Estuary sturgeon fishing season extended

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

Published:

 

Sturgeon fishing in the Columbia River estuary will stay open daily through July, an addition of 31 days to a so-far mediocre coastal season.

Washington and Oregon on Thursday added June 27-30 and July 5-31 to the season adopted in February for the river downstream of the Wauna power lines near Cathlamet.

The main estuary season opened May 14. Anglers had landed 1,230 sturgeon through Sunday. Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is projected the catch will be 2,440 through July 4, about 36 percent of the 6,800-sturgeon guideline.

Adding 31 days of fishing is projected to result in a total catch of 5,850 sturgeon, 86 percent of the guideline.

North said no extensions will be recommended beyond July 31 even with the anticipated balance of 950 fish.

While the sturgeon catch per rod is similar to 2010, the number of fishing trips are down 49 percent from 2010 and 60 percent from 2009.

"Each year you kind of wonder if it's worth making a trip to the estuary until you hear something good coming out of there,'' North said.

Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association and Bob Rees of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Associations supported the extension.

Harry Barber of Washougal said the low catch in the estuary is a "red flag'' that sturgeon populations might be smaller than state estimates.

"There's a good chance the fish just may not be there,'' Barber said.

In other action:

Bonneville pool sturgeon —Sturgeon retention in the Bonneville pool of the Columbia River will reopen June 30-July 2 and July 7-9.

Retention closed on Feb. 19 when a catch guideline of 2,000 fish was projected to be reached. But fishing in mid-February slowed a bit and the final catch was 1,627, leaving 373 sturgeon on the guideline, North said.

The six days are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. North said the six days give Bonneville anglers a rare chance to fish in summer weather, compared to January and February.

He said sportsmen are expected to catch about 50 sturgeon a day.

Tribal commercial — Treaty Indian commercial fishing will reopen at 6 a.m. Monday and continue through 6 p.m. June 30.

Roger Dick Jr., Yakama tribal harvest manager, said the tribes are projected to have landed 9,230 summer chinook and 2,600 sockeye through the end to fishing today.

Their catch next week is projected to be 4,500 chinook and 2,500 sockeye.