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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 29, 2010 at 3:12 PM

Fisheries enforcement plans to educate anglers on new rockfish ban

Many around Puget Sound are getting ready for the lingcod and halibut season that opens in many areas on Saturday (May 1).

But there is a note of caution when bottom-fishing.

State Fish and Wildlife will close fishing for all species of rockfish from southern Puget Sound north to the Canadian border and west to Port Angeles starting Saturday (May 1), until further notice and that could be many, many years from now.

The reason for the ban was the announcement this week of three local rockfish species being listed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In addition to the closure, anglers fishing for other bottom-fish in Puget Sound will be required to observe a 120-foot depth restriction to reduce catches of rockfish.

What that means is no fishing deeper than 120 feet for bottom-fish with the exception of the halibut fishery in Puget Sound.

“Our official directive is we’re going to enforce the new law for rockfish,” said Sgt. Rich Phillips with state Fish and Wildlife’s enforcement marine division. “However, early on, we’re going to take a reasonable enforcement stand, and will try to heavily educate people on the new rules.”

What Phillips means is if enforcement encounters an angler who knows the rules are in place or continually disobeys them, that could result in a monetary or punitive fine.

“The first couple of weeks we’re going to be very busy between shrimp, lingcod and halibut fishing. In the scope of things the 120-foot issue will be pretty minor to begin with, although the rockfish situation (being listed on the ESA) isn’t a minor situation. But, we want to get compliance so anglers know what the rules are as we move ahead.”

Meanwhile halibut fishing will open in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Admiralty Inlet into Central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 6 to 10) from Saturday through May 30 from Thursdays to Saturdays only, but open Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Memorial Day weekend.

Good bets for halibut are Mutiny Bay, the old bombing range off Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, and Partridge, Eastern and Dallas banks. In the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, try Whiskey Creek, the Port Angeles area, Low Point, Freshwater Bay and Green Point.

On the coast, Ilwaco opens Saturday for halibut, and fishing is allowed Thursdays to Saturdays only, and Westport opens Sunday, and fishing is allowed Sundays and Tuesdays only. Each port will close once their quota is achieved. The Westport area remains very good for lingcod and black rockfish.

The new regulation pamphlet is available at local tackle shops and any state Fish and Wildlife regional office. Anglers should check the regulation pamphlet for specifics, including the new rockfish restrictions.

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