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October 21, 2003
Contact: Bob Gibbons, (360) 902-2329

Annual sport sturgeon limit to drop next spring

OLYMPIA -The statewide annual limit for recreational sturgeon fishing will drop from 10 fish to five, beginning next April 1.

The change was approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in a conference call meeting Oct. 16.

Public input on the reduction was solicited through an angler preference survey conducted earlier this year, a public meeting in July and a commission briefing in August.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission in August adopted the same annual sturgeon limit reduction. The reduced annual limit will take effect Jan. 1 in Oregon waters. The effective date varies from Washington's because of each state's need to coordinate with existing catch record card systems.

Columbia River sturgeon are managed on a harvest guideline system, which allocates a certain number of fish to sport anglers. Two types of sport sturgeon seasons-catch-and-release and retention fisheries-are set each year. The annual limit reduction will not affect catch-and-release seasons, but is expected to allow the retention fishery to be lengthened.

"Cutting back the harvest should mean more days on the water," said Bob Gibbons, WDFW's inland anadromous fish manager.

The change is expected to have a minimal impact on most sturgeon anglers, since 93 percent currently keep fewer than five fish per year.

Besides the Columbia River, there are sport sturgeon fisheries in Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor and some northern Puget Sound rivers.