Proposed changes to sturgeon regulations

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) sought public input in 2019 on potential changes to recreational sturgeon fishing rules in several state waters, including the Columbia and Chehalis rivers.

The department recommended amending regulations to improve conservation efforts and increase the abundance and survival of mature spawning-size sturgeon.

WDFW and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife held public meetings in May and June 2019 to present and discuss options for management recommendations, as well as collected online public comment. The public comment period closed on Oct. 17, 2019.

On Dec. 13, 2019, WDFW made its recommendations to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. View the summary or see the presentation to the commission.

Among the recommendations:

  • Update Columbia River sturgeon spawning sanctuaries to include an expansion in time for all sanctuaries upstream of Bonneville to remain closed through Aug. 31, and to include an expansion in area for the sanctuary in John Day Reservoir (below McNary Dam) and in the Hanford Reach (below Priest Rapids Dam). The purpose of these proposed rules are to minimize handling stress of mature female sturgeon during the post-spawn period, with the intended benefits of decreasing mortality rates of oversize sturgeon and increasing spawning success.
  • Shifting retention fisheries upstream of McNary Dam to catch-and-release only as a precautionary measure to conserve sturgeon populations due to a lack of recent monitoring data.
  • Closing night fishing for sturgeon in the Chehalis River to comply with statewide simplification rules.
  • Improving clarify on sturgeon catch-and-release regulations to further define what fish must be released in all areas, regardless of whether a slot-limit is in effect.
  • Defining oversize sturgeon as fish larger than 55 inches fork length to align with rules pertaining to take of an illegal-sized sturgeon in RCW 77.15.370.
  • Simplifying and clarifying statewide sturgeon regulations (WAC 220-316-010) to comply with agency standards and improve readability.