CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington today adopted new regulations for white sturgeon fishing in the Columbia River and its tributaries throughout 2009.
The rules, which take effect on Jan. 1, set new harvest guidelines, season dates and implement a new method of measuring sturgeon that may be retained.
In the estuary sturgeon fishery, located from the mouth of the Columbia to approximately 40 miles upstream to the Wauna power lines, anglers will be allowed to keep a total of 15,500 white sturgeon for 2009. The season dates adopted for this fishery are Jan. 1-April 30, May 9-June 28 and July 2-5, or until the harvest limit is achieved. Managers will meet sometime in June to review the fishery. Retention of legal-sized sturgeon will be allowed seven days a week during these dates.
From the Wauna power lines upstream to Bonneville Dam, anglers will be allowed to keep 11,300 white sturgeon in 2009. This guideline includes the lower Willamette River upstream to Willamette Falls as well as the Multnomah Channel and all adjacent Washington tributaries. The season dates adopted for this fishery are Jan. 1-July 31 and Oct. 1-Dec. 31, or until the harvest limit is achieved. Retention of legal-sized sturgeon will be allowed three days a week – Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The bag limit for white sturgeon is one fish per day and a maximum of five fish for the year, as outlined in the 2009 Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations. Retention of green sturgeon is prohibited.
Earlier this year, the Fish and Wildlife Commissions from the two states adopted changes to techniques for measuring sturgeon.
Effective Jan. 1, sturgeon will be measured from the tip of the nose to the fork in the tail, rather than from the nose to the tip of the tail. The new method of measuring sturgeon is the same one used by fish biologists and scientists and is considered more precise.
The new slot limits are a simple conversion of the old method. Based on decades of research, scientists concluded that the fork length measure is 90 percent of the total length measure for the average white sturgeon, and these slots were based on that conversion. The new technique does not mean anglers will be allowed keep smaller or larger fish than before, only that the method of measuring “keepers” has changed. A detailed explanation of the new measurement technique is available on ODFW’s website at the following URL: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/fishing/docs/sturgeon_angler_notice_flyer.pdf.
The new slot limits for sturgeon retention are as follows:
- 38 to 54 inches fork length downstream of The Dalles dam, including tributaries, coastal bays and estuaries, except:
- 41 to 54 inches fork length beginning May 9 in the Columbia River below the Wauna power lines.
- 43 to 54 inches fork length upstream of The Dalles dam to the Oregon Washington border.
The goal of this change was to make measurements more accurate, not to change the size of fish kept. Anglers will find that the vast majority of fish that measured 60 inches under the old method will measure 54 inches with the new technique, and so on, down to the minimum size. These changes also apply to commercial sturgeon fisheries.
As in past years, anglers in the estuary fishery need to be aware that the length limit will change as the season progresses. From Jan. 1 through April 30, the 38- 54-inch fork limit will apply. This size corresponds to the old 42-60-inch limit. From May 9 and beyond, the fork length for sturgeon retention will be 41-54 inches, which corresponds to the old 45-60-inch limit. The midseason change in size limit was begun a few years ago to help extend the fishing season during the spring and summer months.
In the reservoirs between Bonneville dam and McNary dam, sturgeon fishing will be open to retention seven days a week until harvest quotas are met. Harvest guidelines for these areas are currently unchanged from 2008, although they may be modified in February after Oregon and Washington officials and tribal fishery managers have met to review recent stock assessment information.
Columbia River sturgeon harvest guidelines are based on recent population estimates, escapement needs and harvest allocations agreements. The states will review the progress of sturgeon fisheries in June to see if any season modifications are needed.
In addition to sturgeon seasons, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also established a recreational smelt fishery in the Cowlitz River to occur on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 1–March 31. Restricted commercial smelt fisheries were also set for the mainstem Columbia and Cowlitz rivers, and eight mainstem commercial white sturgeon openers of 18-24 hours each were set to occur in January and February.
Additional information may also be found on ODFW’s website at www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/index.asp.