For the first time in a generation, anglers are catching white sturgeon in Lake Roosevelt.
Fishery managers from the Spokane Tribe of Indians, Colville Confereated Tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife opened the fishery because hatchery orgin sturgeon produced from wild adult broodstock from 2001-2010 had much higher survival rates than anticipated.
Said Jason McLellan, Colville Confederated Tribes Research Scientist, “We didn’t know how well they would survive since this was a brand-new program. Because of our facilities in Washington, which have ideal water temperatures straight out of the ground, we were releasing sturgeon that were twice the size of what was being released in Canada. Despite equalizing numbers at release, the larger Washington produced fish and those fish released in Canada during the first two years of the program survived at disproportionately greater rates. Collectively, this has led to an over-abundance of some release groups or families.”
To help thin the population of hatchery fish and preserve genetic diversity, current estimates are that tribal and non-tribal anglers will collectively have the opportunity to harvest approximately 20,000 hatchery sturgeon over the next 10 years.
In the late 1990s, researchers documented a steep decline in white strugeon from Grand Coulee Dam to Revelstoke, Canada. Studies showed that population dwindled to about 3,000 adults with few signs of successful juvenile production.
In 2000, the Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Team was formed with over 25 partners from the United States and Canada. The recovery team has focused on both trying to supplement wild sturgeon to restore demographics and preserve genetic diversity, and researching the cause of decline.
The supplementation program has been evolving since it was started in 2001. Initially, adult broodstock were captured in Canada and spawned to produce offspring for release in Canada. Beginning in 2004 (broodyear 2003), Washington received eggs, larvae, and juveniles from Canada and raised them at a WDFW hatchery for release in to Lake Roosevelt. In 2006, Washington became self-sufficient by collecting and using adult broodstock captured on the U.S. side.
Fishery managers from the Spokane Tribe, Colville Tribe and WDFW are also equally committed to conservation, enhancement and restoration of native species. 2017 was an exciting year for them because the white sturgeon recovery program opened a fishery season for hatchery sturgeon.
SUPPORT THE CREEL
Creel surveys, tagging and radio telemetry are examples of on-going research and evaluation managers do to strike an effective balance. Program funding for research, management and stocking comes from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Fish and Wildlife program as part of mitigating the effects of Columbia River dam operations.
Accurate and useful creel data is the key for the continued success of the Lake Roosevelt Fishery. All anglers are encouraged to participate in the creel survey. When creel clerks interview you, they take up as little of your time as possible. The data collected is a valuable tool used by managers to develop strategies to sustain and improve the fishery for all anglers.