FISHING -- After decades of effort to restore white sturgeon in the Columbia River upstream from Grand Coulee Dam, anglers will finally get a chance to catch and keep some of the huge fish starting Saturday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced seasons on two sections of Lake Roosevelt, with a shorter season upstream to protect spawning sturgeon.
Section A: From Grand Coulee Dam to China Bend Boat Ramp (including the Spokane River from Highway 25 Bridge upstream to 400 feet below Little Falls Dam, Colville River upstream to Meyers Falls and the Kettle River upstream to Barstow Bridge. Season: Open 7 days a week May 27 through Sept. 17.
Section B (sturgeon spawning sanctuary): From China Bend Boat Ramp upstream to the international border. Season: Open seven days a week Aug.1 through Sept. 17.
The daily limit is one sturgeon with an annual limit of two.
It is legal to retain sturgeon between 38 inches and 63 inches fork length. Fork length is measured from the tip of the snout to middle of the fork in the caudal fin (tail).
All harvested sturgeon must be recorded on a Catch Record Card (Catch Code 549). Two pole fishing is allowed. Closed to night fishing. All other statewide rules for white sturgeon must be observed.
State fish mangers request that anglers use heavy gear, 50-pound-test mainline and leader at a minimum. Hooks size 14/0 or smaller are recommended to avoid catching or injuring large wild adult sturgeon.
"The request to use heavier gear will ensure anglers hook and land sturgeon effectively, but also is protective of large wild adult brood sturgeon that, if hooked, should be played to hand quickly and released without being removed from the water," the WDFW says in a release.
Sturgeon that will not be legally retained should not be removed from the water prior to release, fish biologists say.
Here's background from WDFW on what led up to the new seasons:
The white sturgeon population in the Upper Columbia Transboundary Reach (Grand Coulee Dam, Washington to Hugh Keenleyside Dam, British Columbia) has experienced consistent juvenile year-class production failure for more than 30 years. In response to production failure, the Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (UCWSRI) was formed in 2000. The UCWSRI produced a Recovery Plan (finalized in 2002) with the goal, ?To ensure the persistence and viability of naturally-reproducing populations of white sturgeon in the Upper Columbia River and restore opportunities for beneficial use, if feasible?. A White Sturgeon hatchery program began in 2001 (2002 releases) in British Columbia (BC) and 2004 (with brood year 2003 fish from BC) in Washington using conventional brood stock and hatchery rearing methods. Stocking ranged from 2,000-12,000 juvenile sturgeon per year from 2001 to 2010 (including both Washington and BC releases). Survival of hatchery-produced juvenile sturgeon was much higher than anticipated. As a result, there is a surplus of approximately 20,500 sturgeon that are available for harvest from Lake Roosevelt over the next decade.
Other information: The Lake Roosevelt co-managers (WDFW, Spokane Tribe and the Colville Confederated Tribes) will all be conducting sturgeon fisheries. The co-managers have negotiated a catch share agreement which allows each entity a guaranteed portion of the sturgeon harvest. Non-tribal licensed anglers will have the opportunity to harvest up to 10,250 sturgeon over the next 10 years.
State officials are asking mon-tribal anglers are asked to be respectful of tribal angling and both tribal and non-tribal sturgeon research that is occurring on the reservoir.
Fishery dates, times, slot limits, daily limits and annual limits may be adjusted over the next decade to ensure a sustainable population of sturgeon is maintained in Lake Roosevelt and that equitable access to the negotiated catch share among the three co-managers is achieved, agency officials say in a release.
There's been considerable activity related to sturgeon on the upper Columbia recently.