OREGON COAST — With much of this year’s quota for the sport halibut fishery remaining, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced two additional openings next month to increase anglers’ chances of success this season.
The central coast spring all-depth halibut season is a popular fishery, and it was originally slated for its first opening on May 14-16, but because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, that first opener was canceled, and a back-up date was added in July. Now, two more openings have been added, bringing the total to eight for this season.
Anglers had their first shot at halibut on May 21-23, followed by openings on May 28-30, June 11-13, and last week, June 18-20. The next opener is set for July 9-11, then July 16-18, July 23-25 and July 30-Aug. 1.
Lynn Mattes, ODFW’s sport halibut and groundfish project leader, said they won’t have last week’s catch numbers compiled until later this week, “but prior to this last weekend, there was still 125,000 pounds remaining on the quota out of a 170,000,” she said. So in order to hit this year’s quota, “we would have to average 25,000 pounds (for last weekend and the remaining scheduled openings). So we think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Mattes said the first two openings of the season had fewer-than-average anglers taking part, possibly due in part to COVID concerns, but also because the weather was less than desirable for being out on the ocean. “The weather has hampered things more than anything so far this year, which is fairly common, which is why we have back-up dates,” she said.
ODFW was in communication with the International Pacific Halibut Commission and National Marine Fisheries Service to set the additional openings for this season. Mattes said they opted not to add this coming weekend to the schedule because the directed commercial halibut opener opened up this Monday and went through today (Wednesday), “and a lot of anglers don’t like to fish directly after that fishery.”
The following weekend was also ruled out. “The weekend of Fourth of July, there’s a really large tidal exchange early in the morning that makes it tough for anglers out of some ports to get out, so we’re skipping that weekend,” she said.
When asked how the sport halibut fishery has been affected by the COVID-19 restrictions, Mattes said, “We have adjusted our sampling. All of our staff on the docks are wearing masks, and they are doing their best to try to maintain 6 foot distance as much as they can when working with anglers.” She added, “We have reduced some of our biological sampling on rockfish and lingcod, (but) we’re still getting the length on halibut because that is really important in determining how much catch there is. And salmon season starts soon.”
The Port of Newport, which operates the boat launch in South Beach, has also made some adjustments. “The port has tried to set stuff up like on busy halibut days to try to not have people going down all three lanes of the (boat) ramp at the same time,” Mattes said, “and they removed a couple of the hoses at the cleaning station to try to separate people. It’s somewhat up to anglers, too, to try to do their best to follow the rules.”
For more about halibut fishing, including a map of Oregon’s recreational seasons, people can go online at myodfw.com/pacific-halibut-sport-regulations.