The white sturgeon is the largest of all freshwater fish in North America, able to achieve weights in the biggest specimens of close to 1,500 lbs. In Washington State, anglers may fish for this potentially goliath species. Strict regulations are in place regarding the taking of the white sturgeon in Washington's waters.
Catch Record Card
Any angler in Washington targeting white sturgeon must have in her possession a catch record card. This card records information on species such as white sturgeon, salmon, steelhead and halibut so that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife can make accurate counts of the recreational catch of these species within the state. The catch record card for sturgeon allows an angler to record the location of his catch, the date he caught the white sturgeon and the size of the fish. Anglers must fill the card out, using ink, and mail this information back to the agency. The state requires them to return the card whether they caught a white sturgeon or not, indicating the lack of success in a special area on the card. Only the information pertaining to sturgeons that anglers decided to retain goes on the catch record card.
Sturgeon Fishing Regulations
Washington State white sturgeon regulations dictate that an angler can employ only one baited barbless hook when fishing for the species. If an angler catches a white sturgeon but does not wish to keep the fish, she must quickly let it go back into the water. Those white sturgeons that attain huge sizes cannot be even partially lifted out of the water once caught, in order to avoid injuring the fish in any way. Night fishing closure rules apply for white sturgeon in Washington; you may fish for this species one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise, but not during the night in between. An angler can keep no more than five white sturgeons per license year, with the Washington State fishing license covering the span from Apr. 1 through Mar. 31 of the next year. An angler can only keep one white sturgeon per day and anyone catching a tagged white sturgeon that is not a legal sized fish cannot remove the tags. After keeping a tagged fish of legal size, the angler has to remove the tags from the sturgeon and send them back to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Rules for Specific Waterways
Anglers must pay close attention to the specific rules governing white sturgeon fishing in certain waterways. These regulations pertain to the minimum and maximum length of fish you may keep and when you can fish for white sturgeon legally in those waters. For example, in the Columbia River in one designated section, an angler may keep only those sturgeons that are in the range from 42 inches to 60 inches between the dates of Jan.1 through Apr. 30. From May 1 to May 9, white sturgeon fishing is by catch-and-release only in this part of the Columbia, with no individual allowed to keep a sturgeon during this time. The minimum size changes to 45 inches with the maximum staying at 60 inches from May 10 through June 24, with the rest of the calendar year dedicated only to catch-and-release white sturgeon angling in this section of the river.
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: 2010-2011 Washington Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet
- "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes"; Carter Gilbert and James Williams; 2008