Sport Halibut Mystery Math Screws Sports Anglers in Puget Sound & Straits

The first two days of halibut fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound were dismal at best, and largely viewed by sports anglers as the worst opener in recent memory. On day one Tribal longlines were spotted at the 31/36 hole out of Port Angeles and day two longlines spotted on the west side of Tongue Point. Pillar Point, a local favorite for anglers out of Sekiu was a bust with few halibut caught.

Halibut Catch Data

Our fisheries managers at WDFW have always claimed that their fish checkers do a great job of counting the sport caught halibut and I agree, they do a pretty good job of getting the actual count of sport-caught halibut. This year fish checkers in the Strait and Puget Sound counted 279 halibut. But, as usual, WDFW uses a catch factor number to arrive at an estimate of sport caught halibut.

“Sampling programs rely on expanding the number of actual fish and effort counted by our samplers to produce an estimate of total catch and effort,” says Heather Reed, fisheries manager at WDFW.

Let’s take a look at the numbers again, fish checkers visually saw and recorded 279 halibut and then fisheries managers used a formula to estimate our catch to a total of 676 halibut. That’s a multiplier of  x 2.4266

That my fellow halibut anglers is an multiplier WDFW loves and we hate. They say their numbers and formulas are “Peer Reviewed.” I say the public needs to peer review these idiotic numbers. There’s no way sport halibut anglers caught 2.4266 times more halibut than the fish checkers saw. If that is correct their fish checking program is a failure. Can anyone tell me of another industry, sport, fishery that has this kind of crystal ball mystery math that is acceptable?

Next year’s halibut catch record card, (HCRC) was suppose to help fisheries managers get a better idea of how many halibut are really caught, but WDFW fisheries managers say they won’t be changing their formulas or methods and don’t seem interested in a more immediate system to report actual catches from halibut catch cards.

If you are as outraged as I am, please let your state senators and representatives know how displeased you are with the current fisheries management and lack of progress to accurately monitor halibut catch rates without using “Mystery Math.”

Oh Canada, here I come. At least we still have opportunity across the border. Hopefully WDFW fisheries management will change when we get a new director, but not likely, as the current managers and methods are so ingrained and accepted not much will likely change.

Good luck over the Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully we get a few more days of halibut fishing if the mystery math allows it.

John L Beath


About John L. Beath

John Beath is a writer, photographer, videographer, blogger, tackle manufacturer & Captain at Whaler's Cove Lodge in Southeast Alaska. He is also owner of and host at Lets Talk Outdoors @
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