Oregon anglers score halibut on opening day

By Larry Ellis, fishing columnist May 02, 2014 09:43 pm

Dan Benson, John Bloom and Mike Nolan from Brookings scored limits of rockfish and lingcod while fishing in the ocean out of the Port of Brookings Harbor on May 1.

I may not be Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Stephen Hawking, but if you asked anyone who knew me back in the Saint Martha’s Catholic School days, it would be safe to say that we all got a pretty good education drilled into us by Sister Annunciation — whether we wanted one or not!

In those early years, you learned how to add, subtract, multiply and divide in short order, pretty much because calculators weren’t even invented yet. I think the first ones probably cost in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks, which was a pretty good chunk of change back in the late-’50s and early-’60s. Now they give the suckers away on a whim. Go figure!

Anyway, when it came to mathematics, everything had to be done in the old noggin, which leaves me somewhat perplexed.

So when it comes to things like halibut quotas, this guy just throws up his hands. But not in disgust. I’m actually praying — praying that eventually the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) will finally get the apportionment criteria right, and fair to all fishermen. And being an optimist, I’m fairly confident that a good prognosis will eventually occur. I just hope that it will occur in my own lifetime.

OK, so just for fun, try this one on and see if it fits. The area that Brookings belongs to is now called the “Southern Oregon Subarea,” a location that encompasses a stretch of ocean from Humbug Mountain to the Oregon/California border. Is it me, or is it kind of funny that the acronym for the Southern Oregon Subarea is SOS? When you think about it, SOS sounds quite appropriate, especially considering the measly 3,712-pound quota that this neck of the woods received this season.

Even more suitable was the fact that at least 12 halibut were bagged on opening day, an opener that just happened to fall on May Day. Pinch me, but I think there just might be a theme going on here.

So basically, if one hundred, 37-pound halibut are caught, the season is over and done with. At the rate the season is going, I don’t foresee this year’s halibut season lasting very long at all, especially considering the fact that an 85-pounder was caught on opening day as well. I give SOS about two weeks to make it through the quota — tops! With a few storms, it may last a little longer, but be prepared to sound the Mayday.

Now at first it might appear that I’m a little bitter that my stomping grounds might be shut down early for Pacific halibut. But this Catholic guy is just a wee bit confused, because the math just ain’t adding up.

So I had to do a little juggling of the various Oregon quotas to see how SOS got precisely a 3,712-pound quota. Sister Annunciation would be proud.

I was told that the SOS was supposed to get an approximate 2.2-percent quota of the rest of Oregon’s All-Depth spring and summer quotas. I had to work backwards in order to figure it out, but figure it out I did. 

The two other recreational halibut areas in Oregon are the Columbia River Subarea (CRS, and please don’t ask me what that stands for), and the Central Coast Subarea (CCS). The CRS All-Depth quota for both the spring and summer seasons is 10,705 pounds, and the CCS quota for the spring and summer seasons is 159,634 pounds.

Combined, the All-Depth spring and summer quotas for the CRS and CCS areas comes to 170,339 pounds. Multiply that figure by 2.179 percent and guess what? You get 3,711.6 pounds. Round out that last figure — and bingo — you’ve got this year’s quota for the SOS.

Now that quota wouldn’t be so nonsensical if it pertained to a stretch of the Pacific that was directly proportional to the rest of the Oregon coast — but the ratio of the SOS to the rest of the Oregon coast just doesn’t add up.

The approximate distance in road miles in the SOS is 57 miles. The distance between the extreme ends of the SOS and the CRS (from the Oregon/California border to Astoria) spans approximately 339 miles. In short, the SOS is about one-sixth the size of the entire Oregon coastline.

Now I’m not saying that the SOS should get one-sixth of the entire Pacific halibut quota of Oregon. That would equate to about 16 percent, and 16 percent of the halibut quota for the rest of Oregon is about 27,000 pounds. Considering that there are numerous halibut charter boat fleets, and more-robust halibut grounds from Humbug Mountain to Astoria, a 27,000-pound quota would be asking for way too much.

But I do think that being given a 2.18-percent quota to the SOS compared to the rest of Oregon is disproportionally unfair. If you agree with me, write the IPHC and demand that the area between Humbug Mountain and the Oregon/California border be treated with the same respect as the rest of the coast.

Tight lines!