The International Pacific Halibut Commission’s 2013 catch reports were issued at their January 21-25, 2013 meeting in Victoria, British Columbia. As I have historically fished in Southeast Alaska (Area 2C), I took a look at the numbers for this regulatory area.
The 2012 Pacific Halibut catch in Area 2C by the Unguided (Private) and Charter (Guided) Sport Fishery totaled 1,406 million pounds (preliminary estimate) or a 37 percent increase over the 2011 catch. However it was only 58% of the preceding ten-year average. The charter catch for 2012 was up significantly as a percentage of the Guideline Harvest Level (GHL) from 2011, 56% in 2012 vs. 37% in 2011. The Private catch in 2012 continued to be greater than the Charter catch at 54.1% of the total catch in 2012 and 66.6% in 2011. The decease could be due to the change in the Charter regulations to allow a U45/O68 (under 45 inches or over 68 inches) reverse slot size in 2012 but there was still the one fish limit for charters while the limit remained at two any size for private sport fisherman. For the novice halibut fisherman this means if you fish with a guide, you are allowed to keep one halibut per day that is under 42.9 pounds or over 163.3 pounds. Personally I prefer a 40 pound halibut any day over a 165 pounder.
Looking at the total Pacific Halibut catch, the Commission recommended a further reduction in 2013 of 7.5% from 33.54 million pounds in 2012 to 31.028 million pounds in 2013. A slight increase has been proposed for Area 2C raising it to 2.97 million pounds from 2.624 million pounds. These numbers include the commercial catch and the sport catch.
My personal observation as a private sport angler and having fished halibut in SE Alaska nine out of the last ten years was that 2012 was better. In recent years, myself and my guests had consistently caught our limit but the fish averaged under 30 inches with an occasional big one. Last year, in less than 40 rod hours, we landed eight halibut averaging 45 pounds.
We should see the 2013 Alaska fishing regulations issued sometime in late March. Rumors are that they will be pretty much status quo with 2012. I’ll post a summary on my blog as soon as they are released. Hopefully I won’t have to eat my good luck hat.