Bad news for Oregon fishing enthusiasts – the sturgeon count in the lower Willamette is low. Very, very low. So low, in fact, that the sturgeon fishing season may not reopen on January 1.
According to a report on OregonLive.com, the Columbia River system has seen a steady decline in white sturgeon over the past year or so, forcing deep cuts in the 2011 sport and commercial harvests in the Columbia and Willamette rivers. Although biologists are not certain what is causing the decline, some theories include: the increase in sea lions feeding on sturgeon in the area; fluctuations and reductions in flows from Bonneville and surrounding dams; and, various predators forcing sturgeon to flee to safer parts of the rivers, reducing the amount of fish that end up spawning.
What does this mean to Oregon and Washington fishing enthusiasts? First, it means a much shorter sturgeon season. The number of harvestable fish will drop from 3,600 to about 2,330, biologists estimate, a number that is expected to be caught rather quickly in the season. Second, ODFW and WDFW may lower the bag limits for sturgeon, meaning anglers in both states would be restricted in how many fish they could take home.
Local fishing enthusiasts support conservation efforts, especially if it means ensuring a healthy population of sturgeon for the following years. Some anglers have even gone so far as to suggest a total retention closure for at least a year. While this won’t likely happen, it is heartening to see so many Oregon and Washington anglers supporting conservation over overharvesting.