Editor’s note, 1:22 p.m. Jan. 3, 2024: Updated at bottom with ODFW press release.
With high participation and catch rates filling the guideline, Columbia River managers closed sturgeon retention on the Bonneville and The Dalles Pools after just two days of fishing.
A “perfect storm of very high catch totals” is expected to bring the guidelines on both gorge reservoirs to 96 and 95 percent by the end of fishing today and keeping the scheduled Saturday opener would have busted both by wide margins.
Managers pointed to a warm day on Monday’s opener, which was also a holiday for many.
“I know New Year’s Day is a popular day up there, but it’s a powerful day,” stated Tucker Jones, ODFW’s Columbia River manager during a Columbia River Compact call this morning.
Anglers harvested 570 sturgeon out of the 675-fish guideline on the Bonneville Pool on Monday alone and with fishing ongoing today, catch is expected to reach 650. Keeping Saturday open would have brought the tally to 969, according to WDFW’s Matthew Sturza. Doing so on The Dalles Pool would have yielded a total of 309 on a guideline of 190.
It left Jones and Ryan Lothrop, his WDFW counterpart, little choice but to shut retention down on short notice.
The here-and-gone fishery had Columbia River sportfishing advisor Robert Moxley calling for the DFWs to manage it differently. He suggested they look into creating a hunting-style draw to put in to be able to participate in the fishery. Moxley said it could be a “pilot program” for a fishery that’s “getting way out of control.”
Fellow advisor Jesse Vasser suggested moving the minimum keeper size from 38 inches fork length to 44 inches to provide anglers more time on the water and provide nicer-sized fish.
The guidelines are based on the estimated number of legal-size sturgeon in each pool’s overall population.
Catch and release fishing for sturgeon will continue on Bonneville and The Dalles.
Meanwhile, the opportunity to retain a sturgeon will continue seven days a week on the John Day Pool, where on Monday anglers harvested 16 fish out of a guideline of 105.
The annual limit on sturgeon in both Washington and Oregon is two.
THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE
Sturgeon retention closed in Bonneville, The Dalles pools after Jan. 3
CLACKAMAS, Ore.—Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington closed sturgeon retention in The Dalles and Bonneville Pools effective 11:59 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 3.
The closure areas are the Bonneville Pool (mainstem Columbia River from Bonneville Dam to The Dalles Dam, and all adjacent tributaries) and The Dalles Pool (mainstem Columbia River from The Dalles Dam to John Day Dam, and all adjacent tributaries).
Although fishery managers had planned to use a three-day-a week fishing season (Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays) in Bonneville and The Dalles pools to lengthen the 2024 season, weather and water conditions were perfect for sturgeon fishing on New Year’s Day resulting in record angler effort in an already popular fishery. These conditions led to very high catch rates, and after Jan. 1, the total harvest was nearly 85 percent of the guideline in Bonneville Pool and 80 percent of the guideline in The Dalles Pool. Harvest is projected to be greater than 95 percent of the guideline in both pools after the Jan. 3 opener.