In hopes of curtailing a dwindling sturgeon population in the Columbia River, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved more stringent fishing rules.
Beginning May 1, anglers will be allowed to keep one legal-size sturgeon (down from five annually), and no retention will be implemented during the 2014 season.
While the decision came to light last week, the Commission has the sturgeon issue once again on their agenda during a Friday, March 15 meeting.
“What happens this year might still be up in the air,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
The current new ruling applies to areas in the Lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam, Puget Sound and coastal estuaries, and all tributaries.
Sturgeon anglers in the Columbia River have faced reduced catches and number of days on the water to protect waning fish populations for the fourth year in a row.
The most recent estimates of legal-size sturgeon below Bonneville Dam declined from 131,700 in 2007 to 65,300 in 2010, and a preliminary abundance estimate for 2011 was 74,800.
New guidelines approved for sturgeon in the Lower Columbia and Lower Willamette will limit this year’s catch to 7,790 fish, similar to last year. Previous actions reduced the allowable catch by 38 percent in 2012, 30 percent in 2011, and 40 percent in 2010.
The Columbia estuary is open daily for sturgeon catch-and-keep until April 30, and from May 11 through June 30.
The area from the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet to Bonneville is open for sturgeon catch-and-keep Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through June 15, and reopens Oct. 19 through Dec. 31. Seasons could close sooner of catches exceed guidelines. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed when retention is closed.
(Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times archive)