Several major changes the last two years have changed the fishery in a positive way:
The lower Columbia and Willamette rivers have been primarily catch and release with very few sturgeon kept. That’s an extra 20,000 keeper-sized fish available. The primary sturgeon spawning grounds have been closed to fishing, areas that were normally heavily fished, reducing the total pressure especially for over-sized sturgeon. Few sturgeon congregate below Bonneville Dam, a historically strong fishery. The sea lions feasting at Bonneville have scattered throughout the system. This winter and spring on the Willamette river, we have caught larger fish than ever. 20 – 40 fish a day have been norm with many over 50 lbs.
Last June and July we followed the sturgeon to Astoria on the lower Columbia. This area is mostly saltwater, which the smaller “shakers” don’t like. Slow days average 20 fish and fast action fishing was 50 sturgeon. Most days several sturgeon between 100 and 300 pounds were caught. Much of the summer Astoria fishery is done is shallow, sandy flats where they feed aggressively. These are the wildest sturgeon we have caught, regularly running 50 – 100 yards, jumping completely out of the water like tarpon.
This is the best catch and release fishery on the planet! We cannot kill the fish but the memories will last forever.