Marine Area 4 is Ready for Liftoff

A Press Release from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife announcing the opening of Marine Area 4. Some excellent shellfishing, and angling (if that’s your thing), can be had within the beautiful boundaries of Marine Area 4, including mussels, oysters, and numerous clam species.

Map of Marine Area 4

Saltwater recreational fishing to reopen in Marine Area 4; ocean salmon fishing dates and proposed halibut seasons announced

June 12, 2020 OLYMPIA – The waters where the Pacific Ocean meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca will reopen to saltwater fishing June 20, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today. The announcement follows similar reopenings last month along the rest of Washington’s Pacific coastline.

The Department also announced this year’s summer ocean salmon fishing seasons, which will kick off June 20 in all four coastal marine areas, and proposed dates for ocean halibut fishing beginning in August.

Marine Area 4 reopens

Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay), which includes the waters from Cape Alava on the Olympic Peninsula north to the mouth of the Sekiu River along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, will reopen to bottomfish and shellfish – including mussels, clams, and oysters – beginning  Saturday, June 20. Crabbing also reopens west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, which runs from the Tatoosh Island Lighthouse north to Bonilla Point on Vancouver Island, but remains closed east of the line.  There are a number of additional restrictions that anglers also need to be aware of before heading out.

The Makah Reservation, including marinas and all services, remains closed to visitors. Neah Bay on the Makah Reservation represents the primary direct boat access in Marine Area 4, and as a result, those fishing in this area will have to launch from and land in other areas. Anglers fishing in Marine Area 4 will still have to follow all rules and regulations for that area, regardless of where they return with their catch.

“Anglers fishing in Marine Area 4 but returning to other coastal ports will need to make sure that they’re sticking to limits and following the rules for that area,” said Larry Phillips, coastal region director with WDFW. “That means they can’t get their limit in Marine Area 4, then head over to Marine Area 5 and continue fishing. These rules are necessary to respect local communities’ wishes and help keep people safe, while also supporting conservation and management objectives.”

La Push, located on the Quileute Reservation to the south, also remains closed to the public.

Anglers will need to continue following other state guidelines by staying close to home, traveling only with family or other members of their immediate household, and practicing physical distancing by keeping 6 feet apart. Anglers should also be sure to check ahead of time if their preferred fishing destination or launch area is open; many launches and beaches are managed under local, tribal, or federal jurisdiction, and may not be operating normally.

Summer salmon seasons

With Marine Area 4 reopening, sport anglers will also have the opportunity to reel in salmon off Washington’s coast starting Saturday, June 20.

That’s when all four marine areas open daily to fishing for Chinook salmon, said Wendy Beeghley, a fishery manager with WDFW.

The season will begin with a Chinook-only fishery with a one-salmon daily limit for all areas June 20-28. Coho may not be retained during this period. Beginning June 29, daily limits increase to two salmon per angler in all areas, and unmarked coho must be released. In areas 1 and 2, only one of those two salmon may be a Chinook. Also beginning June 29, Marine Area 2 will be open Sundays through Thursdays, and closed Fridays and Saturdays. Areas 1, 3 and 4 will remain open 7 days per week.

Willapa Bay (Area 2-1) and the portion of Grays Harbor (Area 2-2) west of the Buoy 13 line also open June 20 under the same rules as Area 2. Regulations for Areas 2-1 and 2-2 change in August, and details are listed in the Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet. The 2020-21 edition of the pamphlet will be available in late June.

The recreational catch quotas for 2020 are 26,360 Chinook and 26,500 marked coho. The Chinook quota is up slightly from 2019, but the coho quota is substantially lower than 2019.

All four marine areas are scheduled to close Sept. 30, but Beeghley noted that areas could close earlier if the quota is met.

Throughout the summer, anglers can check WDFW’s webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports/creel/ocean for updates.

Potential coastal halibut fishing

Coastal halibut fishing remains closed for now, but WDFW has been working with stakeholders this spring to discuss options for re-opening ocean halibut fishing in August.

“While we realize August is still a ways out, we also want to be open with anglers who we know are eager to plan halibut trips this summer,” said Heather Hall, WDFW’s intergovernmental ocean policy coordinator. “We’ve worked hard to develop an approach that will help maximize anglers’ time on the water, bring that economic value back, and continue to keep everyone safe.”

Hall added that the delayed fishery may benefit halibut anglers and their families since ocean conditions should be better in August than when the fishery usually opens in May.

These dates are tentative and subject to change due to impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

WDFW is proposing coastal halibut fishing for the following dates and areas:

North Coast (Marine Areas 3 and 4): Opens Thursday, Aug. 6. The fishery in this area will be open three days per week, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Aug. 6 through Sept. 30 or until the quota is taken.

South Coast (Marine Areas 1 and 2): Open Thursday, Aug. 6. Then, beginning Aug. 13, open two days per week, Thursdays and Sundays, through Sept. 30 or until the quota is taken. If catch and effort is tracking slower than anticipated, additional days may be added. Proposed additional dates are Friday, Aug. 28; Friday, Sept. 4; and Friday, Sept. 11.

Updated: Big News for Bivalve Hunters

Press Release from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife:

Recreational clam, mussel, and oyster fishery scheduled to open June 8 on most Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca beaches

OLYMPIA – Most beaches in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are scheduled to open for recreational clam, mussel, and oyster harvest on June 8, while other areas will open later in the summer as previously planned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Opening this year has taken longer than expected due to COVID-19 related challenges and public health considerations, said Camille Speck, Puget Sound intertidal bivalve manager for WDFW.

“It took a lot of coordination, but we are happy to have found a way to work with communities and access managers to provide harvest opportunity and the enjoyment that comes from a day out on the beach,” said Speck. “We are also happy to announce some season shifts and extensions on a number of beaches to help make up for  opportunity lost during the unprecedented coronavirus closures.”

The approved dates reflect a conscious effort to offer harvest while still abiding by public health recommendations, such as keeping participants distributed, allowing physical distancing, limiting travel and discouraging overnight stays, she added.

WDFW is asking for cooperation from shellfish harvesters to reduce risk. “Patience and courtesy will be needed at public access sites,” said Speck. Because some popular parks are operating with reduced staffing and may have limitations on parking, harvesters should check for current conditions at the park they intend to visit and adhere to health authorities’ advice for physical distancing.

Clam, mussel, and oyster harvesting seasons are beach specific in Puget Sound. Harvesters are encouraged to check current seasons at wdfw.wa.gov/places-to-go/shellfish-beaches. In addition, water quality conditions may change quickly. All harvesters should check the Department of Health status for the site they intend to harvest the same day they plan to harvest. Harvest seasons and current health advisories and closures are available via the state’s Shellfish Safety Map at www.doh.wa.gov/shellfishsafety.

2020 Puget Sound clam, mussel, and oyster season changes and extensions. The following reflect adjustments from original 2020 seasons to make up for opportunity lost during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy-related closure:

  • Ala Spit County Park: clams, mussels, and oysters open Aug. 1-31.
  • Belfair State Park: clams, mussels, and oysters open two weeks early on July 15 and remain open through Dec. 31.
  • Dosewallips State Park: opens June 8 for clam, mussel and oyster harvest. Clams and mussels close Sept. 30. Oysters remain open through December 31.
  • Eagle Creek: opens June 8 for clam, mussel and oyster harvest. Clam and mussel seasons are extended by two weeks to close on Sept. 15. Oysters remain open through Dec. 31.
  • Frye Cove County Park: clams, mussels, and oysters open Aug. 1-31.
  • Hope Island State Park: clams, mussels, and oysters open Aug. 1-31.
  • Point Whitney Tidelands and Point Whitney Lagoon: open June 8 for clam, mussel and oyster harvest. Clams and mussels close June 30. Oysters remain open through Aug. 31.
  • Port Gamble Heritage Park Tidelands: clams, mussels, and oysters open two weeks early on July 1 and remain open through December 31.
  • Potlatch State Park and Potlatch DNR: clams, mussels, and oysters open June 8 and seasons are extended for two months to remain open through Sept. 30.
  • Sequim Bay State Park: clams, mussels, and oysters open June 8 and are extended by two weeks to close on July 15.
  • Triton Cove Tidelands: opens June 8 for clam, mussel and oyster harvest. Clam and mussel seasons are extended by two weeks to close on Sept. 15. Oysters remain open through December 31.
  • Twanoh State Park: Clams and mussels OPEN August 15, 2020 through September 30, 2020 only. Oysters open June 8 through December 31.
  • Marine Area 4 remains closed until further notice.

All other public beaches revert to the original 2020 season rules, which vary by beach and are displayed on the WDFW website and the Department of Health shellfish safety map.

In all areas of Puget Sound, harvesters are limited to the daily bag limit of up to 40 clams, not to exceed 10 pounds in the shell, and 18 oysters per person, removed from the shell on the beach and shells left at the same approximate tide height where they were harvested. Shucked oyster shells provide critical habitat for young oysters.

A valid 2020-21 combination license, shellfish license, or Fish Washington license is required to participate in the fishery.

A two page copy of current clam, mussel, and oyster seasons may be printed from the link at the top of the website page wdfw.wa.gov/places-to-go/shellfish-beaches. A printable shellfish identification chart is also available in the same website location.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.

Today’s announcement does not open additional razor clam digging days on the coast.

For the latest updates on WDFW’s response to the coronavirus, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates.