2023 sturgeon fisheries upstream of Bonneville Dam

CLACKAMAS, Ore. — ODFW and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will host a hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. PT to consider 2023 sturgeon retention fisheries upstream of Bonneville Dam and take comments from the public.

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Under permanent regulations, fisheries in Bonneville, The Dalles, and John Day reservoirs open Jan. 1 to retention of white sturgeon and remain open seven days a week until the reservoir-specific quotas are reached.

Catch rates have historically been low at the start of the year but can rapidly increase within a very short window. Recently, catch rates and season lengths have been volatile and difficult to predict, creating problems for anglers attempting to plan sturgeon fishing trips.

For example, Bonneville Pool’s 2021 sturgeon retention season was just seven days, the shortest on record, and closed before the end of January in 2022. Between 2017 and 2021, The Dalles Pool fishery closed before the end of January three times with two of those instances lasting less than a week. While the John Day Pool is also vulnerable to rapid changes in catch rates, this area hasn’t reached the guideline in the month of January in the past 10 years and typically closes later in the spring when catches increase.

The states’ creel program provides catch estimates in a timely manner. However, the volatile catch rates and low guidelines have made it difficult to provide reasonable notice to the public about retention closures when emergency management actions become necessary.

In 2022, fishery managers changed The Dalles Pool season from seven days per week to three to account for recent volatility and extend the season, resulting in the retention fishery lasting until March 21.

The states believe using a similar days-per-week approach in Bonneville Pool may also help address recent volatility experienced there and are encouraging interested parties to attend the virtual hearing where they can provide input on how they would like to see 2023 sturgeon fisheries structured.

Next year’s reservoir specific recreational harvest guidelines will be determined by the U.S. v. OR Sturgeon Management Task Force in January after reviewing stock status. Until this determination last year’s recreational guidelines will be used as placeholders (675, 190, and 105 for Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day pools respectively).