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Guidelines tightened on harvest of sturgeon from Columbia River

OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission tightened conservation guidelines for Columbia River sturgeon and approved a new two-year package of sport fishing rules during its Feb. 4-6 meeting in Olympia.

The commission - a nine member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) - adopted a new management policy that would reduce the harvest of Columbia River white sturgeon by up to 45 percent this year.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday supported a 35 percent reduction in the white sturgeon quota. WDFW staff will now work with fishery managers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a joint sturgeon management agreement for the coming 2010 season.

In other action, the commission adopted dozens of new sport fishing rules that affect a variety of waters around the state. The new rules were developed with public input and discussed at the commission's November and December meetings.

The sport fishing rules range from changing the annual opening date for wild steelhead retention on coastal streams to a new prohibition on the harvest of all species of "unclassified" marine fish and invertebrates.

However, a few rule proposals were not adopted, including a ban on the use of small lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes in Washington and a proposal that would close fishing for bottomfish and halibut off the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The commission agreed to schedule additional public input during the next several months on the two proposals before acting on any proposed changes.

In addition, the commission voted to keep the current harvest schedule and daily bag limit for the Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery pending a full review of the existing management policy for the fishery.

Most of the new sport fishing rules take effect May 1. However, a new rule that requires anglers to use barbless hooks when fishing for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River from the mouth of the river to McNary Dam does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2011.

In other business, WDFW fishery managers outlined their plans for the spring chinook fishery on the Columbia River that would ensure meeting conservation goals, catch balancing responsibilities between tribal and state fisheries, and fishing opportunities throughout the river and its tributaries.

Washington's commission asked staff to maximize fishing opportunities for spring chinook on the Columbia River and ensure more salmon return to upriver fisheries, while meeting conservation measures.

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