The International Pacific Halibut Commission set the 2018 halibut catch quotas in Portland, Oregon on Friday, and the overall poundage is slightly down from last year.
The total sport catch quota is 225,366 pounds compared to 237,762 pounds in 2017, and 214,110 pounds in 2016, 2015 and 2014.
A breakdown of the 2018 halibut catch quotas are 60,995 pounds for Puget Sound from Sekiu to Port Angeles, which is down from 64,962 in 2017, but up from 57,393 pounds in 2016.
On northern coast off Neah Bay and La Push the sport catch quota is 111,632 pounds down slightly from 115,599 in 2017, but up from 108,030 in 2016.
The south-central coast off Westport is 46,341 pounds (44,341 for primary offshore fishery and 2,000 for near-shore) compared to 50,307 in 2017 and 43,785 in 2016.
The southern coast off the Columbia River at Ilwaco will see a catch quota of 11,682 (11,182 for primary offshore fishery and 500 for near-shore) compared to 12,799 pounds in 2017 and 11,895 in 2016.
The catch quota for the entire West Coast – sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial – is 1.32-million pounds for 2018 down from 1.33-million in 2017, but up from 1.14-million in 2016.
The preliminary halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 only) are May 11 and 13, and May 25 and 27. Other potential dates – depending on harvest totals – are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30.
The Westport near-shore is open first Saturday after the closure of the primary fishery and open daily until the quota is projected to be taken.
The opening date at Ilwaco is May 3 for the all-depth fishery. Fishing will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only, and will close Sept. 30 or until the quota is achieved, whichever comes first. The near-shore season will open May 7, and fishing allowed Mondays through Wednesdays only.
In all areas the daily limit is one halibut with no minimum size limit.
A change in how fishing seasons were structured occurred in 2017 to avoid exceeding catch quotas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and inner-Puget Sound marine waterways.
“The good news was we stayed under our sport allocation, which we haven’t done for several years and that was regarded as a success,” Heather Reed, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said. “The 2017 fishing season was good overall.”
Reed said the average size of halibut at Neah Bay and La Push was 18 pounds; Ilwaco was 14 pounds; Westport was 16 pounds; and Puget Sound was 24 pounds.
The National Marine Fisheries Service will make its final approval on all fishing dates and quotas sometime in March or sooner.