Tag Archives: Sturgeon

Anglers Encouraged to Return Sturgeon Tags for Recognition and Monetary Reward

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Media Contact:
Marty Gingras, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (209) 234-3486
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Reward Offered for Return of Satellite Tags from Federally Protected Green Sturgeon

State and federal fisheries officials are asking for public assistance and offering a $20 reward for the return of each satellite tag from green sturgeon. The satellite tags, which are programmed to release from the fish after a predetermined time, are most likely to be found along the open ocean coastal portions of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and the shores and waters of San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay, Suisun Bay and the Delta.

Biologists use the tags to gather information on the Southern Distinct Population Segment of green sturgeon, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The tag rewards are being offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in collaboration with the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program, UC Davis and central California commercial halibut trawl fishermen.

If you see a live fish with a tag attached, do not remove the tag from the fish. Instead, note the tag number and call or email the point of contact printed on the tag. If you find a detached tag, please pick it up for return and contact Kristine Lesyna , CDFW Marine Region, (650) 631-6742, or Ethan Mora, NOAA Fisheries, (831) 420-3663.

More information about the tagging study can be found on the NOAA Fisheries Green Sturgeon Bycatch Project webpage.

Media Contacts:
Kristine Lesyna, CDFW Marine Region, (650) 631-6742
Ethan Mora, NOAA Fisheries, (831) 420-3663
Carrie Wilson, CDFW Communications, (831) 649-7191
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries, (562) 980-4006

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.

###

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.

####

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).