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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

May 18, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Coastal halibut fishery improving, and Westport could close soon

The coastal halibut fishery finally picked up steam as the weather conditions allowed anglers to get out onto the fishing grounds.

“The northern coast opener (May 12) was pretty miserable so the (catch per unit effort) was low, but Saturday (May 14) was better and they caught a good number of halibut and the average weight was over 20 pounds so that is pretty nice,” said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal biologist.

“La Push anglers pretty much had limits of halibut, and the Neah Bay catch was slightly lower than that,” Beeghly said.

Some were venturing fair into the ocean to places like Blue Dot and Swiftsure Bank for halibut, but those smaller boats who stuck around the inner-Straits also managed to find decent catches.

During the May 12 and 14 North Coast halibut fisheries, anglers have landed 28,286 pounds with 80,506 pounds left in the quota.

“The whole North Coast didn’t put much of a dent in their quota, and have a ways to go,” Beeghly said. “I would expect some better catches and effort this week as the weather looks like it is going to improve.”

Down south at Westport, Beeghly says the angler effort was lower on Sunday (May 15) because of the weather although the charter boats were still catching their limits of halibut. The private boats on Sunday averaged about half a fish per rod.

“It was either you limited or you didn’t get anything at Westport,” Beeghly said. “The average weight of the fish went up to close to 18 pounds this past week up from 16 pounds the week before.”

The primary halibut season fishery at Westport on May 1 saw 9,337 pounds landed; on May 3 it was 8,423 pounds; and May 10 another 11,578 pounds was caught leaving just 12,162 pounds left to catch in the quota.

“Westport looks like it has a little over 12,000 pounds left, and it looks like they might be the first ones on the coast to go down (as far as closing),” Beeghly said.

At Ilwaco, “they saw quite a bit of effort and the charter boats came close to limits,” Beeghly said. “The private boats either got them or didn’t so those who knew what and where to go caught the fish, and the average weight was down around 14 to 15 pounds.”

Halibut fishing off Westport is open Sundays and Tuesdays only, and closed May 24, and will close once the quota is achieved.

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 is open this Saturday, May 21 only, and closed May 26-28. 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.

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