Anglers, scientists consider potential changes in sturgeon regulations

Trisha Nestler, Captain Virginia Salvador, Becky McDonogh and Katie Brixie hold up a large white sturgeon before releasing it back into the waters of Suisun Bay on Nov. 12.
Trisha Nestler, Captain Virginia Salvador, Becky McDonogh and Katie Brixie hold up a large white sturgeon before releasing it back into the waters of Suisun Bay on Nov. 12.

Pittsburg – Fishing for white sturgeon has been relatively productive on the West Delta and Suisun Bay over the past two weeks, but some anglers and prominent scientists are supporting changes in fishing regulations to preserve the prehistoric fish for the future.

Hundreds of white sturgeon and some green sturgeon perished in San Francisco and San Pablo bays in late August in a massive fish kill spurred by a red tide algae bloom, but the exact number of fish killed is unknown.

Captain Zack Medinas of Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures reported “very good” sturgeon fishing on his latest few trips, but ponders how long this fishery will last at current rates of harvest.

“On Saturday, Nov. 12, Katie Brixie, Gabby Scott, Becky McDonogh and Trisha Nestler caught and released four slot size fish between 42 and 55 inches long while fishing with me and Captain Virginia Salvador,” said Medinas “We also released one oversized fish around 70 inches and 2 two small shakers.”

They fished salmon roe in the Little Suisun Cut and Middle Ground from 24 to 70 feet deep on a small tide. They also landed a couple of 24 to 25 inch striped bass while enjoying beautiful fall weather.

On Friday, a granddad, his son and grandson experienced a triple hook-up, with two slot fish and one oversized fish hooked and released while fishing with Medinas. They also released another oversized fish,

“We hooked the fish in ‘the creek’ by Buoy 6 at 25 feet deep and by the Mothball Fleet. You have to work on hunting for the sturgeon now,” he stated.

Medinas believes that in the last five years the numbers of sturgeon have declined in numbers. During the last two years of drought, many sturgeon have stayed in the Pittsburg area and many were harvested by anglers.

“At best white sturgeon are considered semi-anadromous,” he observed. “The majority will never leave the bay, delta and river. In contrast, green sturgeon are highly migratory. The problem now is that there is too much take of slot-sized white sturgeon.”

“Anglers have gotten way better at catching sturgeon,” he noted. “Before the internet, we would get reports from local newspapers and most reports would be days old. Now the reports are on Facebook and other social media in real time. Sturgeon are like cattle that come into an area and hold for a few days to a few weeks. They are very vulnerable to fishing pressure.”

“That’s why we practice catch and release for sturgeon,” he stated. “The value of sturgeon is not in their flesh but in the epic battles that they provide. There need to be changes in the regulations."

He would support a sturgeon fishing season where legal-sized fish can be kept from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31, with catch-and-release required the rest of the year.

“I’m on the water as much or more than anybody and I can see way less sturgeon being caught now. Where are our big fish, the fish in the 6 to 10-foot range?” he added.

“We’re killing sturgeon when they are four and five feet long. The responsibility of hunters and fishermen is to protect and respect the resources. For that, we need good management. Right now we don’t have good management. We need to have a new sturgeon management plan,” he concluded. Information: (925) 497-7171.

A recent California Water Blog post, “White sturgeon: is an ancient survivor facing extinction in California?,” agrees largely with Medinas’ assessment that changes in sturgeon fishing regulations are needed. A group of 12 fishery scientists, including Andrew L. Repel, Andrea Schreier, and Peter B. Moyle from University of California, Davis, are the authors: https://californiawaterblog.com/2022/11/06/white-sturgeon-is-an-ancient-survivor-facing-extinction-in-california/.

“Sturgeons are the redwoods of the San Francisco Estuary,” they wrote. “This past summer, the H. akashiwo (red tide) bloom spread like a wildfire and wiped out a huge and still unknown fraction of the estuary’s old-growth fishery. Although white sturgeon have proven resilient in the past, there is no reason to be sanguine about their future now, especially in California.”

“Continued harvest at current rates will delay, or possibly prevent, recovery of this ancient species (Blackburn et al. 2019). Action needs to be taken now to protect California white sturgeon to assure this ancient population survives long into the future,” they continued.

One of the possible actions they suggest to arrest such a future is to “consider temporarily making fisheries for white sturgeon catch-and-release, while recruiting sturgeon anglers as citizen scientists to help with life-history investigations.”

Crab/Rockfish Combos

Since the crab season started Nov. 5, the crab and rockfish action has been superb. The Bass Tub checked in with limits of rockfish and Dungeness crab after fishing at the Farallon Islands on Sunday, Nov. 13. Information: www.basstub.com

Camanche Lake Trout

Rainbow trout plants continue, with 900 pounds of rainbows going to the South Shore Ramp, 900 pounds to the South Shore Trout Pond and 900 pounds to the North Shore Ramp on Friday, Nov. 11. Big fish honors go to Cody Pate, who caught a 9.40-pound trout at the Trout Pond on Nov. 12. Information: (209)763-5121.

Contact Stockton Record correspondent Dan Bacher at danielbacher53@gmail.com

This article originally appeared on The Record: Changes to sturgeon fishing regulations support by anglers