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News / Sports / Outdoors

States adopt winter sturgeon season for Bonneville pool

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter
Published: December 17, 2014, 4:00pm

Sturgeon retention in the Bonneville pool of the Columbia River Gorge will open Jan. 1, tentatively continue daily through March 1, then close until resuming for a couple of weekends in June and July.

Washington and Oregon fisheries officials today adopted the early portion of the Bonneville pool sturgeon sport-fishing season.

Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day pools all reopen on Jan. 1, then close at different times based on catch guidelines. Sturgeon retention in the lower Columbia River remains closed indefinitely.

Washington and Oregon allow the harvest of 1,100 sturgeon in Bonneville pool annually, split roughly equally between a winter season and angling in mid-June to early July.

Robin Ehlke of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said anglers in Bonneville pool are projected to catch 420 sturgeon in the 60 days between Jan. 1 and March 1.

Sturgeon fishing generally is better in the west end of Bonneville pool in the winter months, then better in the summer at the east end near The Dalles.

In 2014, the winter season was Jan. 1-19, Feb. 1-17 and Feb. 24 to March 9.

The catch averaged just five fish per day in the 2014 winter period and totaled 241 sturgeon.

Jeff Whisler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said 669 sturgeon were caught in the summer season, which was June 13-14, June 20-21, July 11-12 and July 18-19.

Only 910 sturgeon from the quota of 1,100 were harvested.

Guy Norman, regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the intent is to manage the winter season for a catch of 400 to 550 fish or a March 2 closure, whichever comes first.

Winter sturgeon fishing has been slow in the Bonneville pool the past two years. The catch rate was nine fish per day in 2013, Ehlke said.

Lance Beckman of White Salmon urged that sturgeon retention stay closed and that fishing be catch-and-release only.

Beckman is a retired sturgeon research biologist who worked for the federal government.

“The Columbia River white sturgeon populations are in deep trouble,” Beckman said.

He also said it is time for sturgeon hatcheries on the Columbia River.

“I have a strong feeling there’ll not be a viable recovery until there’s a strong supplementation program,” Beckman said.

Tribal fishermen will be setting gillnets to collect and tag sturgeon in January in Bonneville pool as part of a multi-agency research effort.

Stuart Ellis of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said it would be helpful for sportsmen to avoid areas with net buoys. The buoys and boats are labeled with “research” markings.

Sturgeon harvest guidelines are 300 for The Dalles pool and 500 for John Day pool.

Columbian Outdoors Reporter