VANCOUVER – Sport fishing for Lower Columbia River white sturgeon will be closed for at least one month – and maybe longer – under a plan developed in public meetings with fishers and approved Friday to protect the popular fish.
Meeting in conjunction with the Columbia River Compact, fisheries managers from Washington and Oregon adopted four measures to prevent the catch of white sturgeon from exceeding the annual target of 40,000 fish. However, they also agreed to reconsider – and possibly rescind – the two area closures adopted for later in the year if they are not deemed necessary to meet conservation goals.
Meanwhile, Washington and Oregon fish managers are continuing joint efforts to develop a comprehensive sturgeon management plan that would include the Willamette River, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and other areas. Part of the plan would regulate sturgeon harvest in those areas during other fisheries, commensurate with the harvest levels in the Columbia.
As adopted, the conservation measures will:
- Prohibit the retention of white sturgeon during the entire month of April below the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet.
- Extend the existing prohibition on boat angling for sturgeon between Beacon Rock and Bonneville Dam by two weeks, resulting in a closure from May 1 through July 15. During that period, the section of the river is a sanctuary for spawning sturgeon.
- Prohibit sturgeon retention below the Wauna power lines from Aug.16-Sept. 15 unless this closure is later found unnecessary to meet the 40,000-fish target
- Prohibit sturgeon retention above the Wauna power lines for the month of November unless this closure is later found to be unnecessary to meet the harvest target.
The decision about whether to proceed with those additional closures will be made in late July, when fishery managers can assess the pace of the season's harvest, said John DeVore, a fisheries biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"The goal was to be fair to people up and down the river and still hit our conservation target," DeVore said. "We listened to the concerns of sport fishers, and this is essentially what they came up with."
DeVore emphasized that the agreement was part of a three-year management plan for white sturgeon, explaining that any fish caught above or below the target would be added to – or subtracted from – next year's fishery.
"Sturgeon fishing has been growing in popularity almost every year," DeVore. "Fortunately, the stocks are still healthy and we are committed to keeping them that way."