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States Set Two Days For Sturgeon Retention Fishing Downstream Of Bonneville Dam; Fish Over 66-Inches
Posted on Friday, October 13, 2017 (PST)

The two-state Columbia River Compact this week opened white sturgeon angling on two days later this month for the area below Bonneville Dam and upstream of the Wauna Power lines at river mile 40.

 

The Compact had discussed the potential of opening sturgeon fishing to anglers in this area at a meeting in September and followed at its hearing Wednesday, October 11, by approving two one day openings, Saturday, October 21 and Thursday, October 26. The Compact is allowing anglers to catch up to 1,245 legal-sized white sturgeon, 44 to 50 inches in length, which is a narrower legal slot than in previous years.

 

Sturgeon fishing downstream of the dam had been closed to retention of white sturgeon from 2014 through 2016 due to concerns about legal-size sturgeon abundance, although catch and release was allowed. Angler effort for the fishery declined by 90 percent during this period.

 

It last opened for retention for Oregon and Washington anglers in June after considerable debate by the Compact and its staff. However, the five day June 5 to 14 opening was only in the Columbia River estuary downstream of Wauna and was shortened by one day due to heavy angler pressure and overharvest.

 

This is the first sturgeon retention season between Wauna and Bonneville since 2013, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in an October 12 news release. The number of legal-sized sturgeon has improved and, based on this improvement, anglers asked the fish and wildlife commissions from both states to look into the possibility of reopening a limited white sturgeon fishery, ODFW said.

 

Effort was substantially higher than expected for the June estuary fishery. According to the Compact’s October 11 Fall Fact Sheet #7 (http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/FS/17/17_10_11ff7.pdf.), Compact staff had estimated 8,510 angler trips during the five days, but in just four days 14,844 angler trips were observed, with a catch of 3,235 fish, 108 percent of the 3,000 fish guideline. That caused the Compact to rescind the last day of fishing. In the Fact Sheet, the Compact said it anticipates reducing the 2018 catch guideline in the estuary by 235 fish due anglers exceeding the 2017 guideline number.

 

The Willamette River from the Willamette Falls to the river’s mouth, including Multnomah Channel, will remain closed to sturgeon retention. The Gilbert River on Sauvie Island remains closed to all angling.

 

The Compact staff said that it would be extremely difficult to open even a one-day fishery on the Willamette without exceeding the 2017 harvest guideline of 745 fish, especially given observed daily catches of 770 to 1,190 fish.

 

For more information, visit ODFW’s Columbia River Regulation Update Page at https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/columbia-zone

 

As it prepared its recommendation for the Wauna to Bonneville sturgeon fishery, the Compact staff used a cautious approach and assumed the most conservative 2017 legal size abundance estimates. That estimate is based on “the relationship between year-specific research setline catch rates of legal-size white sturgeon and mark-recapture abundance estimates using data from years 2010-2015 estimated an abundance of 155,900 fish for 2016 and a projected abundance in 2017 of 165,600 legal size fish. Based on that projected abundance, 6,235 legal sized white sturgeon would be available for harvest downstream of Bonneville Dam. Some 3,285 fish were caught in the early June estuary season and 1,245 are allowed for this current 2-day fishing period, totaling 4,530 fish. Other sturgeon were caught by commercial gillnetters earlier this summer in off-channel areas.

 

“Modeling of future recruitment to legal size results in slight net growth in legal-sized abundance from 2016 to 2020 under a no-harvest scenario, and progressively decreasing abundance projections as harvest rates are increased,” the Fact Sheet says.

 

Abundance for other size categories of white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River are mixed, the Fact Sheet says. The abundance of adult-sized fish, which are fish greater than 66 inches in fork length or 72 inches overall appears to be increasing, with the 2014-16 average abundance  at 4,230 fish, which exceeds the Oregon White Sturgeon Conservation Plan conservation status threshold (a running 3-year average of 3,900 adults). However, LCR sub-yearling production has remained low for the seventh consecutive year, while production has improved in the lower Willamette River.

 

The Compact staff also standardized the legal size of sturgeon for all lower Columbia River fisheries to 44-50 inches to facilitate management and provide immediate escapement of larger-size white sturgeon by excluding them from harvest.

 

In its modeling, Compact staff also used a conservative 3.8 percent harvest rate on 44-50 inch fish (equivalent impact to broodstock escapement of a 4.5 percent harvest rate on the traditional 38-54 inch size slot); used the previous harvest allocation distribution for recreational fisheries: 48 percent from the estuary, 20 percent upstream of Wauna and 12 percent in the lower Willamette River.

 

For more information about the actions taken by the Compact this week, see the October 11 joint state Compact Action Notice at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/OSCRP/CRM/CAN/17/171011_notice.pdf

 

Also see:

 

--CBB, June 16, 2017, “With More Fish Caught Than Expected, States Close Lower Columbia Sturgeon Fishing,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/439103.aspx.

 

--CBB, February 10, 2017, “Harvest Managers Extend Tribal Sturgeon Gillnetting For One Week,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438300.aspx

 

-- CBB, Feb. 26, 2016, “Lower Columbia River White Sturgeon Overall Numbers Continue To Grow, ‘Ongoing Productivity Issues' ” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436114.aspx

 

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