Hood Canal Oyster Season Closures

Puget Sound oyster seasons to close on some Hood Canal beaches; many beaches remain open

OLYMPIA – Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish managers have seen record-setting participation in recreational clam and oyster harvest in Puget Sound this year. Higher participation has resulted in three Hood Canal beaches, which previously closed for clam and mussel harvest, now closing for oyster harvest earlier than expected. This closure is needed to ensure clam and oyster gathering opportunities in future seasons.

Starting on Tuesday, Sept. 1, oyster seasons will close at Hood Canal’s Belfair State Park, the Potlatch beaches and Twanoh State Park. The Department previously closed clam and mussel seasons on these same beaches to maintain future gathering opportunities after the state reached its share of harvest. Oyster seasons will now also be closed.

“Unfortunately, one of the things we’ve seen is that people aren’t recognizing that clam and mussel seasons may vary from oyster seasons on some beaches,” said Camille Speck, Puget Sound Intertidal Bivalve Manager for WDFW. “As a result, we must now close oysters on these beaches in order to prevent continued illegal clam harvest that will impact future years’ clam seasons and populations.”

Despite previous clam closures at several sites, managers are reporting consistently high numbers of people showing up to harvest clams, “even though these beaches have signs indicating the closures,” said Speck.

“We want to encourage people to spread out and try some of the less-visited beaches,” said Speck. “The Washington Shellfish Safety Map is designed to help clam, mussel and oyster enthusiasts locate open—and lesser-known—beaches, close to home.”

Harvesters can also find up-to-date information on seasons and shellfish safety information on the Washington Shellfish Safety Map webpage.

“Biotoxin closures are in effect in some areas and conditions can change quickly, so checking this website the same day you plan to harvest is a crucial step,” said Speck.

Clam and oyster season and beach information is additionally available at WDFW clam, mussel, and oyster beach webpage. Harvesters can call the WDFW shellfish hotline at 1-866-880-5431 as well.

WDFW will continue to monitor shellfish harvest levels across Puget Sound, and staff expect to make additional beach and season closures this season as necessary.

WDFW reminds harvesters to fill their clam holes after digging, leave oyster shells on the beach, and abide by size and daily limits to help maintain a sustainable resource and avoid getting a ticket. WDFW is also asking oyster and clam harvesters to give other beach visitors and access site staff space and abide by responsible recreation guidelines when visiting. If a park or access site is busy or at capacity, have a backup plan to visit another site.

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.

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.

Just for the Halibut

Note: Due to the truncated razor clamming season, we will be posting updates on alternative outdoor recreation activities such as fishing, oyster hunting, and gathering seaweed.

A Press Release from Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW)

Puget Sound Halibut fishery to open for select dates starting May 20

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today the expected dates of this year’s Puget Sound halibut fishing season, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Copyright WDFW

The halibut fishery will open in Marine Areas 5 through 10 beginning May 20 through June 30 on alternating days. The season structure was revised from what was originally planned to allow the halibut fishery to proceed in a manner that is consistent with the guidelines to limit travel. Anglers are encouraged to participate in these dates only if they can do so locally as part of a day trip, while also practicing physical distancing. 

“In talking with public health officials and our partners at Washington’s ports, we think we’ve found a balance between being able to provide these opportunities and bring that value back into these communities, while also continuing to prioritize public health,” Larry Phillips, WDFW coastal region director. “These dates depend on anglers continuing to get outdoors responsibly – something we know folks can do because we’ve seen a lot of great examples of it these last couple of weeks.”

Anglers should only venture out well-prepared. WDFW is also recommending that people bring their own needs for personal hygiene; for example, hand washing materials, toilet paper, and face masks or bandanas. People are also reminded to be prepared to change plans if access sites are congested. Fishers are also reminded to check ahead to ensure that your intended access site is open and be aware of some local alternatives. Anglers should be aware that the Port of Neah Bay is closed to the public, there is no moorage or fuel available at that location. 

Similar to last year, anglers fishing for halibut in Marine Area 6 will not be able to retain lingcod incidentally caught when fishing for halibut seaward of the 120-foot depth boundary. The depth restriction is designed to protect rockfish species, including yelloweye rockfish, which are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

However, lingcod retention will still be allowed seaward of the 120-foot depth restriction in Marine Area 5, which is outside of the area where yelloweye rockfish are listed.

In all marine areas open to halibut fishing, there is a one-fish daily catch limit and no minimum size restriction. Anglers may possess a maximum of two halibut in any form while in the field and must record their catch on a WDFW halibut catch record card. There is an annual limit of four halibut. Recreational fishery samplers will be available to collect catch information at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound while practicing physical distancing guidelines.

Because halibut fisheries are managed to a quota, anglers should check the WDFW website to ensure a specific area is open prior to fishing. Complete information on recreational halibut regulations and seasons is available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut.

Season details are listed below.

2020 Puget Sound halibut seasons

  • Marine Areas 5 – 10 will open May 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, June 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29. 
  • Puget Sound will be managed to an overall quota of 77,550 pounds as long as there is sufficient quota.
  • Marine Areas 11, 12, and 13 will remain closed to halibut fishing to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.

2020 Pacific Coast halibut seasons

  • Marine Areas 1 – 4: will remain closed for now, WDFW will continue to work with public health officials and partners at coastal Washington ports to develop a halibut season opening plan for coastal marine areas.