OUTFISH – Anglers are a victim of their own success at Lake Roosevelt where the reservoir’s first sturgeon fishing season will be closed after opening two months ago, a state fisheries manager said. The closure, which hasn’t yet been officially announced, is being set for July.
“Anglers very quickly got very good at catching them and we need to back off a little so we can continue to fish for sturgeon in the future,” said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional fisheries manager in Spokane.
“People love the fishery and it’s great for the economy up there.”
Sportfishermen have caught and kept roughly 3,500 sturgeon in the designated slot length of 38-63 inches since the season was opened May 27, he said.
State and tribal fisheries managers had estimated that approximately 21,000 sturgeon of that size needed to be removed to improve breeding genetics over about 10 years, he said. Sportfishermen will get about half of that allotment of the long-lived fish and the tribes will share the rest, he said.
“If we were to continue the fishery, our anglers could catch them all this year,” he said. “From a fish manager’s point of view, anglers got a great start in what we want to accomplish, but we also want to let fishermen have a chance at catching sturgeon year after year.”
The next sturgeon fishing opportunity in Lake Roosevelt will likely be opened next spring, he said. “The season structure likely won’t be as liberal next time around,” he said, referring to the slot limit, season length and the two-fish season limit.
“Now we have date from the creel surveys so we can work out a season structure to manage seasons every year.”
In the late 1990s, fisheries managers, including those responsible for the Columbia River in British Columbia, confirmed that sturgeon weren’t reproducing and surviving into adulthood. Starting in 2000, they captured adult spawners and started raising their young in hatcheries.
“Releasing their progeny was a stop-gap measure,” Donley said. “The number of family groups we started with was too small for genetic diversity.”
The fishing season was opened to thin out the number of sturgeon in the system that share the same genetics before they could spawn.
“We want to remove most of the fish in that category to leave what we believe is the right number to breed in the future,” he said.
“Our goal with our co-managers is to try to fish for sturgeon ad infinitum on a piece of the population as we move along. That’s the trick in fish management.”
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