Feb. 21, 2012
SALEM, Ore. – Fishery managers announced today that the Willamette River downstream from Willamette Falls, including Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River, will not be open to sturgeon retention on Feb. 24-25. In January, fishery managers had announced a possible four-day retention season to include Feb. 17-18 and Feb 24-25.
In just two days, anglers caught 1,535 sturgeon, almost 90 percent of the 1,768 allowed for the Willamette -- in large part due to the number of anglers.
According to Steve Williams, ODFW deputy administrator for the Fish Division, the catch rate (number of fish harvested per angler) was about equal to last year, but daily angling effort was over twice that observed in 2011. Managers estimated over 2,400 boats participated in the fishery.
“Based on the number of anglers and catch last year, we hoped there would be enough fish for four days of fishing,” Williams said. “Obviously we did not count on such a huge increase in effort.”
Staff predict an additional 700-800 fish could be caught with an additional day of fishing, which would exceed the harvest guideline.
This year’s harvest guideline for the Willamette was down 30 percent from last year, due to continued declines in the abundance of legal-sized sturgeon.
“Reduced quotas combined with high effort make it challenging to structure suitable fisheries,” Williams said, “If this trend continues, ODFW will have to reconsider how it structures future sturgeon retention seasons on the Willamette.”
The Department intends to host a series of public meetings this fall to present new population information and let members of the public weigh in with their ideas.
Catch-and-release sturgeon fishing is still allowed on the lower Willamette River, and retention of white sturgeon is permitted on the Columbia from the mouth upstream to Bonneville Dam and in The Dalles, John Day, and McNary reservoirs.
Anglers are reminded that all sturgeon fishing in the lower Willamette River, including catch-and-release, is prohibited between the I-205 Bridge and Willamette Falls from May 1 through Aug. 31 because that section of the river has been designated as a sturgeon spawning sanctuary.