OLYMPIA – Effective May 1, sturgeon fishing will close for three months to protect spawning female sturgeon in three designated spawning sanctuaries on the Columbia River.
The three sanctuaries – located downriver from the Bonneville, John Day and McNary dams – will be off-limits to all bank and boat sturgeon fishing through July 31.
Large female sturgeon, some measuring more than 10 feet long, favor the fast, turbulent waters below the dams for spawning, said Brad James, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“A single broodstock female can produce up to several million eggs,” James said. “It’s in everyone’s interest that they be allowed to spawn and produce future generations of sturgeon.”
Fishery managers for both Washington and Oregon have agreed to the three-month sturgeon-fishing closure in the sanctuary areas, defined as:
- Bonneville Dam, downriver 5.5 miles to Navigation Marker 85 on the Washington shore – almost two miles further downriver than last year’s sanctuary boundary.
- John Day Dam, downriver 2.4 miles to the west end of the grain silo at Rufus, Ore.
- McNary Dam, downriver 1.5 miles to the Highway 82 Bridge.
The spawning sanctuary below McNary Dam was created last December through a joint action by the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions, which set policy for their respective fish and wildlife departments. The departments, themselves, agreed in January to expand the existing sanctuary below Bonneville Dam and to establish the new sanctuary below John Day Dam.
A new study indicates that the number of 48-60-inch sturgeon in The Dalles Pool declined 75 percent from 2002-05 due to poor natural production and recruitment to legal-size, James said.
“The decline was greater than anybody had predicted,” he said. “Creating a spawning sanctuary was one thing fishery managers could do right away to boost survival rates.”