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Originally published Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 4:56 PM

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Puget Sound getting ready for halibut seasons similar to last year's

What Puget Sound lacks in spring salmon-fishing opportunities will definitely be made up elsewhere with halibut and lingcod. State Fish and Wildlife...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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What Puget Sound lacks in spring salmon-fishing opportunities will definitely be made up elsewhere with halibut and lingcod.

State Fish and Wildlife managers are saying the proposed spring Puget Sound halibut fishing seasons will be nearly identical to last year's, and some coastal ports are opening their doors Saturday for bottomfishing.

"Halibut fishing in Puget Sound has been pretty good in recent years," said Heather Reed, the state Fish and Wildlife halibut manager. "I'm hoping to get the proposed seasons announced (by the middle of March).

"But, we've had difficulty keeping the seasons aligned with the catch quotas, and have gone over the past couple of years."

One of the main difficulties is the numerous boat ramps in Puget Sound make it difficult to track inseason catches.

The proposed sport-catch quota for areas east of Sekiu in the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Puget Sound will be 57,393 pounds, which is the same as last year. Halibut fishing at Sekiu (Marine Catch Area 5) will be open May 23-26, May 30-June 1 and June 8. Last year, sport anglers had 17 days compared to eight days this season.

Port Angeles, the San Juan Islands, Saratoga Pass and northern and central Puget Sound (Areas 6 to 10) will be open for halibut May 2-4, May 16-18, May 23-26 and May 30-31. Last year, sport anglers had 17 days compared to the proposed 12.

Halibut fishing will be closed in Hood Canal (Area 12) as well as south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 11 and 13) to protect endangered rockfish species.

In late January, the International Pacific Halibut Commission adopted a quota of 999,000 pounds — up from 989,000 last year — for commercial, sport and tribal fisheries in Area 2A, which covers Washington, Oregon and California.

Last year, the sport fishery in Washington was allowed a catch of 214,110 pounds. The halibut fishery off Neah Bay and La Push is tentatively planned to open May 9, and fishing will be allowed Thursdays and Saturdays only through May 18. Catches will then be assessed to see if additional openings are possible.

Westport, on the south-central coast, opens May 5, and fishing will be allowed Sundays and Tuesdays only through May 21. Catches there will also be assessed for additional openings.

There will also be a nearshore halibut fishery off Westport open daily beginning May 5 until the quota is achieved.

Ilwaco opens May 3, and fishing will be allowed Fridays to Sundays. This area will remain open during spring and summer unless 80 percent of the quota is caught before mid-July.

The limit in all areas will remain at one halibut daily with no minimum size limit.

The coastal lingcod fishery opens Saturday at Westport, La Push and Ilwaco. Charter boats usually find good early spring lingcod and black rockfish action when the weather allows them out of port. The Neah Bay lingcod fishery opens April 16.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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