The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) met a the end of January to assess the current state of halibut stocks and render the catch limits for 2015. For charter anglers who come to Southeast Alaska it’s a good news/bad news story. The good news – halibut stocks are trending up in our area and the improving U.S. economy has fueled improved charter business. The bad news – halibut stocks are trending up in our area and the improving U.S. economy has fueled improved charter business.
Confused? We’re not, but we’ve been around this issue for a long time. The improved halibut stocks have made it easier to catch halibut – especially in Southeast Alaska where the stocks are showing marked improvement. The strengthening economy has increased bookings and halibut fishing effort. The result – more halibut are being caught by the charter fleet despite tightened regulation. In 2015, we will again have a reverse slot limit with a 42 inch maximum size on the low end, down slightly from 44 inches in 2014. The minimum size limit on the high end will be 80 inches, a 4 inch increase from last year. So, the option to keep an extremely large halibut remains, as does the option to retain a perfect eating size of halibut. The rest will be released to seed future seasons. The daily limit is unchanged at one.
Halibut are managed based on pounds landed and the charter fleet has a percentage of the fisheries catch limit. The halibut commission now works with a risk assessment model which restrains catch limits from going up at a pace equal to the upward trend in the resource. For example, if their population model suggests the catch limit could go up 900,000 pounds, the current policy is to increase by 300,000 pounds. This “slow-up” policy effects both charter and commercial fishermen. There is a little short term sacrifice here, but it bodes well for the future.
In the meantime, we have more halibut on the grounds, both inshore and offshore. Our anglers will have an easier time bringing a wonderful eating halibut to the boat along with the outside chance of catching and keeping a trophy halibut. There is no threat of an in-season closures like those seen in the lower 48. Plus, Southeast Alaska still offers the best saltwater salmon fishing in the world, as well as rockfish, lingcod, and a host of other species. Spice the great fishing with incredible scenic beauty and wildlife. What could be better?