Halibut quota dips, but it's welcomed by sport anglers

Oregon's growing population of halibut anglers stands a good chance of replicating last year's record-setting success under recently adopted sport-fishing frameworks.

The International Halibut Commission has granted Oregon sport anglers a quota that is about 7 percent lower than last year's quota.

State marine managers and charter boat operators were poised to accept a 25-percent drop, but the commission penciled out the better-than-expected numbers during meetings last week in Portland.

"That's not bad at all," says Brandon Ford, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Marine Division in Newport, which is the hub of Oregon's halibut fleet. "I bet you it works out this year to be very similar to last year — which is a good thing."

Ocean sport anglers have a chance to tell the ODFW how they would like their season to look.

The Marine Division is hosting an open house tonight in Newport to discuss quotas and possible open-season dates for Oregon's all-depth sport halibut fishery from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain near Port Orford.

At issue will be the number and dates of the fixed-open days during the spring all-depth fishery, as well as back-up dates for the spring fishery in case quotas remain in place.

The fixed-open dates, usually set in clusters, are popular among Oregon's halibut anglers because they allow early planning of fishing trips instead of waiting for last-minute word on whether halibut fishing is allowed.

Mike Sorensen, the owner/operator of the Newport-based charter Miss Raven, says the hefty quota not only helps send more ocean anglers home happy, it also helps reduce crowding.

"When you have so much opportunity spread out through the season, you won't see as big a concentration of boats out there," Sorensen says.

"I'd hate to see any cut in the quota, but I don't think we'll have any problem at all," he says.

Anglers fishing out of Oregon ports caught 16,600 Pacific halibut, amounting to 2,000 more of the tasty, flat-bodied fish than the previous record in 2006, according to state marine statistics.

Those who cannot attend tonight's meeting can offer comments through the ODFW's Marine Program office at 541-867-4741.

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