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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

January 22, 2011 at 8:28 PM

State Fish and Wildlife Commission approves stricter conservation guidelines for Columbia River sturgeon fisheries

The sunny weather on the Lower Columbia River greeted sturgeon anglers today some of whom managed to have a fairly good day on the water catching these ancient bottom dwellers.

While the good times rolled on this weekend, it appears under the proposed catch guideline for 2011 to 2013 fishing time for sturgeon could be shorter than in past years.

On Friday, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved tighter conservation guidelines for Columbia River sturgeon fisheries.

The proposed sturgeon guidelines support reductions in harvest rates for sturgeon below Bonneville Dam that have decreased dramatically in recent years.

Washington and Oregon fisheries managers have recommended the guideline for the next three years for sport and commercial be 17,000 sturgeon down from 24,000 in 2010.

The catch would be reduced by at least 30 percent over the next three years, and follows a 40 percent reduction during the 2010 fishing season.

The overall population of legal-size sturgeon (between 38- and 54-inch fork length) those that can be retained in sport fisheries is expected to decline in 2011, and increase in 2012 to 2014. The estimated population in 2010 was 85,000, and will drop to 77,000 in 2011.

The legal-size sturgeon population remained relatively stable through 2007, but dropped 28 percent the following year. Recent analysis also indicates that the number of juvenile sturgeon below Bonneville Dam has been declining since 2005.

Increased predation by sea lions is one major factor affecting their population, as well as handling mortality and other detrimental environmental conditions.

Sport anglers in the Lower Columbia River took 90,435 trips in 2010 and kept 11,282 sturgeon, which was 78.2 percent of the guideline.

The highest lower river catches for 2010 occurred in June with 24,037 trips and 2,965 sturgeon kept (cumulative catch was 5,615); July with 17,192 trips and 3,236 (8,851); and October with 18,480 and 2,159 (11,113).

Until a new season is adopted sport anglers on the Lower Columbia River, and its tributaries from Buoy-10 to the Wauna power lines will be able to catch and keep sturgeon on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only. Daily limit is one sturgeon. These areas are also open daily for catch and release sturgeon fishing.

All fishing is prohibited in a slough between Sand Island and Rooster Rock State Park from Jan. 1-April 30. Last winter, anglers found and caught a large number of legal-size sturgeon in this area.

Catch levels and fishing seasons for this season will be determined by representatives of Washington and Oregon at a Feb. 8 meeting of the Columbia River Compact in Oregon City. Spring chinook fishing seasons will also be a topic at the meeting.

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