Tag Archives: Sturgeon

Responsible Angling Practices Help Conserve Sturgeon Populations

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking anglers to use caution and extra vigilance to help conserve California’s white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations, both of which are being impacted by the drought. Sturgeon are caught by anglers year-round in a popular sport fishery centered in the San Francisco Estuary, but anglers — especially those fishing in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers — need to be aware of special regulations in place to protect and grow the populations.

man on boat deck writes data about a white sturgeon laying in front of him
Fisheries Biologist Mike Harris keeps careful records while conducting the annual CDFW sturgeon survey

White sturgeon is a substantial management concern and green sturgeon is a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Green sturgeon may not be fished for, removed from the water if caught, or kept. White sturgeon may only be kept if between 40 and 60 inches and caught by anglers in possession of Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards (including single-use tags) while using single barbless hooks in areas that are not closed.

Strict fishing regulations are designed primarily to conserve older white sturgeon and ensure that all sturgeon survive catch-and-release. The effectiveness of catch-and-release depends in large part on angler technique. CDFW encourages anglers to use high-strength fishing line to reduce duration of the fight and in-water techniques for measuring the size of white sturgeon. Anglers should leave oversize white sturgeon in the water at all times and know how to quickly identify green sturgeon.

In 2014, California anglers reported keeping 2,286 white sturgeon while releasing 4,565 white sturgeon (most were undersized) and 183 green sturgeon. Other data on the white sturgeon fishery and population is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/delta/data/sturgeon/bibliography.asp.

A flyer on identifying green sturgeon can be found at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentId=105326.

The complete fishing regulations are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations.

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Media Contacts:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (209) 234-3486
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

As White Sturgeon Decline, Anglers’ Failure to Return Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards Could Lead to Restrictions

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working to keep the state’s white sturgeon population from declining precipitously. Much of that work is estimating the number of fish harvested (kept), the harvest rate and population size. Because many sturgeon anglers fail to submit their sturgeon fishing report cards and data from report cards is very important, new harvest restrictions or restrictions on the sale of the report cards may be required to address uncertainty attributable to uncooperative sturgeon anglers.

For the prehistoric-looking fish in California, it is as though 2015 is the ninth straight year of drought. White sturgeon only reproduce well here when the Sacramento River is nearing flood stage for many weeks during both winter and spring. That hasn’t happened since 2006, triggering a period of decline that will last at least another nine years.

During this period of white sturgeon decline, conservation of the population and its fishery depends on CDFW’s ability to adaptively manage harvest numbers. Good data is necessary for successful adaptive management. Data is gathered from research trawls, a tagging study, fishing guides, party boats, creel surveys and report cards.

California Code of Regulations, section 1.74(d)(1), requires sturgeon anglers, abalone and lobster divers, certain salmon anglers and steelhead anglers to send CDFW their report cards each year. Unfortunately, many sturgeon anglers – even those who are otherwise responsible – do not submit their catch data. Sturgeon anglers are second in enthusiasm only to abalone divers, but those avid sturgeon anglers are far less likely to submit their report cards than avid participants in other fisheries.

The white sturgeon population also declined because of the severe 1987-92 drought. The Fish and Game Commission helped jump-start recovery of the population by protecting more adult sturgeon in 2006 than it had previously. The length of legally harvestable white sturgeon – the so-called ‘slot limit’ – was temporarily narrowed for the spring of 2006.

“The stars aligned in 2006,” said CDFW sturgeon biologist Marty Gingras. “Flows were the best since 1998 and there was relatively little harvest on the spawning grounds because the slot limit was so narrow.”

Sturgeon anglers should see a brief period of improved catch rates in the next few years as white sturgeon spawned in 2006 reach legally harvestable size, then a decline for at least nine years. The rate and magnitude of decline can be managed through restrictions on harvest and can be better understood if sturgeon anglers submit catch data on sturgeon fishing report cards as required by regulation.

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Media Contacts:

Marty Gingras, CDFW Bay-Delta Fisheries, (209) 234-3486
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Wildlife Officers Rescue Nearly-lifeless Sturgeon, Cite Poaching Suspect

sturgeon-in-truck

Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

California wildlife officers cited a Sacramento County man on poaching charges last week, prior to successfully resuscitating the fish and returning it to the Sacramento River.

Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) were conducting surveillance on a suspected sturgeon poacher on the river near Clarksburg, when they watched him hook up on what appeared to be a very large fish. As the officers watched, the suspect immediately moved the fish to the bed of his pickup and left the scene.

An additional wildlife officer was called in and conducted a traffic stop. The fish was found to be a white sturgeon, oversized (at 66 inches) and untagged. Suspect Eric Solden, 34, of Hood, was cited accordingly.

CDFW officers quickly measured and photographed the fish for evidence purposes and then transported it back to the river’s edge in an attempt to resuscitate it and release it back to the wild. A group of nearby sturgeon fishermen shot video of the rescue effort while a wildlife officer patiently worked with the nearly dead fish in shallow water, rocking it back and forth to force water over its gills. After about 20 minutes, the fish gained the strength to swim away. The video has been posted on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0QjxpfdVEM&sns=em.

Both white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) and green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) are native to California. They are anadromous, meaning they move from the salt and brackish water to freshwater to spawn. Sturgeon can live to be 100 years or older. They reach sexual maturity at around 15 years old. Because the sturgeon life cycle makes them vulnerable to overharvest, fishing for them is highly regulated.

California’s white sturgeon population is stable enough to barely sustain a recreational fishery. They have a special size limit, called a slot limit, which requires anglers to release any fish caught shorter than 40 inches or greater than 60 inches measured from nose to the fork length of the tail. The larger fish are the most important to survival of the species as they are the most productive breeding fish. Sturgeon anglers are limited to three retained sturgeon per year and are issued three tags for each.

Green sturgeon are a federally threatened species and may not be retained.

CDFW appreciates honest sturgeon anglers’ patience with tagging requirements, as it helps differentiate between law-abiding fishermen and poachers. If you witness or have information about a poaching or polluting incident or any fish and wildlife violation, please report it to CalTIP (888 334-2258). The toll-free number is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You may also report tips via the CalTIP website (www.dfg.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.aspx) or by sending an anonymous tip via text to 847411 (tip411). (The text should begin with “CALTIP,” followed by a space and the message).

Anglers Urged to Return Overdue 2014 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding sturgeon anglers to return their 2014 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law. Although the deadline to report their catch was Jan. 31, so far only about 9,000 (or 18 percent) of the 49,263 report cards sold have been returned. The sport fishing regulations require that all sturgeon anglers return their Report Cards, even the sturgeon anglers who did not encounter sturgeon and who did not fish for white sturgeon.

Without the data gleaned from the late report cards, CDFW’s scientific understanding of the white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations is incomplete. This makes it harder for scientists to recognize possible overfishing of the diminished white sturgeon population and to document accidental catch of the threatened green sturgeon. In this case, addressing the uncertainty could mean new harvest restrictions.

“Anglers who return their cards are providing data that is otherwise unavailable and it’s very good data.  They are also helping to protect the white sturgeon fishery and rebuild both sturgeon populations.  Anglers who do not return report cards are complicating those efforts,” said Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager. “We’re asking anglers to send the information to us now, even though the deadline has passed. It’s truly better late than never.”

Anglers can return the overdue report cards by mail to the address printed on the card or use the CDFW website at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing – 758846-harvest-reporting

White sturgeon and green sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they move from the salt and brackish water to spawn in freshwater. They are both native California species and can live to be more than 100 years old.  California’s white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations were substantially reduced by commercial fishing in the 19th century and the recreational and commercial sturgeon fisheries were (with minor exceptions) closed from 1901 through 1953. Only recreational fishing for sturgeon has been allowed since 1954, and that fishery has become increasingly restricted over time in an effort to rebuild the populations and protect the fishery.

Media Contact:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager, (209) 234-3486
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Anglers Reminded to Submit Steelhead, Sturgeon, Abalone and Salmon Report Card Data in January

Media Contacts:
Glenn Underwood, CDFW License and Revenue Branch, (916) 928-5841
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds anglers and divers that they are required by regulation to report or return their 2014 report cards.

Information collected from sport fishing report cards provides CDFW biologists with important data necessary to monitor and manage California’s diverse recreational fisheries, including preparing recommendations for sport fishing seasons and limits that allow for sustainable levels of take. This science-based management helps to ensure healthy populations of fish for future generations.  2014 report cards are due by Jan. 31, 2015 for steelhead, sturgeon, abalone and north coast salmon fisheries. Spiny lobster report cards must be returned or reported by April 30, 2015. Anglers and divers are required to report even if the report card was lost or they did not fish.  Cards should be reviewed carefully for accuracy before submission.

There are two ways to meet the mandatory reporting requirement. Online reporting (www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing#758846-harvest-reporting) is easy, fast and free. Online reporting includes instant confirmation that the report has been received and accepted. Report cards may also be returned by mail to the addresses listed below.

North Coast Salmon Report Cards
CDFW – Klamath River Project
5341 Ericson Way
Arcata, CA 95521-9269

Abalone Report Cards
CDFW – Abalone Report Card
32330 N. Harbor Dr.
Fort Bragg, CA 95437-5554

Steelhead Report Cards
CDFW – Steelhead Report Card
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Sturgeon Report Cards
CDFW – Sturgeon Report Card
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Any person who fails to return or report a salmon, steelhead, sturgeon or abalone report card to the department by the deadline may be restricted from obtaining the same card in a subsequent license year or may be subject to an additional fee for the issuance of the same card in a subsequent license year.

Please note that license sales agents cannot accept report cards. More information about report cards is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Fishing.

Yolo County Jury Convicts Sturgeon Poachers

A Yolo County jury convicted a repeat sturgeon poacher and his accomplice of multiple felonies and poaching charges stemming from a 2010 poaching investigation. They were convicted June 19, with sentencing scheduled for Aug. 1.

In Feb. 2010, Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 41, of North Highlands, and his partner Petr Dyachishin, 54, of Citrus Heights, were observed catching and retaining oversized sturgeon and processing their eggs into caviar. An extensive investigation conducted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers from the Delta Bay Enhanced Enforcement Project and the Special Operations Unit proved the two were selling the sturgeon and their eggs on the black market for personal profit. Sale of sturgeon, their parts, or any fish caught with a recreational fishing license is illegal.

Krasnodemskiy and Dyachishin were each convicted of two felonies related to conspiracy, in addition to multiple counts of commercial sales of sturgeon, possession of oversized sturgeon, failure to tag sturgeon and possession of sturgeon over the annual limit.

California’s sturgeon population is on the edge of sustaining a recreational fishery. As a result, sturgeon anglers must adhere to strict size, limit and tagging requirements to help wildlife officers distinguish between honest anglers and poachers, and to help CDFW biologists maintain adequate scientific data on the fishery and protect the larger breeding adults.

“Taking these poachers out of business will help ensure a healthy sturgeon population into the future,” said CDFW Captain David Bess, who participated in the investigation.

Nikolay Krasnodemskiy was the subject of multiple sturgeon poaching investigations including Operation Delta Beluga II in 2005, which culminated in a conviction and revocation of his fishing license. Soon after his fishing license was reinstated in 2009, he became the subject of another sturgeon poaching investigation. By Feb. 2010, wildlife officers had observed him continue his sturgeon poaching activities, including commercial sales.

Wildlife officers will seek a permanent revocation of Krasnodemskiy’s fishing license and forfeiture of all fishing gear seized during the investigation.

CDFW appreciates legitimate sturgeon anglers for their patience with sturgeon tagging and recordkeeping requirements, which were integral to making the case as well as the long-term management of the sturgeon fishery. CDFW also thanks the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for their dedication and successful prosecution of the case.

Media Contact:
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

New Tagging Requirements for California Sturgeon Anglers

Media Contact: Lt. Patrick Foy, 916-508-7095

California sturgeon anglers will see a small change to sturgeon tags issued beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Sturgeon anglers have been required to tag all retained legal sized sturgeon for many years. In the past, the date, location and length of the fish caught were recorded on each tag. Now, in addition to legibly and permanently writing the date, time, location and length, the new tags require the angler to physically punch out the date and month printed on each tag.

The bag limit for sturgeon remains at one per day and up to three sturgeon per year. Failure to attach a properly filled out tag to a retained sturgeon is a misdemeanor violation.  The California Fish and Game Commission passed the regulation change on Oct. 2, 2013. Changes were approved by the Office of Administrative Law then filed with the Secretary of State on Dec. 23, 2013.

New Sport Ocean Fishing Regulation Changes for 2013

New 2013-2014 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulation booklets are now available at California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) offices and wherever sport fishing licenses are sold. Anglers and divers need to be aware of a number of new fishing regulations that are in effect this year.

Regulation changes include the following: new size and bag limits for kelp bass, sand bass and spotted bass, and new at-sea fillet size requirements for these basses and ocean whitefish. Changes also include new regulations for groundfish (including rockfish), northern California marine protected areas, and sturgeon. Regulation changes are highlighted throughout the booklet for quick reference.

Effective March 1, 2013, new size, bag, and fillet size limits are in effect for kelp bass, sand bass, and spotted sand bass. Bass must now be at least 14 inches total length or 10 inches alternate length (measured from base of foremost spine of dorsal fin to longest tip of tail), and fillets must be at least 7 ½ inches long and retain a 1 inch square patch of skin when filleted at sea. The new bag limit for these basses is five fish in combination.

New marine protected areas (MPAs) are now in effect in northern California, from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek, near Point Arena. For more information, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa, or the MPA mobile website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA, or a northern California CDFW office.

New sturgeon fishing regulations established a new method of measuring sturgeon and a new size limit of 40 to 60 inches fork length (not total length, as before). Barbless hooks are required when fishing for sturgeon and snares are prohibited. Fish longer than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water. For more information: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=58288&inline=1

New seasons, bag and size limits, and species allowed for take have been established for groundfish. For more information: https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/new-recreational-groundfish-regulations-effective-march-1/

Also effective March 1, 2013, fillets from ocean whitefish filleted at sea must now measure at least 6 ½ inches long, and the entire skin must remain intact.

For the complete set of new and updated ocean sport fishing regulations, CDFW recommends picking up a copy of the new 2013-2014 regulations booklet. Booklets are also available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/sportfishing_regs2013.asp.

Media Contacts:
Mary Patyten, Marine Region, (707) 964-5026
Carrie Wilson, Communications, (831) 649-7191

The 2013-14 Freshwater Sports Fishing Regulation Pamphlet Issued

Media Contacts:
Karen Mitchell, Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-0826
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Changes this year include new regulations on sturgeon, salmon and steelhead retention, new areas where hatchery trout or steelhead may be retained, and a black bass slot limit removal on five waters. Regulation changes are highlighted in the front of the pamphlet for quick reference.

New sturgeon fishing regulations establish a new method of measuring sturgeon and a new size limit of 40-60 inches. Barbless hooks are required when fishing for sturgeon and snares are prohibited. Fish longer than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water. For more information: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=58288&inline=1

Salmon and steelhead anglers in inland valley waters can not fillet steelhead or salmon until they reach their permanent residence, a commercial preservation facility or the fish is being prepared for immediate consumption. All steelhead and salmon must remain in such a condition that their species and size can be identified.

Anglers will be allowed to harvest hatchery trout and hatchery steelhead in most catch and release areas under new regulations.

There will be no slot limit regulation for black bass in McClure, Millerton, Oroville, Orr and Siskiyou lakes. The statewide standard daily bag limit and 12-inch minimum total length regulations will apply on these waters.
Other changes include:
• Yellow Perch have been removed from the sunfish bag limit. Yellow perch have a year-round season with no bag limit.
• Spearfishermen will be allowed to harvest striped bass by spearfishing in the Valley District and all of Black Butte Lake will be open to spearfishing.
• Eulachon may not be taken or possessed.
• Wolf Creek (Mono Co.), Chowchilla River, and Eastman Lake will be open to fishing.
• The Sisquoc River will be closed to all fishing all year to protect listed steelhead.
• Silver King Creek tributaries (Alpine Co.) below Tamarack Lake Creek will be closed to all fishing all year to protect threatened Paiute cutthroat trout.
• Davis and Pine creeks in Modoc County will be closed to the harvest of trout. Catch and release fishing is allowed.
• Smith River Low Flow Regulations – The minimum flow trigger on the Smith River has been increased from 400 cubic feet per second to 600 cubic feet per second.
• Eight amphibians and three reptiles have been removed from the list of species authorized for take with a sport fishing license.

There are other changes to the freshwater sport fishing regulations, so please review all of the 2013-2014 regulations pertaining to the species you intend to pursue.

Anglers and Divers Can Now Report Harvest Results Online

Anglers and divers can now go online to more easily submit their abalone, lobster, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon report cards required by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). These report cards provide important harvest data critical to helping fishery scientists better manage these fishing programs.

Reporting requirements for anglers and divers have not changed, but this online submission option makes the reporting faster and easier. By providing harvest details more quickly, fisheries managers can more promptly put the information to use.

Standard mail reporting is still available and can be done through the address printed on the report card.

To report online, just go to CDFW’s Online License Service (www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/) page and search for your profile by entering your last name, date of birth and ID Number, which can be a driver’s license number, a GO ID or other form of identification. When the system finds an exact match, it automatically logs the user on to their profile, where he or she can purchase a license or complete a harvest report card.

Confirmation numbers will be provided to those who report online, so there will be no need to mail in the report card. Write the number on the report card and retain it for 90 days for survey purposes. Once a report card has been reported, it is no longer valid.

Please note: The law requires sport fishing report cards be submitted by January 31 even if divers and angers were unsuccessful or did not fish at all. Please refer to your report card for specific reporting requirements. For additional information on harvest reporting requirements, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/harvestreporting/.

Details on specific species and reporting availability online are listed below.

Requirements for online reporting
Complete data is required and must be completed within 20 minutes to avoid a system time out.

Sport fishing report cards may be reported online only after the last day of the report card’s validity. All entries on the report card must be entered onto the electronic form, including activity where no catches were made.

Reporting Availability – You may submit your information online for items below beginning on the specified date. Only the data from 2012 report cards and beyond may be submitted online.

Dec. 1, 2012
Abalone Report Card

Jan. 1, 2013
North Coast Salmon Report Card
Spiny Lobster Report Card
Steelhead Report Card
Sturgeon Fishing Report Card

Fishing harvest and effort data is essential to help scientists better manage these fisheries, which is why anglers are required by regulation to submit sport fishing report cards in a timely manner.

Contacts:
Glenn Underwood, License Program Analyst, (916) 928-6882
Carrie Wilson, Environmental Scientist, (831) 649-7191