After a three-year angling absence, sturgeon retention returns to the lower Columbia River beginning Monday when a six-day season begins in the estuary.
Washington and Oregon today adopted a limited sturgeon season downstream of the Wauna power lines at river mile 40 with retention to be allowed Monday, June 7, June 10, June 12, June 14 and June 17.
Angling for sturgeon will be prohibited after 2 p.m. on those days, including catch and release fishing. The daily limit will be one fish per day and two for the season. Sturgeon must be between 44 and 50 inches fork length to be retained.
Tucker Jones, ocean salmon and Columbia River manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said fisheries upstream of Wauna power lines and in the lower Willamette in the fall are anticipated, but not guaranteed.
Quotas of 3,000 sturgeon for the estuary, 1,245 for Wauna to Bonneville Dam and 745 in the lower Willamette have been identified.
No specifics for the fall fisheries have been developed, but likely would be in October or November.
Sturgeon retention in the lower Columbia has been closed since 2013 due to concerns about population size. Research indicates the juvenile population is in trouble, but tagging studies show a steady rise in the number of legal-size fish.
The estimate for legal-size (38 to 54 inches fork length) sturgeon in the lower Columbia dropped to 72,700 in 2012, leading to the retention closure in 2014.
Biologist John North of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife told a joint state hearing on Wednesday that state scientists estimate the population in 2017 is 238,000 legal-size fish. A more conservative methodology places the population at 166,600 sturgeon.
North said the 166,000 figure is being used as the basis for planning sturgeon retention. The catch for the six days is projected to be 2,620 sturgeon, he added.
Resumption of sturgeon retention, even briefly, was widely praised at the hearing Wednesday. The coastal economy has been hit by reductions in fishing opportunities lately.
“I support this a hundred-thousand percent,’’ said Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association.
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office officials noted that the naval fleet visiting Portland for the Rose Festival will be departing on Monday, June 12.
The U.S. Coast Guard will enforce a 500-yard buffer zone with no boats approaching within 100 yards of the departing fleet.
June 9 and 10 is Free Fishing Weekend in Washington, when fishing licenses are not required. However, sturgeon landed must be recorded on a catch-record card, said Ron Roler, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The commercials would get 1,245 sturgeon. Those fish are likely to be caught in the six days of gillnetting anticipated in August between Woodland and Beacon Rock, or in off-channel areas.
Bonneville Pool — Two-hundred-twenty nine sturgeon remain on the sturgeon allocation for the Columbia River between Bonneville and The Dalles dams.
The states approved allowing retention on June 10. Additional retention will be considered if sufficient fish remain on the guideline.