That’s a strongly worded headline in this post, but it’s true and I can prove it. Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife have been screwing halibut anglers for years with their bogus, made up numbers to impose catch rates on sports anglers that simply are not true.
Here’s how it works and has worked for years. WDFW counts how many halibut anglers based on how many licenses sold that include a halibut catch record card. The catch record card is free, so most saltwater bound anglers just get everything. Why not, it’s free and most store employees suggest they get everything that’s free. WDFW then takes the number of halibut catch record card holders and plugs that number of “potential” halibut anglers into their metrics that calculate how many halibut get caught. They also use fish checkers as well as airplanes to count boats. These metrics set our amount of days we can fish for halibut.
Here’s the dirty secret, which in my opinion is malfeasance of the fishery. Definition of malfeasance: the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust)
Halibut fishing for the past several years has set dates. By July 1st there’s no halibut fishing available in Washington waters, period! Now here’s the damming evidence of malfeasance. WDFW sold 102,030 saltwater fishing licenses that included halibut catch record cards on the license after July 1st through October. As you can see from the chart below, sales numbers are not included for November through March, which is the curent licensing year. If history repeats, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 halibut catch record cards will be sold on the current fishing license without a halibut season. That’s approximately 108,000 halibut catch record cards sold for the current fishing license.
This increases numerically but not actually the number of halibut anglers. In short, as many of us have been claiming for years, WDFW overstates how many halibut anglers there are as well as the halibut sport caught catch which reduces our opportunities drastically.
The fix is simple.
First off, WDFW needs to have their fishing license vendor computer program the system to stop offering and printing the halibut catch record card portion of the license as soon as the halibut season is finished for the year, which usually amounts to several months. Remember, WDFW fishing licenses begin April 1st through March 31st.
Secondly, WDFW needs to charge a fee for halibut catch record cards to eliminate anglers who get it on their license and likely never fish for halibut. This will further reduce the amount of numeric halibut anglers that WDFW fisheries managers count into the halibut catch metrics. Those who purchase the halibut catch record card will likely fish for halibut and establish the actual number of halibut anglers. A source within the WDFW estimates only 10,000 halibut anglers will purchase a halibut catch record card because that’s how many actually participate. In defense of WDFW, they can’t easily speculate numbers down when so many anglers choose the free option for the current license system.
Washington State Senator VanDeWege is sponsoring a bill that would establish a stand-alone halibut catch record card for a proposed fee of $5. There is a public hearing on the halibut bill set for next Monday, January 22, in Olympia. Unfortunately, I’m going to be arriving in Portland about then for the IPHC meeting so I won’t be able to attend. I’d suggest an emails to Sen. VanDeWege in support of the bill from you would be appropriate. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please contact your local State Senator and Representative to support this important bill and ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill with Senator VanDeWege.
Here is a link to the legislative website that allows you to send your comments to your legislators and provide a copy to Senator VanDeWege:
If you’d like to follow this bill click this link. http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=6127&Year=2017