F&G biologists relocate stranded white sturgeon

Magic Valley regional staff recently relocated four white sturgeon into the Snake River. Fisheries biologists have discovered that sturgeon existed at least a 100 million years ago. Which is why they are considered ‘living dinosaurs.’

Every Fall, Idaho Fish and Game Magic Valley regional staff respond to calls from concerned residents about white sturgeon stranded in area canals, shallow pools, and below impoundment structures, such as dams.

When irrigation season ends, canals and dam spillways begin to go dry, leaving behind shallow pools, often full of various types of fish. In some places, the pools are large enough that the fish will survive until irrigation water begins flowing again in spring. However, due to sturgeon’s large size and small population numbers, Fish and Game staff wade into these remaining pools to rescue these fish and release them back into the Snake River.

On Oct. 22, Fish and Game staff captured four white sturgeon below Minidoka Dam and released them into the Snake River at Massacre Rocks State Park. The four sturgeon were stranded in isolated pockets of remaining water after passing through the Minidoka Dam sometime during the summer months. The fish were captured and transported (using a two man sling) to a holding tank filled with oxygenated water. These fish were then transported 42 miles upstream and released. The sturgeon ranged from 2 to 6 feet in length.

Prior to release, each sturgeon had a PIT-tag (Passive Integrated Transponder) inserted under their bony plates, that is slightly larger than a grain of rice. The PIT-tag gives each fish a unique identification number that can inform biologists of its size, and when and where it was tagged and released. A small bony plate, or scute, found on the side of the fish was removed to mark each fish. Marking allows biologists to know if the fish was caught previously, and has an implanted tag.

Fish and Game biologists are working to help conserve Snake River white sturgeon. One goal of sturgeon conservation efforts is to ensure sturgeon populations are robust enough to allow for recreational catch and release sport fishing.

Angling for these giant fish has become very popular throughout the Snake River. Cut bait, squid, herring and shrimp are all popular baits and are usually fished on the bottom of deep holes; but don’t overlook the success of night crawlers. By regulation, barbless hooks with a sliding sinker rig must be used in Idaho. For additional information on sturgeon fishing rules and tips, check out page 52 of the 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules.