Sturgeon Retention Closures Coming To 2 Gorge Pools; Cowlitz Smelt Season Undecided

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Editor’s note: On Feb. 1, 2018, WDFW sent out a corrected version of the third paragraph on the below press release. In the second sentence, John Day Pool was changed to The Dalles Pool.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon [have] set closure dates for sturgeon fisheries on two sections of the Columbia River, while deferring consideration of a recreational smelt fishery until more is known about the size of this year’s run.

BILL LISTON PASSES A LONG-HANDLED NET THROUGH THE MURKY WATERS OF THE COWLITZ RIVER DURING 2015’S SMELT SEASON. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Starting Feb. 4, anglers will be required to release any sturgeon they intercept from Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam under one action approved by the two states yesterday. In addition, the retention fishery for white sturgeon from John Day Dam to McNary Dam will close effective Feb. 12.

Both areas will remain open to catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon after those dates. That is also the case in The Dalles Pool, which closed to retention fishing Jan. 20 after reaching its annual harvest quota for the year.

Laura Heironimus, a fishery manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said closing the retention fishery in the Bonneville Pool upriver to The Dalles Dam should allow – as in recent years – for a summer fishery under the annual catch guideline.

Heironimus said there is also the possibility of providing a summer sturgeon fishery from The Dalles Dam to the John Day Dam, where retention fishing for sturgeon closed Jan. 20.

“That fishery closed with a fair number of fish still available for harvest under the catch guideline,” she said. “We’ll be discussing the options for additional fishing opportunities in future meetings with our counterparts in Oregon.”

The possibility of a recreational smelt fishery on the Cowlitz River will also be a topic of future discussions, Heironimus said. In 2017, fishery managers approved a one-day recreational dip-net fishery on the Cowlitz River in 2017, based on the strength of last year’s commercial catch figures. However, current projections indicate that the 2018 run will be smaller than last year’s run.

As in previous years, fishery managers approved a limited commercial research fishery during specific dates in February to monitor the annual abundance of eulachon smelt, which were listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2010.

“These fisheries have a limited impact on the overall smelt return, while providing essential biological data on the species’ abundance,” Heironimus said.

If commercial catch figures average 250 pounds per delivery, fishery managers may consider a limited recreational fishery in 2018, she said.

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