Dave Croonquist Addresses Pacific Fisheries Management Council Meeting In Vancouver WA

Below is my summary report from my attendance at the PFMC meeting that started March 7 and ends March 13 in Vancouver, WA.  Also attached is a FAQ on the issue.

The primary reason for my attendance was to carry forward the resolutions and requests from the City of Port Angeles, the Port of Port Angeles and the Port of Port Townsend, and the Clallam County Commissioners requesting that the WDFW push forward our request through the PFMC and the IPHC to re-structure at least the WA sport halibut fishery to give us the opportunity to fish a season and not on days dictated by WDFW.  Our proposal might be expanded to include OR and N. California.  The economic hit the coastal communities are taking with the cuts in the season length are substantial.  From the anglers perspective, we need to get away from the derby mentality and fishing specified dates without regard to sea or weather conditions.  We don’t want to lose property or lives nor endanger USCG personnel or other agencies that would have to respond to emergency SAR calls.

Our proposed season/catch limit is as follows:

Fixed annual bag/possession limit of 6 fish per year per person

Field possession limit of 1 fish per day and 2 in possession

Season – Second Saturday in March to the third Saturday in October which will track PFMC ocean bottomfish fishery dates.   (Subject to change)

We all owe the City of Port Angeles, the Ports of Port Angeles and Port Townsend, the Clallam County Commissioners, the Peninsula Daily News, and the elected legislative officials from the 19th and 24th legislative districts (the Coastal Coalition) our thanks for helping push the issue forward with the WDFW.  We expect more coastal communities will line up in support of our proposal.

Dave Croonquist

PFMC REPORT

I attended the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Vancouver, WA March 8-10 to present our concerns and issues to people in attendance. I had the opportunity for extended conversations with International Pacific Halibut Commission and PFMC staff, some charter boat operators, and I made a brief comment in the Friday morning session of the Ground Fish Advisory Panel about the sablefish incidental take issue and other PFMC attendees.

I had the opportunity to make comments to the PFMC in the Section H 1 session of the meeting on Pacific Halibut following the IPHC meeting report to the PFMC.  The following is a synopsis of my comments.

2A RECREATIONAL HALIBUT FISHERY PROPOSAL

I am here on behalf of the approximately 15,000 members of the Puget Sound Anglers and Coastal Conservation Association, the Ports of Port Angeles and Port Townsed, the City of Port Angeles, and the Clallam County Commissioners, all of whom are concerned about the economic losses from steadily declining halibut fishing opportunities and the risk of the sport fleet property and lives when being forced to fish on specific days.  You have seen our letter to Ms. Kelly Ames, in your supplemental briefing book addressing our concerns about the diversion of halibut from the recreational share to the sablefish fleet.  We are asking that the proposal made by WDFW staff to the PFMC last June and again in November to re-examine the recreational share of Washington halibut be returned to the sport fleet.  

I have a brief statement for you concerning the sport halibut fishery:

The recreational anglers, including non-residents, are a critical component in the coastal economics of Washington, Oregon, and California.  They spend tens of millions of dollars that support many businesses from motels and gas stations to restaurants, grocery stores, bait dealers, and tackle shops.  The continuing decline in fishing opportunity, in this case halibut, is causing severe economic impacts to affected businesses.  It has also created a “derby” mentality that can and will force people to go out fishing when they shouldn’t be on the water thus putting property and lives at risk and creating risk for fellow anglers along with the US Coast Guard and other agencies that might called out for SAR activity.   As an aside, I would encourage your agencies or organizations to work through your congressional delegations to ask for full funding of the US Coast Guard budget.  We need them on the water.   We feel that it is time to take a strong look at re-structuring the halibut fishery to reflect the importance of the recreational fishery to the coastal economies in 2A.  We would like to make the following proposal for at least WA waters, but would think it might be applied to OR and CA waters, too.

Fixed annual bag/possession limit of 6 fish per year per person

Field possession limit of 1 fish per day and 2 in possession

Season – Second Saturday in March to the third Saturday in October which will track PFMC ocean bottomfish fishery dates.   (Subject to change)

The following letter (referenced above) was sent to Ms. Kelly Ames, NOAA halibut program with copies to Ms. Gretchen Hanshew, NOAA; Phil Anderson, Washington State PFMC representative; WDFW staff Ron Warren, Heather Reed, and Michele Culver, and IPHC staff Jamie Goen and Claude Dykstra on February 9.  It was included as item H.1.d in the supplemental Public Comment book for the PFMC.

Ms. Kelly Ames

We would like to request that the 2A Catch Share Plan for 2017 (link below) and future years be amended at the March 10 PFMC session on Pacific Halibut Management, agenda item H.2, by removing the wording “…(except as provided in section (e)(3) of this plan)…” in section (f) SPORT FISHERIES (1) (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv).  This would provide the Washington sport fishing halibut fleet with its full share of halibut as found in section (b) ALLOCATIONS which gives 35.6% of the non-Indian TAC to the Washington sport fishery.

The Washington sport fishery has been capped at 214,110 lbs. of halibut for a number of years.  As the Total Allowed Catch (TAC) goes up, the recreational fleet has been providing what would have been our share of harvest quota to the “incidental take” of halibut during the sablefish fishery.  Since 2003, we’ve given up an average of about 40,000 lbs per year to the sablefish fishery.  The quota we’ve been giving up over the years would help extend our seasons and provide much needed economic support to our coastal communities.  It would also provide for safer fisheries by allowing us on the water during better weather and sea conditions.

In 2015, we gave up 10,348 lbs, in 2016 it was 49,686 lbs, and for 2017 we’re being asked to give up 70,000 lbs which is the sablefish ceiling for “incidental take” before any overage rolls over to the recreational fishery.  Under the current 2A plan, the recreational fleet should get an additional 23,652 lbs for our 2017 catch share bringing our total to 237,762 lbs.  The return of the sablefish shares to the recreational fleet allocation as stated in (b) of the 2A CSP would provide us with an increase of 93,652 lbs which would bring our total to 307,762 lbs.  This would add time on the water to our 2017 fishery and, if the TAC stays up, more fishing time in future years.  We understand that the TAC can fluctuate.  We can live with the lean times, but would enjoy the good times that a higher share will provide us and have a positive impact on communities businesses.

With the 2017 TAC for 2A at 1.33 million pounds, the non-Indian commercial share is increasing 37,915 lbs over the 2016 allocation 265,402 lbs.  Using the 2A plan for the non-Indian commercial allocations, this would leave 20,314 lbs available for the “incidental take” by the sablefish fleet and allow for increases for the primary halibut fishery and the incidental take during the salmon troll fishery.

This request is in-line with supplemental WDFW report E.1.a submitted to the PFMC in November, 2016 concerning the incidental catch of halibut in the Sablefish fishery N. of Point Chehalis:

“Therefore, as discussions on potential allocation changes move forward, WDFW would be interested in considering whether revisions to the sablefish incidental allocation were warranted.  Further, given that the sablefish incidental allocation came from the Washington sport allocation, WDFW would expect that any changes to the sablefish incidental allocation would shift back to the Washington recreational fishery.”

Thank you for your consideration.

Dave Croonquist

Sequim, WA

Cc: City of Port Angeles, Port of Port Angeles, PSA, CCA, WDFW

2017 2A Catch Share Plan:

http://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Final_2017_PACIFIC_HALIBUT_CATCH_SHARING_PLAN_FOR_AREA_2A.pdf

Late last year, it was thought that we might be able to get some or all the sablefish share that is taken from the recreational share re-allocated for 2017.  The PFMC process had already assigned the sablefish share and the vote at the PFMC meeting on March 10 was a formality.  There is concern within the sablefish fleet that they could lose the extra quota in future years and they won’t be able to supply halibut to folks who can’t go catch their own fish.  If the Total Allowed Catch (TAC) for the 2A Catch Share Plan remains above approximately 1.30 million pounds there are extra pounds, as mentioned in the letter to Ms. Ames, in the directed non-tribal quota that can allow for incidental take during the sablefish fishery.

Trying to get a better sport halibut season structure is going to be a challenge.  Hopefully, WDFW will be an advocate for us and maybe we can get support from the recreational folks and communities in Idaho, Oregon, and California who could also benefit from a different season structure.

There are many steps in the process.  The PFMC, under its federal mandate, manages the off-shore fisheries for N. California, Oregon, and Washington.  The states have to operate within the sideboards set by the PFMC.  The IPHC manages the Pacific Halibut fishery under the convention signed by the United States and Canada and their harvest guidelines are put in place by the PFMC for Area 2A and the NPFMC for Alaskan waters.  Looking ahead, it is my understanding that the next step in the process to try to get a recreational halibut season will be taken at the June PFMC meeting in Spokane, WA where the 2018 guidelines will be opened for discussion.  Subsequent meetings will be held in Boise, ID, in September and Costa Mesa, CA in November, 2017.  The 2018 meetings will be in Rohnert Park,
CA in March and Portland, OR in April.  The IPHC annual meeting will be held in January, 2018.  The 2018 IPHC annual meeting will be in Portland, OR January 22/26.

Copies of all the reports and public comments presented to the PFMC can be found in the link below.  Go to Section H for the halibut information.  If you’re interested in the salmon process through the PFMC, there were lots of on-going discussions.  You can see the links to the salmon information in Section E.

http://www.pcouncil.org/resources/archives/briefing-books/march-2017-briefing-book/#Mar2017

A copy of the resolutions passed by the Clallam County commissioners follows.  Similar wording was used by the Port of Port Townsend, Port of Port Angeles, and the City of Port Angeles.  Also attached is a copy of a letter that was sent to Senators Van De Wege and Takko and Representatives Chapman, Tharinger, Blake, and Walsh.

If you have any questions or would like to see more the correspondence that has gone back and forth over the past couple of years, please feel free to get in touch with me.

Respectfully submitted

Dave Croonquist

Fact Sheet Below

PUGET SOUND HALIBUT INFORMATION

Declining days on the water in Puget Sound halibut area – 70 days in 2006, 64 days in 2008, 30 days in 2010, 15 days in 2012, 12 days in 2014, 11 days in 2015, 8 days in 2016, and 3 days for 2017.

Economic impacts on local communities and businesses

Over-crowding at the available launch sites

Days to fish are fixed with no considerations for weather events

Loss of life and property due to having to fish on established days

WDFW has estimated numbers of halibut anglers, but no solid numbers how many really fish for halibut

2009-2014 average of 8000+ in Puget Sound and 11,691 all areas

Halibut catch record cards have averaged about 300,000 per year

Catch rate (fish/day) increasing as days on the water are cut

Year        Days        Fish (est. harvest)    Catch/Day

2016        8        5337            667

2015        11        5291            481

2014        12        6241            416

2010        30        3556            118

2008        64        3909            61

2A Catch Share Plan gives 35.6% of the non-tribal recreational share to WA for a total of 224,110 lb

2A CSP takes 10,000 lbs. off the rec share for incidental take by sablefish fleet leaving the rec fleet with 214,110 lbs. and sets aside up to an additional 60,000 lbs. (70,000 lbs. total) before the WA rec fleet will see any increase in harvest shares

In 2016, we lost 49,686 lbs. to the sablefish fleet (total for all WA waters that would have been divided up between the 4 halibut management zones) had we received our full share.  OR and CA saw an increase in their rec fleet share.

With the TAC going to 1.33 million lbs In 2017, we’ll lose 70,000 lbs to the sablefish fleet but will pick up the 23,552 lbs above the sablefish share giving us 237,662 lbs.  If we had our share of the sablefish quota back, we’d have 307,762 lbs.

Ocean recreational fishing days on the water is also severely restricted.  They are averaging 3 – 4 days of fishing.  Their data is not included in this summary

2A RECREATIONAL HALIBUT FISHERY PROPOSAL

The recreational anglers, including non-residents, are a critical component in the coastal economics of Washington, Oregon, and California.  They spend tens of millions of dollars that support many businesses from motels and gas stations to restaurants, grocery stores, bait dealers, and tackle shops.  The continuing decline in fishing opportunity, in this case halibut, is causing severe economic impacts to affected businesses.  It has also created a “derby” mentality that can and will force people to go out fishing when they shouldn’t be on the water thus putting property and lives at risk and creating risk for fellow anglers along with the US Coast Guard and other agencies that might called out for SAR activity.   It is time to take a strong look at re-structuring the halibut fishery to reflect the importance of the recreational fishery to the coastal economies in 2A.  We would like to make the following proposal for at least WA waters, but would think it might be applied to OR and CA waters, too.

Fixed annual bag/possession limit of 6 fish per year per person

Field possession limit of 1 fish per day and 2 in possession

Season – Second Saturday in March to the third Saturday in October which will track PFMC ocean bottomfish fishery dates.   (Subject to change)

Posted in Washington Halibut Fishing | Leave a comment

WDFW Will Ask NMFS For 7 Day Washington Halibut Season

Washington Halibut Fishing Season

Breaking News — Washington halibut season will likely be reset to 7 days, if quota is not caught. Read blog and letter below.

Here’s a letter from District 24 Washington State Senator, Kevin Van De Wege, and District 24 Representatives, Steve Tharinger and Mike Chapman regarding a longer Washington State halibut season for 2017. Their signed letter is located below my comments. This looks very promising, let’s keep our fingers and fishing rods crossed! However, WDFW can ask the feds for a longer halibut season, but how can they justify it? Since their largely “crystal ball” and “far-fetched, made up numbers math” recently only justified a four day season, how then can they convince the feds to give us an eight day season?

Will they cut our season short this year, as they will have time between open dates to close our season if we exceed our quota, as they calculate or “miscalculate” halibut catch rates. Or will they give us seven days this year and no days next year? They could do just that, if their, in my opinion, false catch rates exceed the sport quota. Forgive me, but I don’t trust WDFW and I remain extremely skeptical.

Washington State Senator Kevin Van De Wege & State Reps, Steve Tharinger and Mike Chapman’s letter below.

Dear friends and neighbors,

Two years ago, our regional halibut fishing season was reduced to just three days, with brutal consequences. (Note: this is incorrect data. This season, 2017 WDFW reduced our season to three days.) The competition to harvest halibut in such a short window pushed businesses and employees to their limits and raised serious safety concerns. It was the kind of “accident waiting to happen” that we can’t afford to repeat, and we know folks out there remain wary.

In that light, we’d like to share what we know from a meeting Thursday with legislative staff and staff from the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. Though our halibut fishing season is determined by the International Pacific Halibut Commission and implemented by the National Marine Fisheries, our state officials have significant input and have requested a seven-day season for this year.

Fish & Wildlife staff say approval of their request is likely and that the final determination will be announced later this month. So we think prospects for this season look good. If the commission approves Fish & Wildlife’s request, this year’s halibut fishing season will take place on May 4, 6, 11, 21 and 25 and on June 1 and 4. In addition, if the halibut quota has not been exhausted on those dates, the season could be extended; if so, the additional dates would be posted on the Fish & Wildlife website at dfw.wa.gov.

If you would like to voice your priorities for future halibut seasons, including even specific dates you believe might be best, Fish & Wildlife holds a public comment period every November. To receive notification of when that comment period will take place, you can sign up for Fish & Wildlife’s email list server by emailing a request to Michele Culver at michele.culver@dfw.wa.gov.

blog signatures1.jpg

blog-signatures

blog-signatures3

Posted in Uncategorized, Washington Halibut Regs | Leave a comment

May 7th Area 6 Halibut Opener Results

Yesterday I launched at John Wayne Marina at 4 a.m. thinking I would beat the crowd. Wrong, or so I thought when I arrived to a line at the boat ramp and nearly full parking lot. What I did not realize at that early morning time was the fact that this marina would experience the busiest halibut opener ever, but first my rant.

In March WDFW gave the Tribes a 48 hour opener for halibut. Okay, I can live with that, as it gives enough time for halibut to move into the area and “repopulate” prime halibut grounds. Last Sunday, May 1 and Monday May 2, WDFW gave the Tribes another 48 hour opener. Why?

Their second 48 hour opener, just days before the sport fish opener was a HUGE success for the Tribes. They literally got thousands of pounds of halibut from Eastern Bank, Hein Bank, Partridge Bank,  Dallas Bank, Coyote Bank, Dungeness Bank, Freshwater Bay and other areas as well. This second opening combined with horrible tides and currents made Saturday’s Area 6 halibut opener a massive failure for the majority of boats. This is the first year in many years that no halibut hit the deck on my boat on opening day and I was not alone, in fact my failure was in the majority. When I returned to the marina at 11:30 a.m. fish checkers had counted just six halibut.

We came in early, as did dozens of other boats because the wind kicked up in a hurry, the start of a major wind storm that cut short the opening. I should also point out, the Tribe’s first scheduled opener in March had a major storm, so WDFW issued an emergency change in their season for safety reasons. Of course I agree with this, as nobody, Tribal, commercial or sport should have to risk their life or property for fish. But it seems WDFW fish managers really don’t care about sports anglers. Fact, they never cancel our season because of weather. Fact, they always schedule our season around bad tides in hopes we will not catch many fish. Fact, they would prefer we don’t catch fish. Fact, when we don’t catch fish they have fish managers who invent new math to say we did catch fish.

Do you think I’m wrong?

Back to John Wayne Marina. Because WDFW fish managers decided to open La Push, Neah Bay, Sekiu, Area 6, 7 & 9 all on the same day, with just one day instead of two, they figured it would spread out the fishing pressure. Wrong! Many anglers yesterday said they would have normally gone to the ocean as in year’s past, but not for just one day, instead of the usual opener, then one day closed followed by another open day. Instead, pressure was at an all time record at John Wayne Marina. In the morning when I arrived I thought I got a late start. In reality I got an extremely early start. Trucks and trailers filled every vacant space, sides of roads and anywhere anyone could find to park trucks and trailers, all the way from the marina up to nearly Highway 101. With trucks and trailers so far from the marina it bottle necked the entire process. Average take out time was two hours.

Thanks again WDFW, for nothing. It’s time to change the rules in Washington State from a “derby” style opener to a punch card that allows halibut anglers to spread out pressure and choose safe days to go fishing, without fear of massive crowds and gale force winds.

Perhaps our new director will see the logic in this and help make the needed changes. There’s a meeting about this very topic on May23rd in Port Townsend. I will keep you posted. Rant over.

John

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Halibut Fishing Middle Bank, Canada Side of Border

Posted in Anchoring for Halibut, B.C. Halibut Maps, Halibut Fishing Tackle, Halibut Fishing Tips, Halibut Fishing Videos, How to legally fish Canadian waters, Puget Sound Halibut Fishing, Uncategorized, Washington Halibut Fishing, Washington Halibut Maps | 2 Comments

Halibut Fishing In Canadian Waters, What You Need To Know To Stay Legal

Here’s the latest information on what you need to do to legally fish in British Columbia Canada waters.

  1. Purchase your B.C. Tidal Waters Fishing License. You can purchase it in B.C. at a dealer or go online and purchase your single day, multiple day or annual license. However, if you purchase an online license you can not fish in Areas   Here’s the link to purchase your license online. B.C. Tidal Water Fishing License Online Purchase Cost for 1 day, $7.35 CND, 3 day, $19.95 CND, 5 day, $32.55 CND, Annual, $106.05 CND All above prices are for ages 16 and up. Also, this online license prohibits non-Canadian license holders from fishing for halibut in Areas 23, 121 & 123. This would apply to halibut anglers departing from Neah Bay either by charter boat or private boat. Halibut anglers who plan to fish these areas MUST purchase their license in person from a dealer in British Columbia.
  2. Everyone aboard your vessel MUST have a passport or enhanced driver’s license, I-68 or Nexus Pass. http://www.cruising.ca/docs/USAE.html#I-68
  3. Upon entering Canadian waters, the captain of the vessel MUST call 1-888-CAN-PASS. The Canadian Custom’s agent will ask a series of questions including, boat registration info, names and passport numbers for everyone aboard, their birth dates, where you are located now, where you departed from, how long you will be in Canadian waters, if you have guns, tobacco or firearms aboard.
  4. When re-entering U.S. waters you MUST call U.S. Customs at 1-800-562-5943  If you have either a Nexus Pass or an I-68 on file you will be able to clear customs via telephone. Also note, everyone MUST have one of these documents in order to avoid docking and waiting for a U.S. Custom’s official to inspect your vessel and I.D. of everyone aboard. An I-68 costs $16 per person or $32 for the entire family at the same address and is good for one year and enables boaters entering the U.S. from Canada to clear customs via telephone. The Nexus Pass is good for five years and costs $50. A Nexus Pass requires both countries to approve the applicant and make take several weeks. Both will require an in person interview. The I-68 can be purchased and obtained that day in most cases. To obtain an I-68 call your local U.S. Customs office and schedule a time to fill out the paperwork and be interviewed. You will need your U.S. Passport, or Enhanced Driver’s License.

Also note: It is legal to bring halibut back to your home port, even if halibut is closed in Washington waters. It is not legal to bring back salmon caught in B.C. waters if the port you are returning to is closed to the taking of salmon. Many anglers dispute this, especially those with Nexus Passes. My conversations with WDFW enforcement agents say they will ticket anyone landing salmon caught in Canada if salmon fishing is closed where they are docking.

Here’s what the WDFW Fishing Rules Pamphlet says.
“It is unlawful to possess in marine waters or land into Washington any fresh salmon taken for personal use from Canadian waters unless such salmon meet current salmon regulations for the Catch Record Card area where the salmon are landed, unless you physically clear Customs in Bedwell Harbour, Sydney, Ucluelet, Victoria, or White Rock, and get your Customs clearance number at the port. If you are in possession
of salmon that would be unlawful if taken in Washington, you may not fish in Washington waters.”

And please note, B.C. has several Rockfish Conservation Areas that prohibit any kind of hook and line fishing. Anglers fishing near Middlebank need to know where they can and can’t fish. Please look at the maps below and note the coordinates of the no fishing zone.

BC No Fishing Zone

MiddlebankAs you can see, there’s lots of areas to the S.W. away from the restricted no fishing zone. All of this open area is good halibut fishing. Recently the most productive areas have been in the 160 to 200 depth areas. Look at the tides and current before dropping anchor and try to put yourself up current from a slope. Halibut will travel up to a mile following your scent field so put lots of bait in the water and use chum bags off your downrigger.

Posted in Anchoring for Halibut, B.C. Halibut Maps, Halibut Fishing Tips, How to legally fish Canadian waters, Puget Sound Halibut Fishing, Uncategorized, Washington Halibut Fishing, Washington Halibut Maps, Washington Halibut Regs | 1 Comment

2016 Puget Sound Salmon Season Might Not Happen

As of April 15th 2016,  after heated negotiations between tribal fisheries managers and WDFW there will not be any sport fishing for salmon in Puget Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca this coming …

Source: 2016 Puget Sound Salmon Season Might Not Happen

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Steelhead Fishing on Hoh River With Guide Pat Neal

SquidPro Tackle's Salmon Chronicles

YouTube Image.jpgApril is a great time to experience some of the best steelhead fishing in the world, on the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh River. Yesterday, April 9th, friend Robert and I joined famed steelhead guide, Pat Neal for a 10 mile float on the lower Hoh River.

Our float began at the Cottonwood Campground and wound 10 miles downriver to a private land pullout that costs $5 upon retrieving your drift boat.

During our float trip, Pat Neal entertained us with stories of Mick Dodge, local politics and of course plenty of fishing stories. Pat has been a full time guide since the mid 1980s and also writes for the Peninsula Daily News, as a “Wilderness Gossip Columnist.” I’d heard stories of Pat for years and now I know why. He is super humble with his expert skills, claiming not to be the best guide, just friendliest. His intimate knowledge of the…

View original post 253 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment