Halibut Fishing off Washington & Canadian Coasts
go without a auxiliary motor of some kind. A 10hp will allow you to navigate enough to
maintain steerage even in sloppy water and may even get you
back close enough to get help, and is one heck of a lot better than
trying to paddle a boat that is large enough to be out there to start with.
NEVER go out without a VHF radio. Channel 16 is the main Coast Guard communication channel. Channel 68 seems to be the main recreational "chatter" channel.
go outside into the open ocean as far as this
fishery requires without a partner boat. It is best to run in pairs or at least
maintain radio contact with other fishermen.
Know the tide and wind conditions before you leave.
Carry a tool box and spare parts for your boat and motor. A extra fuel
/ water filter is on the recommended list among the other normal things.
Also, from personal experience, if you are having mechanical problems, have your hip pockets in the air and your head in the bilge, smelling bilge water and fuel fumes, with the boat bobbing around, even the hardiest have been known to get seasick. Been there-done that!
Sorry for the blurry picture below, but
when you ask a unknown fisherman on the dock to take your picture, you take what you
|A typical day with 3 fish at 27# each and another at 45#|
Some dedicated fishermen will purchase the electric adapter and convert their reels to 12 volt power, using the power off their salmon downrigger plug in. The new Diawa "power assist" electrics, line counter reel is making a hit with dedicated halibut fishermen.
Since the advent of the braided spectra type lines, most halibut fishermen use this in about 80 to 100# range. The Power Pro seems to be a good choice, but Fireline is also used. If you go to a lesser test size, the diameter is so small that reeling in a large fish, the line simply buries itself into the other line under it on the spool. This then, the next time the fish runs, can create a "birds nest" fouled reel spool and line breakage. If you anticipate running more than one rod, try to use different color lines in case of a tangle and a fish is on, the non fish line can be cut when the fish is lose enough to the boat to identify the line. This makes for a lot easier to then untangle what is left.
Rods used are usually a 5'6" to 7’ boat rod, regular tip works fine but some are supplied with a roller tip, this style is sometimes called stand-up Tuna rods. The shorter the rod gives the fish less leverage and less strain on your fighting or cranking in a heavy fish. When you buy one of these rods, check to see the clearance of the roller to the tip sides. The older rods were a sloppy fit here, as the older line was heavier, now with the new smaller diameter spectra lines, the line can jump off the roller and get wedged in the roller tip, cutting the line. Some of the newer roller guides have a "Vee" wheel with a narrow groove in the center, this tends to keep the line centered. These rods are made by most rod manufacturers, and the economy Ocean City or Shakespeare seem to work quite well. There is really no need to go out and buy expensive gear for the few trips the average fisherman makes for halibut each year or two. And you can even find good used halibut rods and reels. If after you have tried this fishery a while, then you may decide to upgrade.
Terminal Gear ; Number one, keep the hooks sharp. Always have extra shock cords, spreader bars and leaders ready to go as here, you are normally trying to fish a tide change and any time wasted re-rigging gives you less time in the water to catch a fish.
There are a couple schools of thought here. One is the old standby, the halibut spreader bar is used quite often. This is a 1/8" stainless steel wire that is bent in and ell shape. The larger ones are 20" long on one side and 8" on the other. At the corner of the ell, is a loop that is attached to the mainline. A 2# cannonball is attached on the short arm, it is best with a short length of 30# mono as a breakaway if it gets hung up. 120 # mono or a wire leader about 18” to the end the long arm. A large bait hook of about 7/0 - 9/0 is then attached to this leader. If you plan on using circle hooks, then you need to wait until the fish takes the bait and starts running with it. He needs to swallow the bait AND be GOING AWAY when you set this hook. Canada has a 35 oz. sinker maximum.
The spreader bar is used to keep the bait from tangling with the sinker when it is being lowered to the bottom. And the halibut do not seem to shy away because of the spreader bar. There is also the theory that if you bounce the bar and sinker on the bottom it attracts the halibut. This has been called "ringing the dinner bell". If you have a 4’- 6' ocean swell, then just allow the swell to bounce the bar on the bottom using the boat's movement to do the work.
The bait when used on the spreader can be about anything. Use what is available, if no fresh bait, then buy black label “horse herring” (the largest available). The thought that, big bait - big fish, and this seems to tend to be true many times here. Along with this you can add a plastic swim-tail to make a larger attraction. Bait can also be salmon gills, belly meat with fins, or ling cod skin, mackerel, fillet of true cod, squid and octopus. Some halibut fishermen raid the gut bin on the docks the night before they head out. You can also inject herring oil to the bait. This is fine unless you get into a bunch of dog-fish sharks.
The one thing that you probably should consider is that if you are using bait, let them take it before you set the hook. Don't set the hook on the first bite as with fishing this deep you want the fish to take the bait good, and not pull it out of his mouth.
The jigs can be many different types, from the old homemade type pipe jigs, to the lead-head jigs in sizes up to 32oz. The lead-head will need a plastic swim-tail added. These swim-tails can be about any color, but glo-in-the-dark or white or seem to be used the most. For glo-in-the-dark to be effective, use a battery powered camera flash, then give the lure a couple of flashes. Pipe jigs are usually fished by themselves.
When fishing jigs, the best out there are Younquist Jigs, these are made in Paulsbo WA, by an ex-commercial halibut jig fisherman. And are available thru a few stores who specialize in halibut tackle around the Puget sound area.
John Younquist recommends to use monofilament of near the 60# to 80# size between the spectra mainline and the terminal gear, as the spectra line is VERY HARD to beak if it gets hung up, EXPENSIVE TOO. Put a 24oz lead-head on the bottom, up about 24” tie a dropper, add a unleaded hook and a swim-tail. What this does is makes the lead jig the weight and the upper hook will probably catch the fish as it is more visible, since the lead jig is on the bottom. The lead jig is what attracted the fish with the bouncing the bottom, but the upper one was what the fish saw and took. At times it has proven beneficial to add bait to the jig to add to the size of the lure and create a scent trail especially if you are fishing in deep water.
The combo of these may be best, as if you are fishing only bait, and do get a bite, you do not know if the bait was stripped off or not. You then wait a while to see if the bite returns, if it does not then a decision has to be made, do I pull this heavy gear up 250' to 500' just to see, or do I wait a while longer? No matter what your decision, if you pull it the bait will still be there, and if you did not, then it is probably gone. However if you fish a combo, you still have the upper jig/swim-tail working.
Other good information comes from halibut charter boat operator Mike Jamboretz
who uses a slightly different approach, which
is using a 24" shock cord made of Tuna cord at the terminal end of the mainline
with large swivels on each end, but with another swivel threaded onto this cord
before the 2nd swivel is tied on. This will create a slider that the
weight can be attached to. The weight can be attached using a short
lighter leader (60# mono) as a break off if the weight hangs up. Using this set
up the fish has less chance of feeling the weight when biting.
This cord also acts as a better handhold when the fish is at the surface instead
of running the chance of cutting a finger or worse if the fish doesn't
cooperate. On the end of this he attaches a 80# -120# Mono leader about
30". This leader then has (2) 8/0 hooks tied like solid tie mooching
set up BUT IF YOU ARE GOING TO USE A SECOND BAIT ABOVE, cut the upper hook so it
does not have much more that the bend and NO portion that could be construed to
be a hook, only a means of securement as seen in the photo below.
The bait can be either a Scampi twin tail plastic bait, black
label herring, the rear 1/2 of a squid, or about anything you desire. He
does highly recommend some type of scent if not using natural bait.
Below is my rendition of Mike's set up using 125# mono leader, only I tie in a dropper loop so I have the choice to also use 6" Scampi. In tying this dropper be sure to leave enough loop so you can simply thread the hook eye over and then loop back over the hook to attach it. Attaching the hook in this manner makes the lure stand out and away from the rest of the leader.
I also put a #1 Glo in the dark Spi-N-Glo and bead on the leader in front of the terminal hooks as a added attractor for the 8" Glo in the dark Berkley saltwater Curley Tail. The rear hook is simply zip tied to the Curley Tail. The 32 oz. weight is attached to the tuna cord by a sliding swivel and a short 40# -60# mono dropper. You can also use scent on the lures or use bait on the bottom hooks, however the Berkley saltwater plastic lures come soaked in some liquid scent that are advertised as having 400% more attractant than natural bait.
When tying knots in this heavy mono, you need to be extra careful when pulling the knot tight, being sure the loops are laying right AND the leader is well lubricated so as to not start a fraying/burn of the mono which will weaken it. When tying the dropper loop, if you have not done this in a while, you may want to practice on lighter mono. Also the one thing that I found is attach one end to something solid or have someone hold onto one end and both PULL, otherwise the knot will not become a knot.
|Halibut terminal gear that shows great promise, but to be legal, you will notice the upper hook in the lower curly tail has the bottom 1/2 of the hook bend cut off, & what is left is only using that as a securement for the upper part of that lure|
One thing though if you do use 2 baits/lures, you should be prepared to possibly bring 2 fish up at the same time. This can prove to be muscle tiring, but can be rather interesting.
Another Method of Getting & or Keeping Your Gear Down : If the tide and or wind makes it hard to keep your gear down at a decent angle (no more than 45 degrees), put your motor in reverse, then back into the wind/tide. A problem here is sometimes it gets difficult to keep the boat backing straight, but it is a lot better than trying to head into the wind and keep the lines where you want them. Also be sure you keep the lines out of the prop. There can also be other consequences later to the motor, like corrosion under the paint on the powerhead or on the electronics because of the motor being submerged part of the time. Remember that the motor has to breathe thru the carburetor so there are openings in the cowling for this. If air can get in, very possibly some salt water can also get in. So if you use this method of maintaining your position, when you get back to the dock or launch, pop the motor cowling and wash off the external parts of the motor with fresh water. After the flush water is dried, I like to use BoShield protectant spray. You will be glad you did a few years down the road.
Some anglers will use a downrigger to get the bait down in the deeper depths. This can be used in conjunction with anchoring, trolling or back-trolling. I would only consider this in an area that was relatively level and a gravel bottom, as hang-ups in rocky locations are not easy to deal and could get dangerous especially with water conditions not being ideal to start with.
In Canada this may also get around the 35oz max weight limit.
Sight, Sound, Smell ; In the sport fishing world there is documentation that this is mandatory if you plan on increasing your catch rate. All of these working together will increase your catch percentages. Any one alone can catch fish under the RIGHT conditions. If the water is clear and shallow enough to allow light to penetrate, then SIGHT alone may be all that is needed. However once you move to deeper, or murky water then things change dramatically.
How do you think deep sea fish find food? It is dark down there below 100' so sight is probably out of the equation. SOUND made by the preys movement could very well be helpful. But SMELL is also a very important item here.
The photo below shows a Spiny Lathrope crab taken from the stomach of a 45# halibut pulled from 450' of water off Neah Bay Washington in the early summer of 2008 and is shown laying on the bottom side of the tail of the halibut that had just ate it.
This crab was small, (about 2 1/2" across the body, not counting the legs), was 100% intact, meaning it had been very recently been picked out of it's gravel home on this bottom. As you can see it is covered with a hairy type substance that would help camouflage and allow it to hide it in the gravel. I say gravel as evidenced by the pounding on the cannonball weight against the bottom as we made that drift. However the one thing that may have been a demise of this crab was that it was a female that was laden with eggs, a few about 10% of which can be seen as an orange mass on her under belly. The mass of these eggs was 10 times the amount seen in the photo. I am sure the eggs gave off a distinct smell separate from the crab itself leading to her demise.
|Here a Spiny Lathrope crab recovered from the stomach of a halibut caught at 450'|
Fighting Belt & Harnesses
When fighting larger fish you will
need a fighting belt, which has a socket in front that the rod butt fits
saves many bruises on the body.
is a separate shoulder harness you can get that just snaps around you and
has straps that snap into the rings of the reel. Many of the
smaller reels to not have the fighting harness eyes. With this
harness the strain of holding the rod is transferred to the shoulders.
The key to fighting large fish, is to slightly squat, lean
reel down, when you straighten up lean back slightly. This simple movement takes some strain off your upper body, and
greatly aids in cranking the large fish up from deep water.
You can also bring a big fish up by using the roll of the boat's motion to your advantage, by only reeling in when the boat is rocking over on that side, hold the rod steady, let the boat rock pulling the fish up and repeat the process.
The photo below pretty well says it all. I have not
been able to track down the photographer, but it was
supposed to have been taken at Neah Bay 2011. This was a 2 for 1. Notice
the line coming out of the Lings mouth about the top middle and angling off to the
left of the photo. That is not a small halibut the Ling took as the
fisherman was pulling the halibut in. I do not know any of the details
here, except to prove Ling Cod can take a very large meal.
|WOW is that a mouthful ?|
Landing the Fish
With fish under 25# you can net or gaff them and hit
them over the head MANY times with a fish bonker.
Above that size weight, and at
least in the 40# and up size, you should consider a harpoon or a flying
you are inexperienced in harpooning, it may be best for you to practice on
the 25-30# fish. The practice
here may well be worth the effort when you happen to catch the big one.
These harpoons have
a 4-6' extendable handle with a 3/8" stainless straight shaft extending out about 12", and
a detachable head, of a couple different
that simply slides onto this shaft, with a wire cable of a couple
of feet to an eye.
Into the cable eye is
snapped a 1/4" nylon rope about 25’ long.
This rope end can then be attached to a 15”+ round anchor/mooring float.
The harpoon head is attached to the line and the float is
attached to the other end of the line.
In use, the harpoon head can be held by a couple of fingers
of the forward hand, or onto the shaft with a
couple of rubber bands, (these break away when the fish is hit). Depending on the size of the fish, if it is
over say 75#, before you hit the fish, throw the float over the side
close to the boat and out
of the way of the fish, but for the time being have someone hang onto the rope
to ensure it does not all get over the side and possibly tangle in the fishing
line before the actual harpooning. Be sure there are no tangled
feet and that the line can be quickly thrown over if the fish is large and
you can not hold her. The person helping with the harpooning may be able to handle the
fish without the use of the float, but if not, they should be ready to quickly throw everything over the side,
then let the fish fight the float.
In using the harpoon, the fisherman fights the fish with the rod, when
it is subdued, bring the fish up, but be careful not to bring it’s head out
of the water, as this seems to excite them into going back to the bottom. You need to give the
harpooner a good chance to place the harpoon in the proper spot.
The harpooner holds the harpoon about 6”-12” over the fish and aim for just behind the gill
cover and the below backbone in the belly section.
Some prefer above the backbone, BUT if you hit it here, be prepared for more
resistance in the meat and lots of resistance if you happen to hit the
backbone itself. You however do not want to hit her lower in the
main belly area as the harpoon may well pull out. Thrust the harpoon quickly
and expend lots
of energy as the harpoon head has to go ALL THE WAY THROUGH
the fish the FIRST
TIME. When the toggle type tip is thru the fish,
it will automatically turn sideways
below the fish because of the built in non-balance of the head. IF
THE FISH IS LARGE & YOU CAN NOT CONTAIN IT, LET GO OF THE LINE, then throw the line over the side, let the fish and the now attached
float go. The fisherman should be
prepared to loosen his drag at the instant the harpoon hits, as if the fish
runs, it may break the line at a knot. It just makes sense to still have the fish
attached to the fish line even though it may be harpooned.
There are a couple of other devices that will help landing
her. One is the Flying Gaff, which is a shark hook of about a size 19/0 that is
attached to 10-15' of
3/8" nylon rope. Depending on how deep you boat is, you may be able
to reach the halibut without a handle on the hook. In use, if the handle
is used, this shark hook's
rope is wound onto one end a 4'
wooden handle, with the rope wound around
over the hook and lower handle so that it can quickly be disconnected by
pulling on the long end of the rope. This gives you the advantage of a handle
to use to place the hook in the fish, then when you pull the handle and or the
rope, the rope will unwrap so you then have just the rope with the hook sunk
into the fish. You want to place the hook in the fish's mouth with the
point coming out between it's eyes. Another thing that can be very worthwhile is a
(or two) farmers hay hooks,
(the Dee handle type). This can be used
as a gaff later when trying to get the fish onboard as it has more of a gripping area than an ordinary gaff.
Once you get the fish somewhat secured, like in
the net, on the gaff or on a pontoon, hit them over the head repeatedly with
a billy club. Something to keep in mind is that the brain is "behind
the upper eye", not between the eyes. By upper, I mean the eye
away from the gut cavity. That is the "sweet spot" and a well
placed blow from a decent club will instantly stun your fish.
On larger fish above 35# or so you should consider making
up a fish stringer/bleed out rope. Essentially this consists of a 3/8 to
7/16" Nylon rope with a large eye in one end and possibly a smaller in the other
end. The large eye needs to be so it can be attached to a stern cleat.
Also involved is a 18" section of 3/4" metal conduit or broom handle that has a Vee cut in one end. In use, the conduit is placed in the small rope eye,
with the fish still in the water, the conduit and rope are pushed down inside the
fish's mouth and out the gill cover. Once the rope eye is outside the fish,
pull it thru, then thread back thru the eye making a secure heavy line to the fish.
Now you can secure the other eye to a boat cleat. Other stringers
can be a piece of copper or stainless tubing that is slid over the rope, making
it essentially a large needle. The whole idea is to keep your hands out of
the fish's mouth.
Once the fish is secured, cut the gills to bleed it out
while it is still in the water. Tie the fish off beside the boat until it is bled out. Some fishermen prefer to at this time cut a
vertical cut on both sides of the tail along with cutting the gills to really
bleed out the fish. However be watchful for blue sharks, as you
may have to bring the fish aboard sooner than anticipated. If you have to bring it in the boat and
there is a chance it still has some life, rolling the fish on it's back does
wonders. You can also tie a rope from the gills
back to the tail, pull the fish’s tail up into a bow, and tie it
This method will keep the fish
from flopping on the deck.
A large mad
fish can raise havoc on the deck of any boat.
In Washington waters a firearm can be used to dispatch
halibut. Some use a 38 Special pistol, while others swear by a 410
shotgun. The "Snake Charmer" is a
nice little shotgun for this.
even consider trying to take a
firearm especially a handgun into Canada.
Another method that was submitted by a reader, that
instead of using a regular gun, use a squirt pistol and squirt some whiskey, vodka, or other alcohol into their
gills. They say that in 10 seconds, they are dead. Well at least they died happy.
Where to Fish ;
Boundaries, in the
With today's technology, trying to fish for halibut
without a GPS is like peeing into the wind. The best for a newbie, is to get known GPS locations from
other fishermen like shown above. However many of these have been shared over the years
seems that some the numbers have gotten mixed up or are not even on the water.
If you do, check them out on the charts before you take it for granted as a
proven set of numbers.
According to Al Seda who used to manage Big Salmon Fishing Resort in Neah Bay in 2000, the best for inside halibut of the year is if you can get a tide with low run off in May, is to fish the "Garbage dump". This location is in the straits, between Wadda Island and Tatoosh Island. This area has traditionally had nice halibut in the 150# range pulled from it this time of the year and can be fished with with smaller boats with less fuel capacity that required if you plan on hitting some of the "outside" spots. He says that after this time, then the large fish seem to move outside into the ocean.
Coordinates shown here start at the North & closet to Neah Bay & work West & South
|3rd Beach||48-22-477||124-33-698||208'||Just outside of Neah Bay entrance|
|Garbage Dump 2||48-25-310||124-40-201||270'||Drops off to 500' fast both sides|
|Garbage Dump 1||48-25-873||124-41-394||290'||Drops off to 500' fast both sides|
|Table Top||48-23-300||124-55-150||360'||12 miles West of Tattosh|
|Hali Heaven||48-22-000||124-57-000||360'||14 miles West of Tattosh|
The best (for me at least) seems to be locate a somewhat flat gravel bottom, in a reasonable water depth, which may be from 200' to 400’, while some may be 600'. Most of the nautical charts show the structure of the bottom.
The other thought is to find a high gravel flat and
fish that. Some of these flats may be
rocky but if you drift over the edge, Ling Cod are many times found just over
the lip on the downstream side. Rock fish will be below the lings and
halibut may again be in gravel at the base of this mount.
The problem I have seen here
is that these tend to be more rocky where you get more hang ups and loosing
You will more likely catch Lings,
and Yelloweye in locations like this. With the Washington/Oregon coasts
shut down for taking of Yelloweye you will need to think ahead just where you
will be fishing.
There seems to be more than one of schools of thoughts here.
But one thing for sure is always fish downhill. What that means NEVER fish
on the upstream side of a mound as you will always snag up, where if you start
at the top, you can continue to let out more line as the depth gets deeper. This method will tend to
have less hang ups and a potential of loosing gear and time on the water.
A few for nearshore Washington waters in the Neah Bay area are, Garbage Dump, and there seem to be 2
other locations referred to the Garbage Dump. Some fishermen are now
calling them A,
B, & C or 1, 2 and 3. But you can fish from inside Tattosh Island in 250' of water to east of Wadda. There are some others that are out up
to 50 miles, but the average small boat fisherman would not be interested in
these because of the long run along with possibly not enough fuel capacity on the
boat. I am not posting these as it seems that the dedicated halibut
fisherman already has these numbers.
West and south there is a halibut closure designed to
It is shaped like a big C with the center open for halibut fishing. The
open area is about 5 miles wide and 4 miles north and south. The opening GPS
is 48-11-00 / 124-58-00 on the NE corner, 48-11-00 / 125-11-00 on the NW corner,
48-04-00 / 125-11-00 on the SW corner, then 48-04-00 / 125-59-00 on the SE
corner. Most of the depths here will be from 85 fathom (510') on deeper.
If you are after large Ling Cod and are near, just off the the SW corner of this closure has produced some extremely large lings, however once the word gets out, this lwill diminish.
Farther south yet into the Westport area, the main area
fished here will be the shelf at the NE corner of Grays Canyon. There is a
flat area there before it drops off that is about 95 fathoms. Some boats also fish north in 300' off Pt Grenville.
When to Fish : The best time to fish would be a calm day at slack tide. Many times this does not fit in the equation. The reason for a slack tide and calm waters is that when you have to go down up to near 600', that means a lot of lead to get down and to keep it down. With the tide and or current running you may need more weight, this also means a lot of effort to just reel up the extra weight itself from that distance.
Many dedicated halibut fisherpersons will leave the harbors
at 5 AM. This usually means you leave before breakfast. They
will take enough lunch to also function as breakfast in between fighting the
fish. Being out there early also gives them time to catch and release
some of the smaller halibut, in hopes they will pull a larger one.
My personal opinion is that if we retain the first fish 25# or over and then see
how many bites we are getting, then if they are any size at all, they are to make a judgment call as
to whether we look for larger fish or take smaller ones if that seems to be the
typical catch or move to a different area if time permits.
Then after the halibut are limited out, then they head for rocky structure and try to fill the fish box with sea bass and Ling Cod before heading back in.
Where to Stay :
The Cape Motel
Silver Salmon Resort
The Lost Resort
The Village RV Park
1184 Bay View Avenue Neah Bay, WA 98357
360-645-2918 / 360-645-4008 Cell: 360-640-1052
RV/Camp Site, Dump Station, Hook-Ups
Washington Regulations : The yearly halibut season with quotas for each marine area established by the Pacific halibut Commission. The opener date may vary from area to area, but it generally starts about May 1. These seasons will run until the quota is reached in poundage for that particular area, which in some heavily fished areas may only be 2 weeks. The daily limit in Washington waters is only 1 halibut.
Each marine area in Washington State may well have different regulations, as to season opener dates, closed days of the week, size limit, etc. Therefore look at the regulations carefully. Area #1 and #2 are open 7 days a week, while #3 and #4 are closed Sunday & Monday, area #5 and #6 are closed Friday & Saturday. Area #1 has a minimum size limit, while the others do not.
There is one confusing item under (1999 Species Rules) this says "halibut may not be landed in a port closed to halibut fishing". It took 2 e-mails to WDFW enforcement before I got a specific YES back that we can legally catch Canadian halibut with a Canadian license in Canadian waters & return to Neah Bay on Sunday, (area #4, which is closed Sun. and Mon.). This language is confusing and needs to be changed. Under this same heading it also states "Only one line with up to two hooks may be used. It also states, halibut may be shot while landing with a gaff or dip net."
The 2003 Specie Rules now say, "May not be landed in a port closed to Halibut fishing except halibut lawfully caught in Canada; fisher must have Canadian license."
are some halibut sanctuary closure areas off the coast, (both Canadian and US) so it may be beneficial to use your GPS
& chart plotter to locate the corners of these closures.
Also for the year 2001 WDFW has imposed a limit of 1 or 2 (depending on how you read it) yelloweye, (commonly called red snapper), in your bag limit as part of a declining population. This can pose a problem as these fish can be located in the same general deep water area as halibut. When you bring one of these up from this deep water, it's air bladder will generally turn inside out and pop out the fish's mouth. The word is that if you throw them back, in time, the air bladder will return into the fish. However during this time the yelloweye will have it's movement impaired and can become prey for seagulls. The first thing seagulls will do is to pick the fish's eyes out, then the belly. There was concern in 2002 as to taking yelloweye as incidental catch for halibut in the 2003 season and a proposal to eliminate halibut fishing in water deeper than 40 fathom, (120'). This seems to have not been implemented, but the closure off LaPush done instead.
2003 saw retention of 1 copper
rockfish in Washington, but illegal to retain any yelloweye.
2004 it was illegal to retain either of the above.
Since yelloweye are like rockfish and have swim bladders, it is advisable that you release them unharmed. This means that when you are fishing for halibut, that you are usually going deeper than the magical number of about 60', so when you bring them to the surface, the bladder will pop out of their mouth. I have even seen their eyes get glazed and pop partially out if from deeper depths like at 400'.
above is explained as: Spiny finned fish have closed swim bladders that
help produce sound and maintain buoyancy plus they hold nitrogen, oxygen and
carbon dioxide. When these fish are reeled up from the deep,
the gas molecules expand and rupture this bladder. The escaping gases
then fill the body cavity, forcing the eyes to bulge and the intestines to
protrude out the mouth. If the gases are not released (or vented), the
fish can't submerge, which makes it an easy target for predators.
for one can not condone ANYONE to continue to kill fish, while continuing to
fish, just for the sport of it. These fish that are just thrown over the
side are prime targets for seagulls or seals. With the bladder extended,
they can not dive under the water, as it is like a person with a life vest
on. The gulls will first pick out the fish eyes, and next will pick out
Plus, if we continue to kill Yelloweye as incidental or by catch, it will be a reason to totally shut down the halibut season
Updated WDFW 2017 Saltwater Regulations :
All vessels fishing for bottomfish and halibut in Marine Areas 1-3 and Marine Area 4 (west of Bonilla-Tatoosh line) will also be required to have a descending device on board.
Descending devices are used to release rockfish back to the depth of capture and significantly improve the survivability of released rockfish. This rule change will require a descending device to be on board the vessel and rigged for deployment when fishing for bottomfish and halibut, anglers are encouraged to use them when releasing all rockfish.
These rule changes are necessary to provide recreational fishing opportunity on healthy resources and minimize mortality of released fish.
More information about these devices can be found on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/bottomfish/rockfish/mortality.html
The Canadian limit for halibut was 2 per day with 3 in possession, however this was changed to 1 fish per day in 2008, so check the regs before you go.
Also, if you fish
Canadian waters and catch a bottomfish, you can come back to US waters, but
you CAN NOT stop to fish. You have to
come directly to the US port. You could
drop off your Canadian fish, then go back and fish US waters however.
If you fillet the fish, the skin has to remain on the flesh
to identify the specie.
In Canadian waters off the Strait Of Juan De Fuca there is a
halibut sanctuary—(NO FISHING).
located by GPS
readings on all four corners. It may be wise get a GPS unit that also has
a chart plotter, and to put these readings into your unit so that you see
just where you are in relations to the sanctuary. You can motor thru this area, but you can not stop to fish. Even if you are fishing near, hook a fish
and drift into the area, it is a NO-NO.
If you are out there AND near it, you may be visited by a Canadian hi-powered Zodiac,
asking if you know where you are.
as if they are using a satellite to watch this water.
The US and Canadian Fisheries have a working agreement
whereby either can check the catch of either side of the border.
You can, if you have a Canadian fishing license, leave from
a US port, fish in Canadian waters, and return without reporting to
The key here is if you do not
touch Canadian shore, even dropping anchor is considered touching their shore.
Canadian 2001 non-resident fishing license is $34 for a 5 day
license, (which can be post-dated).
And, $108 for a yearly non-resident license. These prices are in Canadian dollars. You can not mail order these licenses, you have to buy it in
Canada. As of mid year 2003 they said you would be able to purchase Canadian
licenses on the internet, however things have not went as planned. It
seems now 2006 that you can get most all of your freshwater licenses on-line,
but not the saltwater non resident.
For those of you who live in the western part of the state
west and south of Puget Sound, you may want to go to Victoria to purchase your
license, the following is how to do it.
Take the ferry MV Coho out of Port Angeles on the early morning
trip. The way most fishermen do is to
go as a walk on passenger, take
the wife along and send a few hours in Victoria, then catch the next ferry
back. Check the ferry schedule on
, the first ferry leaves Port Angeles at 8:20AM, and the crossing takes 95
Or if you are limited on time and want to take the same
ferry back to PA on it’s return run, you have about 20 minutes. MAKE HASTE ARE THE WORDS. Before the ferry docks in Victoria, be on
the forward right hand deck near the passenger walk off door. They will have it roped off, but get as
close as possible. They usually allow the
physically handicapped to exit first, be right behind them.
You may have to be
aggressive here and if anybody says anything just say you need to get off as early
as possible so you can get a Canadian fishing license and be back for the return
trip, (another fisherman may overhear you, wanting to do the same thing,
you can then team up with them, taking the same cab).
Have your drivers
when you hit the customs counter, one of their questions will be your reason to be there,
tell them you are going to buy a Canadian fishing license and want to be back
on the returning ferry trip.
RUN out of the door, up the low flight of stairs past the
official greeter with the bearskin hat, take a right, head south for the
Hail the first cab you see
Tell him/her that you
want a Canadian fishing license and want to go to Robinson’s Sporting Goods,
(which is about 8 blocks) tell him you want him to wait for you so you can be on the
They have done this
many times and can just about bet on where you are wanting to go before you
get in the cab by the excited, wide eyed, running maniac they see coming toward
The only problem can be if others are buying licenses as you
get inside the store, if so, express your concern to the clerk. If you are not getting a
yearly non-resident license, you will have to specify the dates you want the
fishing days to be.
If you do not specify, they will date it starting the next day.
Hop back in the cab and head for the waiting ferry. The cab fare was usually $8 Canadian, so if
you give them a $10 US they are happy as can be. You will make it back and thru customs just in time to be aboard
with a few minutes to spare.?
Another option is to take the wife up, park your car in
a pay lot at Port Angeles, go over as a walk on passenger, but plan on staying
and coming back on the next returning ferry. This gives you and
her something to do wondering around the tourist trap near the harbor.
There are many things to see. A wax museum, under water garden,
horse and buggy rides, 3 wheeled tricycle cabs, artists that will sketch your
picture along with a multitude of things to see and do. And good food.
Copyright © 2004 - 2017 LeeRoy Wisner All Rights Reserved
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some methods of returning them slowly in a plastic milk box to depths of below
60' and allow them to acclimatize and then they may swim off.
For an article explaining this
Another method is to lightly puncture this protruding organ with a needle or
fish hook. I have seen this used, it works but am not endorsing it.
more scientifically approved method is called "Venting", in which you
use a hypodermic needle to just puncture into the belly cavity right behind one
of the pectoral fins at a slight forward angle. Do not push it far enough
to puncture the stomach or intestines. When the needle enters the body
cavity, you can see the belly deflate, and can hear the gases escape. Once
the pressure is released the fish will retract the parts in question and
recovery has been proven effective.
for an article on Venting.