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July 30, 2012

Washington State Postpones Northern Coast Bottomfish Closure

While scheduled for closure last week, state marine areas 3 and 4 will remain open until Labor Day

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has reversed itself by announcing that bottomfishing off the north coast of Washington -- in state marina areas 3 and 4 -- will remain open to anglers through Labor Day of this year. This postones a closure set for last week.

The department's new release goes on to state that sport fishing for rockfish, lingcod, Pacific cod and other bottom species will remain open through midnight September 3 in Marine Area 3 and the western portion of Marine Area 4 off La Push and Neah Bay.

“This is good news, not only for anglers but also the coastal communities whose economies rely on these fisheries,” said Heather Reed, a WDFW fish biologist told Washington State's The News Tribune. “We know that a month of fishing means a lot to people on the north coast.”

Reed said the previously scheduled closure date was designed to avoid exceeding yelloweye rockfish quotas established under a federal stock-rebuilding plan, according to The News Tribune report.

While it is illegal to retain yelloweye rockfish, federally designated as an “overfished” species, anglers sometimes intercept the species unintentionally while fishing for other bottomfish. “Anglers took most of the quota as bycatch during the popular north coast halibut openings in May,” Reed said. “That didn’t leave us any margin for bottomfish seasons off the north coast for the rest of the year.” Since then, however, the department has learned that the June yelloweye catch was lower than expected, and that yelloweye catch reserved for coastal research projects will be lower than originally anticipated.

“This new information gives us some flexibility to minimize the impacts to our coastal communities and allow our recreational fishery for bottomfish to remain open through Labor Day,” Reed told The News Tribune. “We still have to close the fishery early, but not as early as we had thought.” Reed said the department plans to look for ways to address high yelloweye harvest rates in the early season to avoid the need for early bottomfish closures in future years, according to The News Tribune Report.