ILWACO — Two days have been set for recreational white sturgeon fishing in mid-September when the Columbia River Compact management group met in Portland last week.
Anglers will be allowed to fish for white sturgeon in the Columbia upstream of the Wauna powerlines that cross the river at Puget Island and up to Bonneville Dam. The lower Willamette River remains closed to sturgeon retention, according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.
Anglers can fish on two Saturdays, Sept. 15 and Sept. 22. This year’s white sturgeon season is about two weeks earlier than last year, when inclement weather impacted success rates and overall harvest.
As a precaution and so catch doesn’t exceed the allocation of 1,231 fish for the two days, the dates are one week apart. With that separation, the Compact staff can assess the previous week’s catch. Fisheries managers may close the season early once the harvest guideline is achieved, according to ODFW.
Another precaution is a narrower size limit – 44 inches to 50 inches instead of the normal 38 to 54 inch size limit.
The bag limit is one legal-sized white sturgeon per day and up to two for the year. Fork length is measured in a straight line from the tip of the nose to the fork in the tail fin with the fish laying on its side on a flat surface and the ruler positioned flat under the fish.
According to Compact staff, they had earlier updated the Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife commissions and the Columbia River advisory groups on the status of Lower Columbia River white sturgeon. Both supported sturgeon retention fisheries this year that would be similar to the fishery allowed last year, except for the area upstream of the Wauna powerlines where they had recommended an earlier start to the fishing.
The 2018 Estuary fishery has so far consisted of 11 retention days during mid-May through mid-June resulting in 2,412 kept fish.
(81 percent of the 2,960 fish guideline for this area) from 17,380 angler trips.
Based on the 2018 abundance forecast of 153,540 fish (44-50 inch fork length), a total of 6,160 white sturgeon would be available for harvest downstream of Bonneville Dam. Recreational fisheries are allotted 80 percent of that, while non-Treaty commercial fishers are allowed 20 percent.
The 2018 guideline for white sturgeon harvest in non-treaty commercial fisheries is 1,230 fish and the expected catch in the Select Area spring-fall commercial fisheries in the lower estuary is 560 fish, leaving a balance of 670 for mainstem commercial fisheries
Due to the decline of legal-size fish and other indicators during 2008-2012, retention fisheries downstream of Bonneville Dam were closed during 2014-2016.