The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its annual sturgeon tagging program, catching and releasing nearly 400 sturgeon in Bay Area waters. Many of the tags are eligible for a reward if returned to CDFW by anglers.
The tagging operation is used to help manage California’s green and white sturgeon populations. Information received from anglers about tagged sturgeon complements the details submitted on sturgeon fishing report cards as well as data from party boats, creel surveys, surveys for juvenile sturgeon and various special studies.
CDFW offers monetary rewards for the return of certain marked tags. The tags are smaller than a dime and located behind the rear dorsal fin. Anglers who return a tag will also receive a certificate of appreciation from CDFW. Additional information and the form for returning tags can be found on the CDFW website.
“Protecting the white sturgeon fishery and the sturgeon populations requires research, collaboration, adaptive management and enforcement,” said CDFW Program Manager Marty Gingras. “Angler participation is a vital component of the information-gathering process – we rely on them to help us complete the loop.”
Working in Suisun and San Pablo bays from August through October, crews collected information on 18 green sturgeon, tagged 190 white sturgeon, and collected information on 169 white sturgeon that were either too small or too large to tag. In an ongoing collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and a new collaboration with San Francisco Estuary Institute, USFWS staff was also on board CDFW boats to collect various tissues as part of an age-and-growth study and a study monitoring selenium concentrations in white sturgeon.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin river system is the southernmost spawning grounds for both white sturgeon and green sturgeon. Sturgeon in California can live more than 100 years and weigh over 500 pounds, but anglers most often catch sturgeon 3-4 feet in length. The sturgeon fishery in California was once closed for decades due to overfishing. Today, commercial harvest of white sturgeon is not allowed, and recreational harvest of white sturgeon is regulated by size limit, daily bag limit and annual bag limit. Green sturgeon is a threatened species and neither commercial nor recreational harvest of those fish is allowed.
Serialized tags are provided with each sturgeon fishing report card to help enforce the bag limits. To enable law enforcement to cross-reference the tag with a particular card, anglers must permanently fix a tag to each kept white sturgeon until the fish is processed for consumption.
Anglers are required to return their 2015 sturgeon fishing report cards by Jan. 31, 2016.