Sturgeon have had to be tough critters to stick around for hundreds of millions of years, and the recent opener on Lake Roosevelt is proving once again how durable these ancient fish are.
Well, sort of.
Federal managers on the Upper Columbia reservoir say macerators at their seven fish-cleaning stations aren’t quite up to the task of handling anglers’ diamondsides.
“Our fish-cleaning stations, located at Spring Canyon, Keller Ferry, Fort Spokane, Porcupine Bay, Hunters, Gifford Ferry, and Kettle Falls, are better suited for the softer bones of other fish species such as trout, kokanee, bass, and walleye,” says a June 6 press release from the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.
They’re asking fishermen to take their catches home and then clean and dispose of the carcasses.
However, their release can also be read that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending anglers fillet their fish on the lake and dump the rest into deep water.
That set off alarm bells at WDFW’s Spokane office, where the reaction this morning ran along the lines of, “Say what?!?!?!?”
It wasn’t immediately clear where Lake Roosevelt NRA got their information from, but because the fishery is governed by a slot limit designed to protect younger and older sturgeon, if catches are cut up on the water, there would be no way for WDFW officers to confirm fish are legal-sized.
“Anglers need to bring them off the lake intact and take them home at which point they can clean them and dispose of the remains,” WDFW spokesman Madonna Luers told Rich Landers at the Spokesman-Review.
The fishery is a unique opportunity with around 10,250 sturgeon available for harvest this year and over the coming nine.
Lake Roosevelt below the China Bend Boat Ramp was opened in late May, the first time in around 30 years.
It’s the result of state and provincial hatchery programs to reverse the decline of the species here. According to WDFW, survival rates have been higher than expected, leading to a surplus of fish.
Daily limit is one, with an annual limit of two.
As with sturgeon fisheries elsewhere, there’s a slot limit: Only fish with a fork length — the measurement from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail fin — of 38 to 63 inches can be retained.
While the most of the lower reservoir is currently open, the spawning sanctuary from China Bend to the British Columbia border is closed until Aug. 1.
Both sections close after Sept. 17.