Sturgeon plan irks Mid-Valley anglers
State officials may close sturgeon season this year in an attempt to save dwindling populations.
Anglers say that bites.
“Aside from the fact that I like to fish for sturgeon, it's going to cost us a tremendous amount of money as a bait store,” said Bob Boucke of Johnson's Bait and Tackle in Yuba City .
Boucke said he would prefer the commission limit the number of sturgeon anglers could land rather than simply close the season. Current regulations allow for a one-fish daily bag limit and a 46 to 72-inch size limit. Sturgeon fishing is already prohibited in other areas of the state.
“They don't know enough about sturgeon to know what is going on for sure,” Boucke said.
“There's been a big fuss,” said M.J. Bolin of Sutter County's Fish and Game Advisory Commission.
The Department of Fish and Game announced last week that the Fish and Game Commission will consider implementing an emergency zero bag limit in an effort to save the fish.
Sturgeon counts peaked at about 144,000 in 1998. They have since waned due to poor spawning success, migration impediments, entrainment and fishing, according to the department.
“We're not suggesting fishing is the root of the decline. There's a natural pattern going on,” said DFG Senior Biologist Marty Gingras. “Right now, we are at a low end of the pattern; fishing is superimposed on that. We have to manage the low ends very carefully.”
Department officials suggest dealing with the population decrease by implementing emergency regulations effective this year, enhancing monitoring of the sturgeon population and making long-term changes to fishing regulations starting in 2007.
Emergency regulations would effectively conclude this year's Central Valley surgeon fishing season in March. The proposal calls also for an end to fishing for green sturgeon throughout the state.
“If successfully implemented, this plan will improve the ability of California sturgeon to survive natural and other impacts to their population without affecting the opportunity to fish for sturgeon and with minimal reduction in the opportunity to harvest non-spawning sturgeon,” DFG Director Ryan Broddrick said in a statement.
Department officials will hear feedback and other ideas of how to handle the population problem at meetings to be scheduled for February and March, Gingras said.
The proposed limit has inspired many anglers to attend Thursday's 10 a.m. commission meeting at 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento.
Bolin said she is concerned about how quickly the commission is moving on the issue. Many anglers are unaware of the possible halt and will likely feel alienated from the discussion, she said.
“I believe they need to get input,” Bolin added. “It's happening too fast. Maybe there's some validity to this, but who has had time to look into it?”
Appeal-Democrat reporter Eve Hightower can be reached at 749-4724. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.