Friday, August 1, 2008

Comments sought on sturgeon management plan

F&G hopes to increase range and numbers of large Snake River game fish


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Idaho Department of Fish and Game Jerry Chapman shows off his catch—a large white sturgeon—hooked on the Snake River near Hagerman. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking public comment on a new draft management plan that seeks to increase the range and numbers of the game fish in the Snake River.

Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are seeking public comment on a draft management plan for the conservation of Snake River white sturgeon in Idaho.

White sturgeon are the largest freshwater game fish in North America, historically reaching lengths of more than 15 feet and weights of more than 1,000 pounds. They can live to be 100 years old.

The species' scientific name is Acipenser transmontanus. Acipenser is an old-world name meaning sturgeon and transmontanus meaning beyond the mountains, a Fish and Game news release states.

White sturgeon are highly sought after by anglers across their range in Idaho. The historical range of Snake River white sturgeon extended from Shoshone Falls, located in south-central Idaho, downstream into the Columbia River.

The draft Fish and Game management plan only considers white sturgeon found in the Snake River in Idaho, not the population in the Kootenai River, in northern Idaho.

Snake River white sturgeon have declined in abundance due to a variety of factors, including over-harvesting, dam construction, water management and water pollution, the Fish and Game news release states. The agency's draft management plan describes actions that could increase the range and population abundance of white sturgeon in the Snake River.

Fish and Game will work with other agencies and stakeholders to accomplish actions identified in the plan. To view and comment on the Snake River white sturgeon management plan go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/apps/surveys/sturgeon/.

The white sturgeon is a primitive bottom-dwelling fish that has shown little change in thousands of years. Some of the oldest fossil records of sturgeon date back 70 million years, according to Fish and Game.

The fish is characterized by its large body, head and mouth and long cylindrical body. It has four "barbels" located in front of its large, wide and toothless mouth. Sturgeon have no scales, but instead have "scutes" along their body for protection. Scutes are actually large modified scales, which serve as a type of armor.

The white sturgeon is a slow-growing anadromous fish, meaning they migrate between fresh water and the ocean during their lifetime. Although today's sturgeon living in the Snake River in the Magic Valley region are unable to migrate to the ocean anymore due to downstream dams, resident populations do exist in the stretches of river between dams.

People interested in fishing for sturgeon need to be prepared for a battle. Fish in the Magic Valley region can grow as large as nine feet long. Fish and Game recommends using heavy line, a good reel and a strong pole.

Fish and Game officials expect to conduct public open house meetings on the plan at the agency's regional offices in Jerome, Nampa and Lewiston. Comments will be accepted until Sept. 5. For more information, contact Scott Grunder, native species coordinator, at (208) 287-2774.




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