Estuary sturgeon fishing to continue through July 31

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Sturgeon fishing in the Columbia River estuary will continue as scheduled through July 31.

Washington and Oregon officials agreed on Wednesday not to extend the season despite a projected catch 22 percent short of the guideline.

Anglers between the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet and the mouth of the Columbia River at Buoy 10 have a catch allocation of 6,800 sturgeon.

Biologist Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the harvest through July 31 is projected to be 5,281 sturgeon, 78 percent of the guideline.

Anglers averaged 69 fish per day in late June and that improved to 98 per day in early July, Ehlke said.

Catch per angler since June 1 has been slightly better this year than in 2010, but angler trips are down 31 percent.

Earlier in the season, most of the sturgeon were taken in the islands segment of the estuary upstream of Tongue Point.

Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said the normal shift of the catch to downstream of Tongue Point is occurring.

North also said the catch of "sublegals,'' sturgeon smaller than the minimum size for retention, has improved to 2.5 per angler this year compared to 1.4 in 2010.

Steve Williams, an assistant administrator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said no extension of sturgeon fishing into August is necessary. Salmon fishing opens Aug. 1 in the estuary, providing a new opportunity.

"My goal was not to catch every last fish in the harvest guideline,'' Williams said.

Upstream of Wauna — Sturgeon retention upstream of the Wauna power lines is open Thursdays through Saturdays through July 31, then closes in August and September, reopening Oct. 8.

North said the catch through June was 467 sturgeon on a guideline of 3,410.

Sturgeon fishing is popular and productive in October in the area just downstream of Bonneville Dam. North said the states could allow retention on Oct. 1, 6 and 7 if officials want to liberalize the fall season a bit.