Tag Archives: Sturgeon

CDFW Busts Suspected Sturgeon Poachers; Sacramento County District Attorney Files Charges

Six Sacramento residents have been charged with multiple Fish and Game Code violations after California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers concluded a multi-week investigation of a sturgeon poaching operation.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office will pursue a case against Sacramento residents Mikhail Tverdokhlebov, 54; Aleksandr Postnov, 48; Sang Saephan, 29; Narong Srikham, 35; Mike Keopraseut, 46; and Roongroji Sritula, 48. The six men face charges including conspiracy to unlawfully take sturgeon; take and possession of sturgeon for commercial purposes; unlawful possession of sturgeon; possession of untagged and oversize sturgeon (the maximum size is 60”); and failure to properly return/report sturgeon fishing cards.

Extensive evidence of illegal activities was uncovered by wildlife officers as they served search warrants at multiple locations where the suspected members of the group ran their poaching operation.

At one location officers found an oversized, untagged sturgeon that was barely alive and lay flopping on the floor of the garage. The fish could not be saved. Officers also found more than 20 jars of caviar (processed sturgeon roe or fish eggs), some labeled with prices; weights and sturgeon meat labeled with prices; and fish processing equipment including scales and canning equipment. Officers seized fishing rods and tackle along with various CDFW licenses and tags, and other tools and evidence of illegal poaching activities.

If convicted, the six suspects could face several thousand dollars in fines and penalties, incarceration, forfeiture of assets and equipment and revocation of fishing privileges.

Two types of sturgeon, white and green, are native to the anadromous waterways of California. White sturgeon, which was taken in this case, is highly sought after for its meat and roe. This creates a commercial black market that leads to rampant poaching of the species. CDFW spends significant resources on equipment and personnel hours to combat sturgeon poaching and protect this iconic species of California’s Central Valley.

“Illegal trafficking of wildlife is a multi-million dollar black market industry often linked to criminal organizations,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “Wildlife trafficking threatens the stability of species, the economy and public safety, not only in California, but also globally.”

Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting, or pollution is encouraged to contact CDFW CalTIP, a confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, is printed on the back of every hunting and fishing license. Tips can also be relayed by text to tip411, which allows the public to text message an anonymous tip to wildlife officers and lets the officers respond back creating an anonymous two-way conversation. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411). There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and how to download the new CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.


Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (530) 523-6720

CDFW Rescue Efforts Save Listed Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) biologists have rescued hundreds of fish — including dozens of endangered and threatened salmon, steelhead and sturgeon — that were stranded in Sacramento Valley bypasses after recent heavy rains.

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The fish — including endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley steelhead and a threatened green sturgeon – were trapped in Fremont and Tisdale Weirs, flood control structures off the Sacramento River, when flood waters receded after mid-March rainstorms.

Rescue efforts began in late March, concluding in mid-April. Seventeen CDFW staff participated in the rescue efforts at the weirs, using beach seines, a sturgeon hoop net, dip nets and crowder racks to capture fish trapped within each weir apron.

The bulk of the rescued fish were salmon, with biologists capturing and tagging 41 adults and 160 juveniles. Based on length-at-date, the young salmon are believed to be a mixture of spring-run and fall-run fish. Staff also rescued one oversized adult green sturgeon, a massive female white sturgeon and hundreds of other fish, including Sacramento sucker, Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento splittail, striped bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish. All of the fish were moved back to the Sacramento River and released.

DNA tests are currently underway on a sampling of the fish rescued. Results will verify biologists’ field assessments that the adult salmon include winter-run and spring-run Chinook.

“We know these areas are prime stranding sites, so we keep them on our radar each year,” said Colin Purdy, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist. “Rescuing state and federally listed species is a priority — particularly the adult fish, because they contribute to future generations. But all of the fish we pull out of the weir are transported back to the river for release.”

Biologists also used special tracking equipment in an effort to document the behavior and survival of the rescued fish. The green sturgeon, an adult male stranded in the Fremont Weir apron, was tagged with a surgically implanted acoustic tag on March 29 before being released into the Sacramento River. It was subsequently tracked on real-time acoustic receivers heading upstream toward its likely spawning grounds near Red Bluff.  The white sturgeon, a post-spawn female, was rescued from the Tisdale Weir on March 31. It was also given an acoustic tag and was subsequently tracked heading downstream.

Four adult Chinook salmon rescued on April 8 have since been detected moving upstream by real-time acoustic receivers.

All juvenile steelhead rescued were implanted with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags. Staff from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries oversaw their care and release as part of CDFW’s Central Valley Steelhead Monitoring Program.

CDFW has a team of scientists who monitor locations along the Sacramento River where fish tend to enter the Yolo and Sutter bypasses during high flows and become stranded once flows subside. Initial surveys of the fish stranded in water behind Fremont Weir documented four sturgeon. Only two of these were recovered during rescue efforts. CDFW is seeking information regarding possible illegal harvest or take of these two oversized sturgeon.

If you have information about this or any other fish and wildlife violation, please dial the toll-free CalTIP number, 1 888 334-CALTIP (888 334-2258), 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone with a cell phone may send an anonymous tip to CDFW by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-2943
Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (208) 220-1169

Map-based Sport Fishing Regulations Offers Ease of Use for Anglers

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has launched a beta release of an online location-based Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations tool to help anglers identify those regulations that relate to the area they plan to fish. The new tool provides an easy way for anglers to find the sections of the regulations that are relevant to them.

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The new fishing regulations tool can be found at https://map.dfg.ca.gov/sportfishingregs/. It is designed to work on a smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.

When accessed from a smart phone or a tablet with GPS, the map-based tool will automatically present the angler with the sport fishing regulations that apply to their current location based on the GPS in the device. When accessed from a tablet without GPS or from a desktop computer, the user can click anywhere on the map to discover the regulations for that area.

The new tool includes the Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations booklet, found on our Regulations webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regulations.

The regulations are also now available in the existing Fishing Guide, available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/guide.

“This is a big step forward in making the complex fishing regulations more accessible to the angling community,” said CDFW Acting Fisheries Branch Chief Roger Bloom. “As we continue to simplify our fishing regulations, they will be kept up-to-date within this new tool.”

This is a beta release that CDFW staff will be actively working to improve. CDFW welcomes comments or suggestions for improvement. Please send feedback to fishingguide@wildlife.ca.gov.

Media Contacts:
Roger Bloom, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-3777
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Anglers Urged to Return Overdue 2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding sturgeon anglers to return their 2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law. Although the deadline to report their catch was Jan. 31, so far only about 13,000 (or 27 percent) of the 48,338 report cards sold have been returned. The sport fishing regulations require that all sturgeon anglers return their report cards, even those who did not encounter sturgeon and who did not fish for white sturgeon.

Without the data gleaned from the roughly 35,000 late report cards, CDFW’s scientific understanding of the white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations is incomplete. This makes it harder for scientists to assess the white sturgeon population and to document accidental catch of the threatened green sturgeon.  Addressing the uncertainty could mean new harvest restrictions and certainly means more expense.

“Anglers who return their report cards are providing very good data that is otherwise unavailable.  They are also helping to protect the white sturgeon fishery and rebuild both sturgeon populations,” said Marty Gingras, CDFW Sturgeon Program Manager. “Anglers who do not return report cards — especially the many thousands of avid sturgeon anglers — are complicating those efforts. We’re asking anglers to send the information to us now, even though the deadline has passed.”

Anglers can return the overdue report cards by mail to the address printed on the card or — until April 1 — use the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/fishing#758846-harvest-reporting.

In continuing efforts to both encourage anglers to return their 2015 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards as required by law and to understand more about the missing data, CDFW used the Automated License Data System and a scientific phone survey to contact more than 6,000 avid sturgeon anglers during the last few months.  The phone survey showed that many avid sturgeon anglers are choosing not to (rather than forgetting to) return their report cards and that substantial catch data is being withheld. Both reasons were previously considered plausible but had never before been quantified.

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 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.  Green sturgeon is a threatened species and may not be fished for or harvested.

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

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.

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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