Halibut season underway with higher catch limits than last year

Alaska’s halibut season opened Sunday, Mar. 6. Doug Duncan is a fisheries management specialist with NOAA fisheries. He said that after several years of decline, this year’s catch limit is up by over 5.7% from last year.

“The fish that were born in 2012 are beginning to show up, and it’s looking like that was a pretty good year for halibut. So, an influx of smaller, younger fish coming into the fishery,” said Duncan.

That brings this year’s catch to just over 41.2 million for the fishery – and there’s excitement around the price, too. According to Alaska Fish Radio’s website, dock prices for halibut this year could start at $8 per pound in Homer. That’s $1.60 more than last year’s price.

Most commercial halibut fishing is managed by NOAA Fisheries under the International Pacific Halibut Commission, which does the yearly stock assessment in cooperation with the U.S. and Canada. The catchable area for halibut stretches up the coast from the Lower 48 and out around the Aleutians. NOAA divides waters along Alaska’s coastline into fishery zones. Kodiak’s management zone stretches between the southern tip of Kodiak Island and the top of the Alaska panhandle. And Duncan said that last year, nearly 1,200 people and around 700 vessels fished for Halibut in the area. That includes Kodiak charter operators, which have their own rules for this season separate from commercial vessels. Duncan says that includes guidelines for when charter guides can take clients out to fish.

“Charter halibut fishing is closed on all Wednesdays as well as July 26 and August 2, but all other days are open to charter halibut,” said Duncan.

That’s similar to last year. There’s also a daily two bag limit for fishing charters and guidelines for the size of fish caught. The season for both charter and commercial halibut fishing closes on December 7.

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