(The Center Square) – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has recently placed a moratorium on fishing white sturgeon on a stretch of the Columbia River due to a recent increase in mortality rates.
“Approximately two dozen sturgeon have been found dead in recent weeks, primarily in the John Day Pool with additional observations in The Dalles Pool, McNary Pool, and the Hanford Reach,” according to the joint news release from Washington and Oregon fishery managers posted to the WDFW website.
Sturgeon fishing on a catch-and-release basis is typically open year-round on the Columbia River.
The closure extends from the Dalles Dam upstream to the Priest Rapids Dam and began Saturday, July 29 through September 15th.
“We ‘re doing this as a precautionary measure,” said WDFW spokesperson Ben Anderson on a phone call with The Center Square.
“Sturgeon are very hardy fish in a lot of ways, but they’re also very vulnerable to certain stressors, especially in the late spring and summer period after they spawn,” said sturgeon lead with WDFW Laura Heironimus in a statement released with the announcement.
When The Center Square asked Anderson if higher water temperatures were contributing to the increase in mortality, he gave a tempered response.
“We’ve certainly had a run of higher than average temperatures lately, and that may be a factor, but as of yet we haven’t determined one definitive cause,” said Anderson on the phone.
The WDFW has an online tool for the public to report any instances of mortality they see in the wild to help better aggregate data on the matter.
“We definitely want to know about any additional mortalities and encourage anyone who finds a dead sturgeon to use the reporting tool,” Heironimus said. “Fortunately, we are seeing fewer adult-size sturgeon mortalities than what was observed during the drought of 2015, but we’ll continue monitoring for the rest of the summer.”
The news release also wants to make anglers aware that “catch-and-release fishing for white sturgeon remains open in the sections of river downstream of The Dalles Dam and Bonneville Dam, where populations are higher.”
More information can be found on the WDFW website.