To ensure there’s enough sturgeon to keep in coming years, state managers will close retention on Lake Roosevelt, where anglers have enjoyed a bang-up season, the first in more than three decades.
“It was great for the local economy, and our goal is to continue to have fisheries into the future,” says WDFW’s Chris Donley.
He says the state share of sturgeon on the Northeast Washington reservoir on the Upper Columbia was 10,000 going into the season slated to run May 27-Sept. 17 with a daily limit of one, two for the year.
But 3,500 will have been caught by the end of this month, leaving roughly 6,500 available for an opportunity the state had hoped would stretch for nine more years.
Before it opened, it wasn’t clear how well the fishery would go, as it had been more than 30 years since sturgeon were retainable here.
But with improved angling techniques and equipment, as well as a no-distance-is-too-far outlook, fishermen took advantage of it.
Indeed, anglers came from near and far — really far away.
“I saw plates from Utah, Wyoming, Arizona — people flying in from Texas to take a trip,” says Donley.
The rule-change notice has not been officially posted, but he’s proposed to close retention as of an hour after sunset July 31.
He says that in the future there may be tweaks to the regs, perhaps a change to the slot limit or season to help the fishery last that much longer.
“It’s been a great fishery. Really happy with the catches,” Donley says.
With sturgeon declining in the Upper Columbia, state, tribal and provincial managers began releasing young fish into the system on either side of the international border in 2004.
Survival rates were higher than expected, allowing state and tribal anglers to share in the bounty. Fishermen from the Colville and Spokane Tribes had yet to catch their quotas and were expected to continue fishing after July 31, according to WDFW.
This year, the Colville Tribes began releasing sturgeon reared at WDFW’s Wells Hatchery into Lake Rufus Woods as part of relicensing of a Douglas County dam.