Good news, anglers: A bounty of springtime fishing opportunities are about to arrive. In the past few months, we’ve been hyper-focused on winter Chinook options, but now it’s time to pivot to other fisheries that deserve an equal amount of love and attention: the bottom-feeders.
Lingcod, Black Rockfish, Kelp Greenling & Cabezon
Let’s start off with fishing along the coast. When weather and ocean conditions allow, there should excellent choices here for lingcod, black rockfish, kelp greenling, and cabezon. Lingcod and black rockfish have especially seen a rebound in recent years in abundant levels. Coastal locations off the Columbia River/Ilwaco area, Westport, La Push, and Neah Bay (Marine Areas 1, 2, 3 and 4) are open for bottom fishing all these species now through October 15. The western Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Sekiu River mouth west to the Bonilla-Tatoosh border (Area 4) is also open daily through mid-October for lingcod as well as opportunities to catch certain rockfish species and cabezon. The daily limit is two lingcod per angler with no minimum size limit in Marine Areas 1 to 4. (The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound lingcod fishery opens on May 1. Be sure to check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website for specific regulations and what types of fish you can or cannot retain.)
Anglers can also start making plans to pursue the all-mighty halibut in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound (Areas 6 to 10) beginning April 7, and off the coast and western Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 1 to 5) beginning May 5.
“The Puget Sound area is opening a little bit earlier than in past years and this is exciting to give anglers a jumpstart on the halibut fishery, said Heather Hall, the WDFW coastal fishery manager. “We’ve got some nice recreational halibut catch quotas in all areas open for fishing.”
The halibut sport catch quota for all marine areas is 294,786 pounds, up from 279,414 in 2021. (A breakdown shows Area 5 to 10 at 83,210: Area 3 and 4 at 133,847; Area 2 at 68,555; and Area 1 at 19,037.) Halibut fishing in Port Angeles area and Puget Sound (Areas 6 to 10) is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only from April 7 through May 21, then Memorial Day weekend, June 2-27, and June 30. At Sekiu/Pillar Point (Area 5), Neah Bay/La Push (Areas 3 and 4) halibut fishing is open Thursdays and Saturdays only from May 5-21, also Memorial Day weekend, and then June 2-25, and June 30. At Westport (Area 2) halibut fishing is open Thursdays and Sundays only from May 5-22, May 26, and if enough quota remains it will be open June 16, 19, 23 and 26. At Columbia River/Ilwaco (Area 1) the halibut fishery is open Thursdays and Sundays only from May 5-22, and May 26, June 2-26, and June 30.
Halibut fishing could close sooner in areas if the catch quota is achieved. In all marine areas open for halibut, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. There is a four halibut annual bag limit and anglers must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.
According to a WDFW summary, the 2021 halibut season was fair as most fisheries returned to pre-pandemic operations, although Neah Bay and La Push were still affected by the ongoing pandemic.
In Puget Sound, halibut catches in 2021 were lower than expected despite a boost in opportunity compared to previous seasons. Most of Puget Sound opened in mid-April, which was about a month earlier than recent seasons and a three day per week season structure up from two days per week in the past. The lower catch rates in 2021 allowed WDFW to reopen Puget Sound in late summer. Time will tell if the same occurs here in 2022, but keep an eye out.
And if you are still seeking some Chinook, the first major return of spring Chinook is happening right now in the Columbia River, with an improved prediction of 197,000 (143,200 was forecasted in 2021 with an actual return of 152,695). The Lower Columbia mainstem is open daily through April 6 from Buoy 10 to Beacon Rock, plus bank angling from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam. Any season extension beyond April 6 is dependent on in-season assessments of the run. The Columbia mainstem above Bonneville Dam is open daily from April 1 through May 5 from the Tower Island power lines below The Dalles Dam up to the Oregon/Washington border, plus bank angling only between Bonneville and the Tower Island power lines. The daily limit is six salmon, no more than two adults and only one may be a hatchery-marked spring Chinook. Release all wild steelhead and salmon other than hatchery Chinook. The salmon minimum size is 12 inches. Shad retention below Bonneville is also permitted, with no minimum size or daily limit requirements.
I’ll see you out on the water soon!