Up close and personal with sturgeon: WDFW bringing them back from the brink in Lake Roosevelt
KETTLE FALLS, Wash. — For some reason, young sturgeon just weren’t surviving in Lake Roosevelt and the Upper Columbia River.
“Its been going on for about 40 years now, just very sporadic recruitment occurring,” said Bill Baker, a fish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “we are missing young sturgeon in the population.”
That hole in the population found a fix in the early 2000’s when the state began collecting wild fry and raising them at the Sherman Creek Hatchery.
“This has been a stopgap measure preventing that population from winking out,” he said.
It goes beyond sheer numbers though, because there were only a few thousand left at that point, biologists were concerned about the genetic diversity of the population as well.
Thus far, he said their effort has proved successful and they are working hard to figure out what caused the problem in the first place.
“The survival rate has been extremely high in the last few years,” he said.
High enough to begin supporting a small fishery, which began opening seasonally starting in 2017.
On Monday, WDFW fish biologists released an additional 1,250 year-old sturgeon from the hatchery. Before each sturgeon was released, it was tagged, weighed and measured, so that it could be kept track of if caught at a later date.
Of the 150,000 fish raised and released since the program started, 30,000 have reached five years old.
“They are really cool and unique and they can achieve a really large size and can live over 100 years old,” Baker said, “they are really sort of living relics.”
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