BAR HARBOR — Maine’s Atlantic Halibut season has officially begun. Like the last two years, the season has been shortened in order to reduce overfishing.

Ariel Gilley of Mount Desert Island holds up one of the two halibuts she was able to reel in last year. Photo courtesy of Ariel Gilley

The halibut season in Maine is a tightly regulated one and will run from May 18 to June 13.

The black and white bottom-dwelling flatfish is one of the largest fish found in the Gulf of Maine and it’s a sure sign of spring when they start showing up in fish markets and on restaurant plates. Atlantic halibut landings can be a boon to lobstermen before the summer lobster season gets busy.

The fish are usually caught on baited longlines or “tub trawls,” but can also be caught on a rod and reel.

Fishermen in Maine caught nearly 32,000 pounds of halibut worth $192,000 last year. Some of the financial haul can be attributed to a boat price of $6.09, a price that was 87 cents higher than the previous year.

Fishermen who hold a federal groundfish permit are limited to one halibut per trip, regardless of whether they are fishing in state or federal waters. Commercial fishermen with the Department of Marine Resources endorsement but no federal permit are not limited to one per trip. Both groups may land a maximum of 25 Atlantic halibut per year. The fish must be tagged with a marker from the DMR attached around or through the tail until it reaches its final destination.

The fish must be at least 41 inches long with the head on, or 32 inches with the head off. Filleting the fish at sea is prohibited by state regulations, according to the DMR, because the Marine Patrol must be able to determine compliance with minimum size rules.

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