Westport Report: Fishing outside Westport is going great so far

The 2013 fishing season in Westport is well underway. We started catching rockfish and lingcod in March and halibut season opened last Sunday. Great weather and great fishing was the norm.

Our quota this year is the same as it was last year and this year’s opening day was a little better than last year. The average weight of the fish was up a smidgeon and the numbers caught increased slightly. Halibut are a very good eating fish. Some say they’re the best. I would tend to agree. While I love salmon and salmon fishing, there are times when I wish my salmon would somehow magically turn into a halibut on the way home from the fishing grounds!

There’s no telling how long the halibut season will last. It’s very intensely managed with catch counts compiled daily. Last year we fished for 5 total days and hit our quota about right on the money.

This year? I’m guessing four days since this year’s opening day was a bit better than last year. But who knows? There are so many variables that make up a day on the briny for halibut that it’s almost impossible to predict.

Halibut season days are Sundays and Tuesdays of each week. Currently, it looks like we’ll be fishing through Tuesday, May 14 for sure. Sunday, May 19 is a toss up.

Lingcod fishing has been excellent this year. While rockfish make up the numbers on a trip (limit 10), lingcod make up almost half the poundage with a two fish limit. Lingcod were overfished 10-15 years ago but with good management have rebounded to major abundance.

Salmon fishing starts on Saturday, June 8. The fishery will run seven days per week for the first two weeks and then revert to five days (Sunday-Thursday) on Sunday, June 23. The bag limit will be two Chinook June 22 and prior.

The Chinook must have a “healed adipose fin clip” indicating that they are of hatchery origin. That restriction will be dropped June 23 along with the lowering of the Chinook limit to one. The overall limit will be 2 including coho. So – two, one of which may be a Chinook and coho must be of hatchery origin.

Do you ever wonder why all the regulatory complexity? Back in the 1960s, the Department of Fisheries regulation booklet was about a dozen pages. Today it’s well over 100. Fishery management is fine-tuned to protect endangered salmon stocks and to allocate harvest privileges to numerous user groups. As in many areas of regulation, one size does not fit all.

Regulations are very carefully crafted to be friendly to the health of the resource, fairly allocated between users, and optimized to provide quality fishing experiences over as much of the season as possible. Most folks work together well these days to manage the salmon resource. Let’s hope that continues on into the future.

For more information please go to the Fisheries website at www.wdfw.wa.gov or to the Westport Charterboat Association website at www.charterwestport.com.