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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

STOCKTON FWO: Service Works With Anglers to Promote White Sturgeon Restoration Effort

Region 8, February 3, 2013
USFWS biologists Mariah Talbott from the Bozeman Fish Technology Center and Jerrad Goodell from the AFRP collect blood and fin ray samples from a white sturgeon caught by an angler during the Original Sturgeon Derby.
USFWS biologists Mariah Talbott from the Bozeman Fish Technology Center and Jerrad Goodell from the AFRP collect blood and fin ray samples from a white sturgeon caught by an angler during the Original Sturgeon Derby. - Photo Credit: n/a
Sturgeon caught at the 2013 Original Sturgeon Derby is weighed.
Sturgeon caught at the 2013 Original Sturgeon Derby is weighed. - Photo Credit: n/a
Sturgeon have four barbels used to sense food and bony scutes down the side of their body.
Sturgeon have four barbels used to sense food and bony scutes down the side of their body. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Zachary Jackson

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) attended the Original Sturgeon Derby in Bay Point, Calif., held on Feb. 2 and 3 and partnered with anglers to learn more about the Central Valley white sturgeon population.


The Original Sturgeon Derby is a fishing contest, unlike many fishing contests, tournaments, or derbies. Winners of this derby are not crowned based on catching the longest, heaviest, or most fish, but rather the fish that are closest to a previously specified length (a wheel is spun at the beginning of the derby to select the target length). The reason for this fairly unique format is that anglers may only keep white sturgeon that are between 46 and 66 inches in total length, precluding the anglers and derby organizers from simply targeting the largest fish. This year the target length was 57 inches and the top prize on Saturday and Sunday went to anglers bringing in fish measuring 57 1/32 and 57 1/8 inches, respectively. Of the 1,022 anglers registered, there were 36 sturgeon submitted for measurement during the 32-hour derby.


Biologists from the Service's Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP), and the Bozeman Fish Technology Center, along with Cramer Fish Sciences staff arrived before the start of the derby and began talking with organizers and participants about current knowledge and information gaps regarding the local white sturgeon population. Throughout the day biologists asked successful anglers for permission to collect tissue samples to evaluate age, growth, genetics, migratory history, diet, and contaminant levels in captured sturgeon. This research project provided a unique opportunity for Service biologists to work directly with anglers whom were already harvesting these fish providing a convenient way to collect the information needed without the need to kill addition fish for tissue samples.


Additional Service efforts in support of sturgeon conservation include research and monitoring in the San Joaquin River. AFRP biologists will be conducting spawning surveys throughout the Spring of 2013. Egg mats will be deployed during spawning surveys to collect eggs and detect sturgeon spawning events in order to better understand how white sturgeon use the San Joaquin River, what habitat they prefer, and how current water management operations may influence sturgeon behavior and reproduction.

The Service will continue to lead efforts to tag adult white sturgeon in order to gain a better understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of white sturgeon in the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. Adult white sturgeon will be targeted with nets and angling gear and once captured will be implanted with acoustic transmitters. The transmitters will allow biologists to track the movements of these fish for approximately ten years. Additional sampling this spring will also target larval white sturgeon in order to better understand if the San Joaquin River provides a significant source of production for the Central Valley white sturgeon population.

Information from public collaboration and other sturgeon monitoring efforts are critically important to the successful restoration and management of fish in California. The Service will continue to support efforts to restore native sturgeon populations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Zac Jackson works for the Anadromous Fish Restoration Program at the Stockton FWS Office in Lodi, Calif.

Contact Info: Paul Cadrett, 209-946-6400 x 312, paul_cadrett@fws.gov