Updated 5:05 p.m., January 10, 2023 at bottom with ODFW press release
Columbia sturgeon managers closed the retention season on the Bonneville Pool after tomorrow but hope to take another look at reopening the fishery if enough remain in the 675-fish guideline.
WDFW and ODFW report higher than expected effort and catches that will put the cumulative harvest at 87 percent of the guideline after Wednesday’s fishing, leaving less than 100 keepers available.
Tucker Jones, the Oregon manager for the Columbia, said he’d seen the pressure first hand on the gorge pools as he drove back from east of the mountains on January 1, the opener.
During public comment, guide Bill Monroe Jr. said that he’d worked the Bonneville Pool for 12 years and that sport anglers are “recognizing this fishery is highly productive … The effort is very, very significant” and he worried whether the DFWs were accounting for that.
While Jones was willing to entertain a one-day sturgeon reopener some time next week, his counterpart on the Washington side, Dr. Charlene Hurst, was more hesitant, given catch rates that can spike on the first day after a closure is lifted.
While WDFW sturgeon specialist Laura Heironimus said weekday catches were running at an average of 34, a closure then reopener could yield 100, “more fish than are remaining in the guideline.”
So Jones agreed to take a “wait and see approach and see where things end up after tomorrow and get back together if there is room.”
Today’s fact sheet for the Columbia River Compact call lists a January 24 meeting to discuss commercial smelt test fisheries in the lower river, data from which would help determine whether a sport opener is possible in the Cowlitz.
The states moved from a days-per-week approach – keeper fishing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – to try and spread out effort and keep sturgeon season open longer on the Bonneville Pool this winter. 2021’s daily season on a smaller quota of 500 fish was burned through in seven days. Last year’s fishery lasted longer but it also saw a very cold and snowy start that might have reduced effort and catches.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
LACKAMAS, Ore.—Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington today closed sturgeon retention in Bonneville Pool as of Jan. 12.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 11 is the last scheduled day to retain sturgeon in Bonneville Pool (Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Dam and adjacent tributaries). However, an additional Bonneville Pool weekday may be added at a later date depending on how many sturgeon are left in the 675-fish recreational guideline after tomorrow.
A combination of higher effort (1,903 angler trips), particularly on weekends, and good catch rates have sturgeon harvest accruing more quickly than managers originally projected. Through Jan. 9, recreational anglers in Bonneville Pool have kept 554 sturgeon, or 82 percent of the guideline.
Fishery managers believe continuing to allow sturgeon retention on the next scheduled season date (Saturday, Jan. 14) would put the fishery over the guideline.
Fishery managers implemented a staggered, three-day-a-week fishing seasons (Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays) in Bonneville and The Dalles pools this year to try and lengthen the season. But angler effort can vary based on interest in the fishery and weather conditions, which have been ideal for sturgeon fishing.
Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing remains open in Bonneville Pool and in other areas on the mainstem, except angling for sturgeon is prohibited May 1-Aug. 31 within sanctuary areas below each of the dam tailraces. See the permanent regulations for details, https://www.eregulations.com/oregon/fishing/columbia-river-zone