OLYMPIA – Starting Saturday (Aug. 18), Columbia River anglers may again catch and retain legal-size white sturgeon downstream from Bonneville Dam to the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet.
Retention of white sturgeon will be allowed seven days per week through Sept. 30 under regulations approved Wednesday by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon. The new rule applies to the 105-mile stretch of the Columbia River and adjacent tributaries.
Fishery managers agreed to reopen the sturgeon fishery to retention fishing ahead of schedule, because only 5,200 of the 14,500 white sturgeon available for harvest under the 2007 recreational quota for that area have been taken so far this year, said Brad James, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“It was clear that anglers would not catch the number of sturgeon allocated to that fishery if we kept current catch-and-release rules in place through September,” James said. “Our research indicates the legal-size sturgeon population is stable, so we agreed to reopen the retention fishery earlier this year.”
Sturgeon fishing between Bonneville Dam and the Wauna power lines has been limited to catch-and-release since Aug. 1, and was not scheduled to reopen to retention fishing until Oct 1. On that date, the retention fishery will revert back to the established four-day-per-week schedule outlined in the Fishing in Washington sport fishing pamphlet. Fishery managers will review catches in late September.
One reason why so many fish remain to be caught under this year’s quota is that the recreational fishery fell 3,450 fish short of its quota last year, James said. Those fish were “carried over” into harvest allocations for this year and 2008, he said.
Another reason is that catch rates in the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam were relatively low through July, possibly because of poor smelt returns, James said.
“Sturgeon tend to congregate around returning smelt in the lower Columbia River, which makes them easier to catch,” he said. “Otherwise they tend to disperse, which has the opposite effect on the fishery.”
Under state rules, anglers are allowed to catch and keep one white sturgeon measuring at least 42 inches but no more than 60 inches per day in the waters affected by today’s action. All green sturgeon must be released unharmed.
All other areas of the Columbia River downstream of McNary Dam are currently closed to sturgeon retention.
Under a new rule approved this year by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, anglers fishing from the Washington bank downstream from Bonneville Dam to the Hamilton Island boat launch must stop fishing once they have caught their daily limit of one legal-size sturgeon. Elsewhere, they may continue to fish after catching their limit, as long as they release any additional sturgeon they catch.
For more information about sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River and its tributaries, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.