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.