OLYMPIA - Starting Aug. 18, Columbia River anglers could again catch and retain legal-size white sturgeon downstream from Bonneville Dam to the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet.

Retention of white sturgeon is allowed seven days per week through Sept. 30 under regulations approved Wednesday by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon. The new rule applies to the 105-mile stretch of the Columbia River and adjacent tributaries.

Fishery managers agreed to reopen the sturgeon fishery to retention fishing ahead of schedule, because only 5,200 of the 14,500 white sturgeon available for harvest under the 2007 recreational quota for that area have been taken so far this year, said Brad James, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"It was clear that anglers would not catch the number of sturgeon allocated to that fishery if we kept current catch-and-release rules in place through September," James said. "Our research indicates the legal-size sturgeon population is stable, so we agreed to reopen the retention fishery earlier this year."

Catch rates in the mainstem Columbia River below Bonneville Dam were relatively low through July, possibly because of poor smelt returns, James said.

"Sturgeon tend to congregate around returning smelt in the lower Columbia River, which makes them easier to catch," he said. "Otherwise they tend to disperse, which has the opposite effect on the fishery."

Under state rules, anglers are allowed to catch and keep one white sturgeon measuring at least 42 inches but no more than 60 inches per day in the waters affected by today's action. All green sturgeon must be released unharmed.

All other areas of the Columbia River downstream of McNary Dam are currently closed to sturgeon retention.

For more information about sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River and its tributaries, see the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet on WDFW's website at (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm).

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