VANCOUVER, Wash.- Lower Columbia River sturgeon sport fishing will operate under seasons and rules similar to those in place this year, Washington and Oregon fishery managers decided today in a joint meeting here.
The two states also set a slightly reduced 2005 smelt sport fishing season, which will allow fishers to dip smelt two days a week from January through March.
For sturgeon anglers in the mainstem Columbia (Washington tributaries) from the river mouth upstream to the Wauna power lines, sport fishing will be allowed under the following seasons:
- Jan. 1-April 30: Sturgeon retention will be allowed seven days a week, with a size limit of 42-to-60 inches.
- May 1-May13: Retention closed.
- May 14-July 4: Sturgeon retention will be allowed seven days a week, with a size limit of 45-to-60 inches.
- July 5-Dec. 31: Sturgeon retention closed.
Catch-and-release fishing will be allowed during periods when sturgeon retention is closed.
"This basically will be a very similar season to this year," said Pat Frazier, deputy regional fisheries manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), noting that white sturgeon populations are believed to be stable or increasing slightly
Fish managers anticipate 43,000 angler trips in the lower river with 17,000 sturgeon kept.
Upriver, from the Wauna power lines to Bonneville Dam, including Washington tributaries, 2005 sport sturgeon seasons are as follows:
- Jan. 1-July 31: Sturgeon retention will be allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a 42-to-60-inch size limit.
- Aug. 1-Sept. 30: Sturgeon retention closed.
- Oct. 1-Dec. 31: Sturgeon retention will be allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a 42-to-60-inch size limit.
An estimated 60,000 anglers trips are expected between Wauna and Bonneville, with 12,000 white sturgeon kept, Frazier said.
Smelt fishers, meanwhile, will see a slightly reduced season next year.
Sport smelt fishing will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesdays and Saturdays only, from Jan. 1 through March 31, in the Grays, Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers. The daily limit is 10 pounds per person.
In the mainstem Columbia River, fishing will be open seven days a week from Jan. 1-March 31, with a 25-pound per person daily limit.
By contrast, 2004 smelt sport fishing was allowed seven days a week until mid-March, when it was reduced to two days per week.
The change reflects managers' expectations of a smelt run that is lower than in some recent years, and similar to 2004.
"We are not as confident of the smelt return this year," Frazier said.