toward Whidbey Island.
A quick stop on the south side of Whidbey didn’t produce anything so they decided to head to Mutiny Bay at the Windmill Hole where about 25 to 30 boats had gathered.
Around 10:30 a.m. while they were bouncing bottom in about 110 feet of water during the outgoing tide Jason’s pole, which had a 2 pound weight with a brined herring attached, made the telltale dip of a fish on, and he was hooked into a halibut.
“It put up a good fight and probably took about five minutes to get in,” Ryan said. “Then when we gaffed it, it went crazy and slipped off the gaff, but we still had it hooked and then gaffed it again and got it into the boat.”
“We had no idea what we were doing, and it was totally beginners luck,” Ryan said.
Sometimes that’s all it takes is a little wit and know-how to catch your first 25 pound halibut.
In Puget Sound, try Mutiny Bay, the old Navy bombing range off Fort Casey, Green Point, Freshwater Bay, and Hein, Salmon, Partridge, Dallas, Eastern and Middle banks.
The Port Angeles and Puget Sound fisheries (Areas 6 to 11 and 13) are open now through June 5, and fishing will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The highly popular northern coastal halibut fishery opens May 14, and if the weather cooperates, anglers should find excellent prospects.
Those who plan to fish for halibut at Neah Bay or La Push should go sooner than later as this fishery gets fished out quickly. Marine Areas 3 and 4 will be open Thursdays and Saturdays only through May 23.
Meanwhile, the halibut fishery at Westport (Marine Area 2) will open on May 3 on Sundays and Tuesdays only through May 12. Starting May 17, the fishery will be open on Sundays only until the quota is reached. The northern nearshore area will be open on Fridays and Saturdays in addition to the days that the offshore area is open, until the quota is reached. The catch quota is 42,739 pounds.
Ilwaco will be open for halibut beginning May 1, and fishing will be allowed Thursdays to Saturdays only until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 7 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The catch quota is 15,735 pounds.
The western Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu will be open May 21 through July 3, and closed each week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
All areas open to fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, and a possession limit of two fish in any form.
(Photos taken by Ryan Nakata)