New harvest guidelines approved for sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia River will limit this year’s catch to 9,600, a 38 percent reduction from last year. That action follows a 30 percent catch reduction in 2011 and a 40 percent reduction in 2010.
Monitoring data jointly collected by Washington and Oregon indicate that the abundance of legal-size white sturgeon has declined by nearly 50 percent since 2003. Factors often cited for the decline include increased predation by sea lions and a drop in the abundance of smelt and lamprey, which contribute to sturgeons’ diet.
To keep this year’s catch within the new harvest guideline, the sturgeon fishery will end 23 days earlier than last year in the estuary below the Wauna powerlines and start eight days later in the fall from the powerlines upriver to Bonneville Dam. Fishing seasons approved for 2012 in the lower Columbia River are as follows:
· Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed daily from Jan. 1 through April 30 and from May 12 through July 8. From Jan. 1 through April 30, sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. From May 12 through the end of the season they must measure 41 inches to 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.
· Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam: Retention of white sturgeon is allowed three days per week (Thursday through Saturday) from Jan. 1 through July 31 and from Oct. 20 through Dec. 31. Sturgeon must measure between 38 inches and 54 inches (fork length) to be retained. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when retention is prohibited.
All fishing for sturgeon will be closed from May 1 through Aug. 31 in the sturgeon sanctuary downriver from Bonneville Dam described in the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet. Sand Island Slough near Rooster Rock also will be closed to fishing at least through April 30.
As in years past, 80 percent of the allowable catch will be allocated to the sport fishery and 20 percent to the commercial fishery. Under the new harvest rate, the portion of the catch available to recreational fisheries will be allocated as follows: up to 4,160 fish in the estuary, up to 2,080 above Wauna and between 1,768 and 2,022 in the Willamette River.
The harvest share between recreational fisheries upstream and downstream from the Wauna power lines will be flexible and may be adjusted in-season to meet the states’ expectations for fishing seasons and ensure the harvest rate does not exceed area catch guidelines.
Unlike the lower river, legal-size sturgeon populations appear to be growing above Bonneville Dam, said Brad James, a WDFW fish biologist. This year’s harvest guidelines for sturgeon fisheries above the dam have not yet been determined.