As I promised in late December, there would be a post on what transpired at the January meetings of the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Anchorage. Many of the hearings were packed and the discussion was lively both officially and unofficially as to whether to approve changes in the commercial catch limits and regulations impacting sport fisheries in SE Alaska. The recommendation by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to adopt a U45/O68 size standard was approved for charters. U45/O68 stands for keeping a halibut that is under 45-inches or over 68-inches. There were no changes made to regulations for recreational sports fishing for halibut. The daily bag limit should remain one halibut per day for charter customers and two halibut per day of any size for the recreational fisherman. Watch for the 2012 regulations to be posted on the AF&G website in the next few weeks.
At the January IPHC there was discussion about mortality of released halibut. Noting that there is a lack of good estimates of mortality in the recreational fishing, they recommended collecting such data. Halibut sport fishing guides and recreational fishermen could be reporting such data in the future. Who knows? Taking some care in releasing a halibut brought up to your boat make good sense. If you are releasing that barn door, 200 pounder, cut the leader as close to the hook as you can. Circle hooks are usually pretty easy to remove as they seldom get swallowed. If it is a small fish on a J hook, and the hook is buried deep, again cut the line. If the hook is in the lips, use a gaff to lift the hook and shake the fish.