In favor of protecting rockfish and ensuring sport fishing opportunities in the future, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is reducing the rockfish bag and possession limits in Prince William Sound salt waters from four per day, eight in possession to three per day, six in possession of which only one per day, one in possession can be a nonpelagic rockfish. In addition, yelloweye rockfish may not be retained from May 1-June 30, 2023. Prince William Sound salt waters are all waters east of Cape Fairfield and west of Cape Suckling.
The harvest of rockfish in Prince William Sound salt waters has been increasing in recent years. Pelagic rockfish harvest levels are at an all-time high in Prince William Sound, with black rockfish being the dominant species harvested. Declines have been detected in the biological compositions of black rockfish, such as age, length, and weight. The changes in the biological composition could be an indication of a change in the population structure, likely due to high levels of harvest overall and increasing harvests on younger fish. In addition, preliminary stock assessment data for yelloweye rockfish indicate that this level of harvest may not be sustainable into the future. A reminder to anglers that the use of a deepwater release is not only mandatory when releasing rockfish, but it is a valuable tool to increase survival when releasing rockfish at depth of capture, versus at the surface.
“By implementing a seasonal nonretention regulation for yelloweye rockfish from May 1-June 30, these fish will be able to have the opportunity to have a successful reproductive event and harvest could be reduced by as much as 25 percent,” stated Area Management Biologist Brittany Blain-Roth.
These changes in harvest and biological trends are assumed to be associated with a shifting of effort from Pacific halibut to other species by charter (guided) anglers due to reduced sport fishing opportunities associated with the Halibut Catch Share Plan. On February 6, NOAA fisheries announced its 2023 charter regulations, which closes halibut fishing on all Tuesdays from June 20 through August 15 and Wednesdays for the entire season in regulatory area 3A, which includes North Gulf Coast salt waters. These are the most restrictive regulations for guided anglers since the Halibut Catch Share Plan was implemented in 2014. It is likely that effort will shift to state managed sport fisheries including rockfish, salmon, and lingcod, and requires a precautionary approach given the recent harvest trends.
For rockfish species identification information visit https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishingRock fish.identify. For information on rockfish deepwater release information, check out this page: https://www.adfg.alas ka.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fishin gRockfish.main.
For more information, please contact Area Management Biologist Brit-tany Blain-Roth 907-267-2186 or Assistant Area Management Biologist Donald Arthur at 907-267-2225.