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IPHC data reveals more coastal halibut holes

1/30/2006
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    If you're any kind of Washington halibut angler, you know all about Swiftsure Bank, Blue Dot, 72-Square and The Garbage Dump.

    But out there in the Pacific there's a bunch more sweet spots for halibut, and, until now they haven't been detailed.

    For the last 8 years the International Pacific Halibut Commission has hired commercial vessels to conduct stock assessment surveys from Northern California to the Bering Sea. These highly structured halibut surveys are layed out in grids and are referred to by station numbers.

    The data obtained provides invaluable information to scientists, such as age, abundance and migration patterns.

    Dr. Bill Clark, senior assessment scientist, conducts the annual stock assessments for the IPHC.

    "The surveys are an essential part of our stock assessment," he said.

    "We use those surveys coastwide to monitor the abundance of fish. A survey is highly standardized. We always fish the same place; we always fish the same gear. We even use exactly the same bait. No. 2 chum salmon is always the same every year."

    How it's done

    View Map

    Survey locations are fished once a year.

    "We start setting gear at dawn," said Clark.

    "So if you set four stations, that's 40 miles of running along setting gear. Then you have to haul it all back. We do the whole shelf. We go from 20 fathoms out to 275 fathoms."

    At least two IPHC workers are onboard to collect the data. Sometimes Fish and Wildlife volunteers are recruited to help with the surveys.

    The data they have collected has been incorporated into our map.

    Patterns

    Yeah, we know that Washington halibut season doesn't open for months, but it's never too early to bone up on the flat ones, so here's a refresher course:
    Pacific halibut migrate along the Continental Shelf in depths averaging around 1,000 feet.

    While searching for food, they come within the reach of sport fishermen's tackle as they wander up muddy inclines and steep gravelly slopes headed toward the shallow 300-foot plateaus.

    The deep-water Hoovers hang below the edges of the plateaus, sucking up remnants of baitfish, crab, squid and octopus that get swept off the shelves from previous fish's meals.

    They also feast on spent salmon carcasses.

    "You're looking for plateaus between 425 to 475 feet," said Mike Jamboretz of Jambo's Sportfishing (425-788-5955).

    "Typically you'll find your halibut where there's a thousand-foot canyon nearby, where they come up to the 400-foot water to feed."

    Rigging up

    "We generally outfit a person with a heavy rod and a Penn 114 HLW loaded with 80-pound Spectra," said Paul Foster, manager of Englund Marine (360-268-9311) in Westport.

    "The braided line allows you to get down with less weight."

    "They usually use a spreader bar with a 24- to 32-ounce lead for a dropper," said Foster.

    "We sell halibut rigs already made up. They have double hooks and all you need to do is snap the rig onto the spreader. For bait, most people use the large black label herring. The hook adjusts to the size of the herring. We also like to add scents like herring or shrimp oil."

    Many skippers swear that a piece of octopus is a guaranteed halibut, while other anglers use chunks of salmon. Because halibut come up to the plateaus to scarf on decayed salmon carcasses, you might consider tucking away an old smoker in the freezer for such occasions.

    Some gents will also tie on a whole squid onto their herring rig using elastic thread. Because you're fishing up to 100 fathoms, however, anglers will often add a piece of sablefish for insurance.

    Also known as black cod, the skin of a sablefish is very oily and tough.

    Since the water is dark down there, a piece of sablefish leaves an important scent trail and stays on the hook long after nuisance critters such as dogfish have stripped off your bait.

    "If you're getting dogfish bites, get the herring off and get the plastic on, like white scampi tails or the 9-inch B2 Squids," Jamboretz said.

    "White's a good color. When you get down below a couple hundred feet, it's pitch black down there."

    Many skippers back-bounce into the swells, stern first. This allows you to hold your boat in the current and employ a controlled drift down a slope.

    "If you're getting dogfish bites, get the herring off and get the plastic on, like white scampi tails or the 9-inch B2 Squids," Jamboretz said.

    "White's a good color. When you get down below a couple hundred feet, it's pitch black down there."

    Many skippers back-bounce into the swells, stern first. This allows you to hold your boat in the current and employ a controlled drift down a slope.

    Top spots

    Here are coordinates for Washington's famous hali holes:

    Swiftsure Bank

    West end: 48° 29.60', 124° 58.40'

    East end: 48° 29.60', 124° 54.30'

    Blue Dot: 48° 16.40', 125° 20.16'

    72-Square
    : 48° 19', 125° 33'

    Closed area

    A "C-shaped" yelloweye rockfish conservation area that is closed to recreational bottomfish and halibut fishing includes the northern portion of the "Halibut Hotspot" off La Push and is defined by the following coordinates in the order listed:

  • 48°18' N. lat.; 125°18' W. long.

  • 48°18' N. lat.; 124°59' W. long.

  • 48°11' N. lat.; 124°59' W. long.

  • 48°11' N. lat.; 125°11' W. long.

  • 48°04' N. lat.; 125°11' W. long.

  • 48°04' N. lat.; 124°59' W. long.

  • 48°00' N. lat.; 124°59' W. long.

  • 48°00' N. lat.; 125°18' W. long.

    And connecting back to 48°18' N. lat.; 125°18' W. long.

    Information

    Interested in a flatsider trip, looking for advice or need some tackle? Talk to these sharpies on the Coast and Strait:

    Neah Bay
    Big Salmon Resort
    Joey and Dawn Lawrence
    800-959-2374

    Hot Shot Guide Service
    Eli Rico
    425-417-0394

    Jambo's Sportfishing
    Mike Jamboretz

    425-788-5955

    Tommycod Charters
    Tom Young
    800-283-8900
    Westport

    Westport Charters
    Steve Westrick
    800-562-0157

    Angler Charters
    Dennis Moss
    360-581-2940

    Ilwaco
    Sea Breeze Charters
    800-204-9125

    Englund Marine
    360-642-2308

    Sekiu
    Olson's Resort
    & Marina
    360-963-2311


    Material from Fishing & Hunting News
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