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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington planning more drought-related fishing restrictions

An 11-foot sturgeon is photographed before release in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River by Tanner Adler, Doug Young, Ryan Armatrout and Steve McPeak.  Armatrout caught the gentle giant.  (Courtesy of Diawa Photo Contest)
An 11-foot sturgeon is photographed before release in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River by Tanner Adler, Doug Young, Ryan Armatrout and Steve McPeak. Armatrout caught the gentle giant. (Courtesy of Diawa Photo Contest)

FISHING -- First there were fishing restrictions in Western Washington and the early closure of the Grande Ronde spring chinook season because of low flows and warm water in salmon-steelhead streams.

Today Washington and Oregon put a moratorium on Columbia River sturgeon fishing after reports that dozens of the decade-old fish were going belly up.

And fisheries managers predict more restrictions are coming -- possibly for the Spokane River.

"The drought is causing real problems for fish throughout the state,” said Craig Burley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish program manager. “We expect to announce further restrictions on state fisheries within the next few days.”

Stay tuned.

Here's the department's recently posted release on the sturgeon fishing moratorium:

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will close sturgeon fishing on portions of the Columbia and Snake rivers under temporary rules to reduce stress on the fish caused by low, warm water conditions.

The closure takes effect Saturday, July 18, and applies from Bonneville Dam upstream in the Columbia River, the lower Snake River, and adjacent tributaries. All sturgeon fishing, including catch-and-release, will be prohibited in those waters until further notice.

In a meeting today, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon agreed to the sturgeon-fishing moratorium in shared waters of the Columbia River above Bonneville Dam.

Guy Norman, WDFW southwest regional director, said department staff has observed more than 80 dead and dying sturgeon on the riverbanks upriver from Bonneville Dam in the past two weeks. Most were large fish, over five feet long, he said.

“Sturgeon are clearly under a lot of stress due to current drought conditions right now,” Norman said. “We can’t improve the water conditions, but we can remove fishing pressure on these fish.”

Water temperatures above Bonneville Dam have averaged 73 degrees over the past two weeks, compared to an average of 64 degrees during the same period over the past five years, Norman said. Current outflow at the dam is about half the average level, he said.

The moratorium on sturgeon fishing is the latest emergency action aimed at reducing stress on the region’s fish populations, which are experiencing unprecedented challenges due to high water temperatures and related factors.

In recent weeks, WDFW has curtailed fishing on a section of the Sol Duc River to protect returning chinook and closed fishing for spring chinook on the Grande Ronde River due to low river flows.

“The drought is causing real problems for fish throughout the state,” said Craig Burley, WDFW fish program manager. “We expect to announce further restrictions on state fisheries within the next few days.”




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Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.




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