SALEM – The states of Oregon and Washington decided today to close the Columbia River estuary to sturgeon fishing, effective 12:01 a.m., Sunday, July 27. They also added two months to the sturgeon season between the Wauna power lines and Bonneville dam.
The emergency action was taken during a joint state hearing Thursday morning following staff reports forecasting that fishermen will likely achieve sturgeon quotas for the Columbia River estuary sometime on Saturday. The closure affects the Columbia River from the mouth upstream approximately 40 miles to the Wauna power lines. It reduces by one day an eight-day extended season approved by the two states on June 27.
The order issued by fishery managers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was based on quotas established in a three-year joint sturgeon management plan. Primary objectives of the accord include protecting and conserving sturgeon brood stock while offering anglers diverse fishing opportunities.
Since the extended season began on July 10, the estuary on the lower Columbia has received intense pressure from fishermen looking to land 45- to 60-inch fish, according to John North, ODFW’s Columbia River fisheries manager. North reported that during an aerial survey of the estuary on July 19, ODFW counted 670 private boats, which is the second highest daily count since 1983. In the first six days of the extended season lower Columbia fishermen harvested an estimated 3,700 sturgeon, leaving 364 fish remaining until the three-year quota for that section of the river is met.
“Catch rates during July for both private and charter boats have been excellent,” said North.
Fishery managers from the two states also approved a sturgeon season extension in the Columbia above Wauna that begins Aug. 1 and continues through Sept. 30. They concluded this additional opportunity is possible without exceeding the management guideline for this section of the river. The season extension also applies to the lower Willamette River upstream to Willamette Falls, including Multnomah Channel.
Allowing sturgeon retention during August provides an additional recreational fishery when opportunities for salmon angling are limited, according to North, who noted that Chinook salmon fishing in the main stem Columbia doesn’t start until Sept. 1 this year. During the new August-September sturgeon season, fishermen between the Wauna power lines and Bonneville dam will be permitted to keep white sturgeon ranging in size from 42 to 60 inches on Thursday through Sunday. Essentially, the addition of the August-September period means fishermen will be able to keep sturgeon four days a week from August through the end of the year in this section of the river