The south central coast halibut fishery off Westport is off to a good start since it opened May 1, and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca is decent at times too despite big low tides this past week.
The twice a week fishery has been open May 1, May 3 and this past Sunday (May 8).
“We had 80 boats out on the opener, but Sunday there was only 25 boats out and we’re not sure if it was because of Mother’s Day because the ocean conditions were good,” said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal biologist.
“There are a good number of private boats mixed in with the charters at Westport,” Beeghly said. “Most of the charters are coming in with their halibut limits. The halibut were averaging 16 pounds dressed.”
Beeghly says it looks like there was a few really nice fish on opening day and the winner was close to 60 pounds.
Halibut fishing off Westport is open Sundays and Tuesdays only. During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 22). The following week the fishery will resume the Sunday and Tuesday structure until the quota is achieved or September 27, whichever occurs first.
Nick Waggood of University Place won the Westport Charter Boat Association’s ‘Catch of the Week’ when he brought in a 46 pound halibut on Sunday, to win a $500 cash award for winning the weekly derby.
Charter boats at Westport also continue to catch good numbers of lingcod and black rockfish.
Beeghly says a report on the halibut fishery off the southern coast at Ilwaco should be out by Wednesday.
Ilwaco is open Thursdays to Saturdays of each week until 70-percent of the quota is achieved, or July 17, whichever is earlier. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 5, Fridays to Sundays until the remaining quota is taken, or September 30, whichever occurs first.
The North Coast off Neah Bay and La Push will open this Thursday (May 12), and is open two days per week (Thursdays and Saturdays only). If sufficient quota remains the fishery will reopen June 2 and or 4, and continue again June 16 (two days per week Thursday and Saturday), until the quota is reached.
In the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca the halibut fishery has been good since it opened on May 5.
“They did pretty good out here around Port Angeles, and that was despite the minus low tides and the angler counts were down from last year’s opener,” said Larry Bennett, the head state Fish and Wildlife sampler in the Strait.
“We saw good numbers of halibut from the Port Angeles checks,” Bennett said. “The biggest I heard about it was at John Wayne Marina on Thursday (May 5) where there was one that was 63 inches long and 111 pounds.”
Bennett says there are lots of fish in the 50 to 90 pound range.
Here are the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca checks:
Port Angeles West ramp — May 5: 47 boats with 107 anglers caught 13 halibut; May 6: 32 boats with 68 anglers caught nine halibut.
Ediz Hook ramp, Port Angeles — May 5: 70 boats with 151 anglers caught 32 halibut; May 6: 116 boats with 259 anglers caught 39 halibut; May 7: 68 boats with 154 anglers caught 23 halibut and two lingcod.
John Wayne Marina, Sequim — May 5: 51 boats with 117 anglers caught 21 halibut; May 7: 71 boats with 184 anglers caught 17 halibut.
Port Townsend Boat Haven Marina ramp — May 6: 16 boats with 36 anglers caught three halibut and four lingcod.
(Photo courtesy of the Westport Charter Boat Association)