FISHING – About 1,400 white sturgeon averaging 10-inches long were released as an experiment into Rufus Woods Lake on Wednesday, according to a media release from the Colville Tribe.
The alligator-like young fish had been collected as larvae from wild adult sturgeon from Lake Roosevelt and were raised at the Wells Fish Hatchery for about 10 months. Lake Rufus Woods is the Columbia River reservoir backed up behind Chief Joseph Dam.
"White sturgeon are released in Wells Reservoir as one of the obligations of Douglas County Public Utility District’s FERC license for the Wells Hydroelectric Project,” said Jason McLellan, fisheries biologist for the Colville Tribe Fish and Wildlife Department. “Due to good survival rates at Wells Hatchery, there were some surplus white sturgeon. Discussions took place around the fate of the surplus fish. Several options were considered; however, the resource managers agreed that an experimental release into Rufus Woods would be an appropriate use of these fish.”
Fisheries managers plan to evaluate the feasibility of more releases in the Rufus Woods reservoir.
The young sturgeon were PIT tagged and three of their scutes were removed to indicate that they had been reared in a hatchery. This marking method allows staff to monitor the fish and their survival. They will be looking at growth, condition and survival rates as well as entrainment rates -- the term used for fish flushing downstream through the dam.
Colville Tribal fisheries staff is planning field surveys over the next several years.
“The Rufus Woods experiment is something that our Resident Fish Division has wanted to pursue for some time, but funds had not been available. This just happened to be a great opportunity,” McLellan said.
This project was funded by Douglas County PUD. The Wells Fish Hatchery is operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.