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Old 09-23-2016, 07:59 PM   #1
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NOAA/NMFS Halibut Regulations

One of the topics of interest this summer in Southeast Alaska was the NMFS regulations dealing with sport caught halibut on recreational vessels. Here is an excerpt from the Federal Register of the rules:

[I]28. Sport Fishing for Halibut—Areas 2C,
3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E
(1) In Convention waters in and off
Alaska: 11 12
(a) The sport fishing season is from
February 1 to December 31.
(b) The daily bag limit is two halibut
of any size per day per person unless a
more restrictive bag limit applies in
Commission regulations or Federal
regulations at 50 CFR 300.65.
(c) No person may possess more than
two daily bag limits.
(d) No person shall possess on board
a vessel, including charter vessels and
pleasure craft used for fishing, halibut
that have been filleted, mutilated, or
otherwise disfigured in any manner,
except that each halibut may be cut into
no more than 2 ventral pieces, 2 dorsal
pieces, and 2 cheek pieces, with skin on
all pieces.13
(e) Halibut in excess of the possession
limit in paragraph (1)(c) of this section
may be possessed on a vessel that does
not contain sport fishing gear, fishing
rods, hand lines, or gaffs.

Basically, the rules are so convoluted that the net result you can't eat any halibut while out for the day, the week, or the summer because you will have mutilated a fillet while on a boat with fishing tackle. Even at home, you cannot possess more than 4 halibut, because possession to the NMFS also means frozen fish. I heard of one case this summer where someone was boarded by NOAA who subsequently looked in his freezer and cited him under these rules.

A few weeks ago I contacted Senator Lisa Murkowski office on these rules and the impracticality of applying them to those of us who live aboard for months at a time. I also posed a question to them on the authority of NOAA/NMFS to stop, board, and search a recreational vessel without a warrant.

Two days ago I spoke with a staffer in the Senator's office who was working on it. Apparently, I am not alone in complaining and he was aware of a person who was cited by NOAA this summer. He is still working on it, but so far he has NOAA and Alaska Department of Fish and Game pointing at each other. I don't see how the state of Alaska is involved as possession to them means frozen and they only repeated the NOAA rules. The one positive development was the staffer said the US District Attorney handling the citation on the sport fishermen dropped the case saying it was unenforceable.

I will periodically update this, but if anyone thinks about it, let's keep the pressure up on NOAA/NMFS to change the rules to something that is more rational. Contact your Senator or Congressman and make them work for you during this election season. Senator Murkowski understands the problem as her father and mother keep their boat in Wrangell and have to comply with the same rules when the family goes out fishing.

Tom
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Old 09-23-2016, 08:07 PM   #2
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This is similar to what salmon was when I was up there in the early 90s.

Possession though did not include your home...but did include your RV. They tried but failed in any attempt to say you couldn't take more than a daily limit home and freeze it. At least all the cases I heard of.

But on a fishing boat or RV, or in camp...daily limits counted.

I would like to see a conviction example of just Joe Blow that had a freezer at home full of halibut. I really think those convictions if any have more to the story.

One of those possible but very improbable situations.

Actually, the way I read it, if you put all your tackle in your dingy and tow it, you can have a freezer full on your trawler....
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Old 09-23-2016, 08:24 PM   #3
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BC's rules are even more restrictive, including a maximum size of 133cm, or 52 inches (seems the bigger females produce the most eggs) one per day, a possession limit of two, and you can only keep six a year. Also have precise instructions on how to fillet your catch:

BC Sport Fishing Guide - Halibut Fishing in BC
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Old 09-23-2016, 08:30 PM   #4
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While I'm not a fan of the wording, the implication is quite clear. They want you to take only two fish per day. The rest is written to deal with the loop holes that people use to circumvent the rules. Many fish regulations have minimum size limits. If people are allowed to fillet and cut up the fish, it's impossible to tell if they have taken under size fish. Not uncommon for unscrupulous people to go out and catch their limit in the morning, and if not checked do it again in the afternoon. While I wouldn't want a game warden checking my freezer, if they observed you twice in one day catching the limit, clearly the fish in the freezer are evidence. For some reason, fishing regulations seem to be one of the most flagrantly violated group of laws in our society. The rules don't apply to me.

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Old 09-23-2016, 08:33 PM   #5
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Yep....used to piss me off when a bear would steal your salmon after you caught your limit....

You were done for the day but the bear could still fish.....

But your home freezer (not on boat or RV or fish camp) is only subject if you are suspected of taking more than the bag limit...otherwise everyone I knew would have been in jail.
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Old 09-23-2016, 09:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post

But your home freezer (not on boat or RV or fish camp) is only subject if you are suspected of taking more than the bag limit...otherwise everyone I knew would have been in jail.
Problem is if you live aboard and the boat is your residence. on the other hand 4 halibut is a lot of fish.
Canada has similar possession laws ( 2 days) of limits. This becomes an issue if you are transporting fish for another person not on the boat.
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Old 09-23-2016, 09:51 PM   #7
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Ted,

My alternative is to cut off the tail and keep it. There is a pretty strong correlation between the size of the tail and the amount of fish in the freezer and short of having a flash freezer on board, anything I catch today won't be frozen until after midnight including the tail. If they want to limit the total amount of fish on board including that which is frozen, then do it by weight per person for a recreational vessel. If the 200 lb halibut puts me over that limit then I will release it, which I am inclined to do anyway since it won't fit in the freezer. Only in the sport fishery are halibut limits based on the number of fish. In the commercial fishery and in by catch the measure is weight. The first halibut I caught this last summer was about 80 lbs. I didn't fish for halibut for another 3 weeks but I was guilty of mutilation since we had some for dinner that night.

I just want a rule that lets me eat halibut when its fresh and allows NOAA to focus on the commercial fishery since violations in the recreational sport fishery are unlikely and don't have the same impact.

Tom
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Old 09-23-2016, 10:34 PM   #8
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Tom,

I understand your points. What percentage of recreational halibut fishing do multi day boaters such as yourself represent? Clearly the rules were written toward single day fishing trips.

Ted
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Old 09-23-2016, 10:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MurrayM;:

[URL="http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/species-especes/halibut-fletan-eng.html"
BC Sport Fishing Guide - Halibut Fishing in BCl[/URL]
JHC!!!! Murray, and I thought NOAA regs being unbelievable !!
While I occasional catch a cook fish (Halibut) and deal with it in a historical way so far not being challenged, has me now considering the purchase of fresh halibut from a retail outlet and the hell with fishing.
Same with salmon, easier to purchase from a retail source over the running cost of attempting to catch one or two besides the compliance with rules.
Sad status of government over reach. Beyond common sense.

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Old 09-23-2016, 10:59 PM   #10
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JHC!!!! Murray, and I thought NOAA regs being unbelievable !!
While I occasional catch a cook fish (Halibut) and deal with it in a historical way so far not being challenged, has me now considering the purchase of fresh halibut from a retail outlet and the hell with fishing.
Same with salmon, easier to purchase from a retail source over the running cost of attempting to catch one or two besides the compliance with rules.
Sad status of government over reach. Beyond common sense.

Al-Ketchikan 27' Marben Pocket Cruiser
Crazy rules, I agree...but then one has to think back to how many halibut there were, and how huge they were when we were kids, and you have to admit that some limits are in order.
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Old 09-23-2016, 11:39 PM   #11
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Tom, I may have jumped the shark. When I catch a halibut on a day or overnight trip, I throw the complete fish ex guts/gills, into the cooler with ice and process the fish when I arrive back at the cleaning station in the harbor. Somehow I believe that once you are at said station, you are allowed to process the fish into freezer ready filleted. Hence hearing the issue from you and others related to on board processing is a different kettle of fish all together.
And yes, I too had heard all the stories you have mentioned.
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Old 09-30-2016, 04:47 PM   #12
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Welcome to the war between the recreational fisherman (to include charters) and the commercial fisherman. The International Pacific Halibut Commission set halibut regulations for both the US and Canada. The commission is stacked with politicals from both countries and the commercial fishing industry. The recreational fisherman has one (1) representative. Yep only one. The commercials has successfully put many in the recreational fishing charting service out of business. Many of my friends in Alaska went bankrupt.


http://www.iphc.int/


In my own opion this organization needs to be disbanded. The commercials agenda is to make it so difficult for recreational fisherman to catch fish, they will have to buy it. Have you seen the price of a small halibut steak?


The politicals don't want to go against the commercial fisherman, so they cave instead of looking out for all interest.


There you have it. Happy reading. End of soap box!
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Old 09-30-2016, 05:48 PM   #13
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If fish stocks aren't at least as good as when we were kids, or better, we've all failed.
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Old 09-30-2016, 07:59 PM   #14
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They aren't and we have.

In BC waters you are allowed one rockfish per person per day. I regularly watch fishermen cleaning their catch at Pender Harbour and one guy came in with 21 of them, from 6" up. Cue the Jimmy Buffet ******* song...
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Old 09-30-2016, 08:43 PM   #15
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We definitely agree with the need for good conservation fishing regs and also agree that the IHC rules regarding people that live on their boat is unworkable in it's present form. However, I must say, after years of fishing for halibut to put in the freezer and on the table, we've never been too concerned about being hauled up on halibut charges in SE Alaska. I have thought that a good rule would be to go ahead and package the filleted fish and label the package with some type of numbering system that would show a whole fish when assembled. This would work even better if the skin is left on.

As for the state of halibut in SE Alaska, we've never had a problem catching the daily limit (4 for myself and my spouse). It usually only takes us an hour or less on the right tide. We like 'buts in the 10-40lb range as they taste better and are not breeders and we let go anything larger. 6 fish in this range per year is more than enough for our larder and gifts to family and friends.

This past summer we caught more large halibut than we ever have! Two were in the 175-225# range, three in the 100-125# range and two over 80#. We fish shallow, 40-100ft, and we normally don't catch any over 40#! This was story was repeated by other boaters that we talked to this summer. A commercial fisherman caught a 490# outside of Petersburg. Next year we're going to use lighter line between the hook and spreader so we don't have to haul up all that weight to get most of our gear back.
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Old 09-30-2016, 08:51 PM   #16
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I personally know of a group who chartered a couple of boats and a resort lodge in Prince William Sound. They harvested legal quantities of all kinds of fish, processed them and vacuum sealed and froze their fish at the lodge.

They were met at the dock in Whittier and their halibut, only the halibut, were confiscated. The IHC rule says you may not have fishing tackle on board the boat carrying processed halibut, all other species were left alone and not seized.

They could have simply put all of the fishing tackle on the one boat and transported their fish on the other and they would have been within the law. They were unaware of the law and the Federal agents stated that they "should" have known this obscure IHC rule.

I just keep my boat really clean and deny that I have been fishing at all...
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