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STOCKTON FWO: Service Works With Anglers to Promote White Sturgeon Restoration Effort
California-Nevada Offices , September 25, 2012
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USFWS biologist Zac Jackson collects data from a white sturgeon caught by an angler during the Original Sturgeon Derby.
USFWS biologist Zac Jackson collects data from a white sturgeon caught by an angler during the Original Sturgeon Derby. - Photo Credit: USFWS
USFWS biologist Bill Powell checks mat for sturgeon eggs on the San Joaquin River.
USFWS biologist Bill Powell checks mat for sturgeon eggs on the San Joaquin River. - Photo Credit: USFWS
USFWS biologist Zac Jackson releases an 80-inch white sturgeon after tagging on the San Joaquin River.
USFWS biologist Zac Jackson releases an 80-inch white sturgeon after tagging on the San Joaquin River. - Photo Credit: USFWS

The Original Sturgeon Derby in Bay Point, Calif., held on Feb. 4 and 5 is another opportunity for biologists and the public to learn more about sturgeon population and life history.

The Original Sturgeon Derby is simply a fishing contest.  However, 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 anglers that catch fish that are closest to a previously specified length (a wheel is spun at the beginning of the derby to select the target length).  For example, this year the target length was 59 inches and the winning anglers caught fish between 58 15/16 inches and 59 1/16 inches.  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.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP) biologist Zac Jackson, and 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. During the derby successful anglers were asked for permission to collect tissue samples to evaluate age, growth, genetics, migratory history, diet, and contaminant levels in captured sturgeon. In order to collect the types of tissues that are needed to conduct research, the Service would need to kill the fish. The AFRP biologists strive to avoid negative population impacts with their work, so working with anglers that are already harvesting these fish provides a convenient way to collect the information needed while eliminating further population impacts.

Additional Service efforts in support of sturgeon conservation include research and monitoring in the San Joaquin River. AFRP staff monitored egg mats at four sites on the San Joaquin River between Feb. 16 and May 29. The mats are deployed to collect eggs and detect sturgeon spawning events in order to better understand how sturgeons use the San Joaquin River, what habitat they prefer, and how current water management operations may influence sturgeon behavior. A total of 65 white sturgeon eggs were collected from all four sites. Preliminary data analyses suggest that at least six spawning events were observed, three new spawning locations were identified, and spawning appeared to coincide with increasing water levels.

Jackson also led 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. Between March 22 and April 26, Jackson implanted acoustic transmitters in ten, 40–80 inch-long white sturgeon that were captured with nets and angling gear. The transmitters will allow biologists to track the movements of these fish for approximately ten years.

Information from public collaboration and other sturgeon monitoring efforts are critically important to the successful restoration and managment of fish in California. The Service will continue to develop restoration recommendations that can be implemented to restore native sturgeon populations in the San Joaquin River.

 


Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, ramon_martin@fws.gov



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