Updated 11:34 a.m., January 25, 2023 at bottom with WDFW press release
Sturgeon retention will close in the coming days on The Dalles and John Day Pools and the DFWs’ Columbia managers stuck with a staff recommendation to not reopen the Bonneville Pool for a crack at the last 75 keepers in the guideline.
The calls were made in a Columbia River Compact meeting this afternoon that featured a lot of indecision by ODFW’s Jeff North and WDFW’s Dr. Charlene Hurst as they weighed reopening the Bonneville Pool tomorrow or Thursday and whether that gave anglers enough notice, or to open it next Monday, which could give fishermen too much notice and possibly blow through the guideline of 675 sturgeon by a potentially large margin.
But also the angler and managerial interest that had been expressed earlier in the month for an additional day just wasn’t there this afternoon – people weren’t “knocking down the door” for another crack at the waters between Bonneville and The Dalles Dams, as North put it. He said if today’s meeting had been held yesterday, he might have gone for a Wednesday opener, but in a similar vein, opening on Thursday would have meant other sturgeon waters wouldn’t also be open to suck up some of the potential angler pressure on the Bonneville Pool.
He said that setting an opener for the one of the next two days could also amount to a “false opportunity” and yield “thanks for nothing” comments from anglers.
The Monday option was also risky. The fact sheet for today’s meeting said that average weekday harvest was 40 sturgeon, rising to 175 on weekends. “Given enough advanced notice, staff feel that angler effort on an additional weekday fishing period would likely resemble a weekend day and therefore put the likelihood of exceeding the guideline at an unacceptable level of risk,” the fact sheet stated.
“This was us doing what we could to reconsider the season to use up the guideline,” said Hurst.
As it stands, the Bonneville Pool fishery did see pretty good catches as well as high effort, with the early weather also good compared to last January’s icebox start. Over 2,183 trips, anglers harvested 600 sturgeon.
In other Columbia Compact business, sturgeon retention in The Dalles Pool wraps up after tomorrow, January 25, and on the John Day Pool after Sunday, January 29. Catch stats show the pools sat at 90 and 76 percent of their guidelines (190 and 105 fish, respectively) through yesterday.
Catch and release fishing for sturgeon remains open in all three pools, and is open year-round.
Hurst and North also OKed a commercial smelt test fishery that will occur on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays into March. Data from it will inform eulachon run composition and strength and help gauge any potential sport dipping opportunities on the lower Cowlitz.
According to WDFW smeltmeister Laura Heironimus, managers look for commercial landings catch per unit effort of 200 pounds and signs of fish in the Columbia tributary to set a recreational season. So far the big river is on the cold side for the oily little fish, but there was an apparent pilot run earlier in winter, judging by smelt larvae and egg observations as well as seal and sea lion concentrations, she said.
In a related story, Washington lawmakers are considering requiring dippers to purchase a license to fish for the ESA-listed stock. A bill supported by WDFW had a hearing last week and will be revisited during an executive session of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Friday. If passed and signed into law, it would effectively be applied to smelt in 2024, given their winter run timing and the bill’s progress through Olympia.
One other note from today’s meeting centered around a Chinook that was counted at Bonneville Dam January 2. It set off some excitement on social media that it was the year’s first springer, but the fact sheet said it “may have actually been a fall Chinook.” Long-term averages show the first springers not really arriving at the dam until late February, but a few kings continuing to trickle over in late December.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Sturgeon retention closing in The Dalles and John Day pools this week
CLACKAMAS, Ore.—Wednesday, Jan. 25 will be the last day to retain sturgeon in The Dalles Pool (mainstem Columbia River from The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam and adjacent tributaries) and Sunday, Jan. 29 will be the last day to retain sturgeon in the John Day Pool (mainstem Columbia River from John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam and adjacent tributaries).
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon made the decision today after determining that harvest guidelines will be reached soon due to higher-than-expected effort and catch rates.
Through Jan. 25, the projected catch in The Dalles Pool is 184 fish (97 percent of the guideline) while in John Day Pool, the projected catch thru Jan. 29 is 101 fish (96 percent of the guideline).
Fishery managers implemented staggered, three-day-per-week fishing seasons (Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays) in Bonneville and The Dalles pools this year to try and lengthen the season. A combination of higher effort and good catch rates had sturgeon harvest accruing more quickly than managers originally projected.
While 75 sturgeon remain on the Bonneville Pool guideline since that season closed Jan. 12, fishery managers decided not to add another fishing day due to the potential to exceed the guideline if anglers were given an additional day next week. Managers considered adopting an additional day in the Bonneville Pool on short notice this week, but ultimately decided not to reopen the fishery.
THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
turgeon retention fishing to close on 2 pools of the Columbia River
OLYMPIA – Recreational retention fishing for white sturgeon on two sections of the Columbia River mainstem will close over the next week, fishery managers from Oregon and Washington announced Tuesday.
The Dalles Pool (between The Dalles Dam and John Day Dam) will close to sturgeon retention beginning Thursday, Jan. 26, while the John Day Pool (between John Day Dam and McNary Dam) will close beginning Monday, Jan. 30.
Fishery managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) agreed to close the fisheries during a joint-state meeting Tuesday, noting that both pools were approaching their guidelines for the 2023 fishing seasons.
As of Monday, Jan. 23, anglers had kept 171 legal-size sturgeon in The Dalles Pool, representing about 90 percent of the 190-fish guideline. In the John Day Pool, anglers had kept 80 fish, about 76 percent of the 105-fish guideline. Managers estimated that both of those quotas would be reached in the coming days.
The Bonneville Pool between Bonneville Dam and The Dalles Dam closed earlier this month following strong fishing effort and high catch rates. Managers determined that there was insufficient catch remaining on the guideline to add an additional day of sturgeon retention in Bonneville Pool.