The white sturgeon anglers have been catching with high rates of success in Lake Roosevelt’s newly created fishery are big, tough critters – and they’re causing problems at fish cleaning stations, National Park Services officials say.
“Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area’s fish cleaning stations were not designed to handle the skeletal mass and scutes of the white sturgeon,” officials said on Tuesday in a media release.
“Even though the sturgeon skeleton is made primarily of cartilage, the bony plates (scutes) along their back are thicker and harder than other fish species … Our fish cleaning stations, located at Spring Canyon, Keller Ferry, Fort Spokane, Porcupine Bay, Hunters, Gifford Ferry and Kettle Falls, are better suited for the softer bones of other fish species such as trout, kokanee, bass and walleye.”
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials warn that anglers must take their sturgeon back to shore before cleaning them in case an officer checks the catch for compliance with the fishery slot limit.
Only sturgeon 38-63 inches fork length can be kept. Fish outside that slot limit must be immediately released if caught.
National Park Service officials suggest cleaning sturgeon and then dumping the remains in deep water to avoid using the fish cleaning station disposals or fouling boat launch shallows.
But be careful, says Madonna Luers, WDFW spokeswoman. Anglers need to bring sturgeon off the lake intact and then clean them or take them home, she said.
Bill Baker, department fisheries biologist in Colville, said a person could clean sturgeon at a fish-cleaning station and then take the remains back out in the lake to dump in deep water.
On May 27, fishing for white sturgeon at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area was opened for the first time in years. Survival rates for juvenile sturgeon produced in hatchery programs started around 2000 are much higher than anticipated. As a result, a surplus of these fish are available for harvest from Lake Roosevelt.
The limit is one a day and two a season, with special rules for size and gear listed on the Fish and Wildlife Department website.
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