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In 2003, the white sturgeon was designated as an endangered species (see

In 2006, four of the six sturgeon areas within British Columbia, (the Kootenay, the Columbia, the Nechako, and the Upper Fraser), were listed under the federal Species at Risk Act, also known as SARA (see Fishing for sturgeon in these areas is no longer permitted.

The Middle-Fraser River and Lower-Fraser River are the only two areas that were not listed under SARA and while a managed catch-and-release fishing is allowed within those areas the sturgeon are still considered to be at risk due to a number of circumstances.

At the last White Sturgeon Community Working Group meeting, a decision was made to review the present white sturgeon best handling practices document, Releasing Sturgeon The Gentle Way. The next meeting will take place mid to late April 2011. This is the first step in preparing for the SARA review to come in 2012.

As the CWG member representing the recreational sport angling community at large, my mandate is to initiate input and ideas about the current best handling practices document, discuss those ideas fully to reach a consensus for the recreational segment, and then present those ideas with the other members of the CWG.

You may not agree with the restriction or you may want more clarification on exactly what the restriction should be. Now is your chance to provide your feedback. Let’s make sure that we can all support the document that we end up with.

In order to assist in logging and reviewing all of the input and the ideas shared, please email me your thoughts to:

Thank you in advance for your assistance,

Stewart Kemle (GOFISHING)

Here is the document to comment on ......

Releasing White Sturgeon The Gentle Way

The majority of white sturgeon populations in British Columbia are listed under the federal Species at Risk Act and are not open to angling. Since populations in the Lower and Middle Fraser River are relatively healthy, they are able to support exciting world class fisheries. However, these populations are still vulnerable to impacts from angling, habitat destruction, pollution and salmon net fisheries, and they are still provincially and nationally designated as endangered. In addition to being endangered, white sturgeon mature after 17 to 20 years and can live for more than 100 years, so impacts or injuries can be long lasting. As such, all sturgeon angling in the province is catch and release only, and will be more strictly managed in the future.

Indications are that catch and release sturgeon angling can be a low impact activity. However, to minimize harm to fish, extra care and attention must be taken to ensure their health and survival, and to maintain the treasured fishery. Anglers must abide by the following capture and handling practices.

1. Angling tackle should be heavy enough to handle these potential large fish.
Use heavy rods and reels, and at least 100 lb. manufacture rated test line. Play and release fish as rapidly as possible. A fish played for too long may not recover.

2. Only barbless hooks are permitted while sturgeon angling.
Well embedded hooks can be removed with long needle-nose pliers, or a hook remover. Grab the bend of the hook and twist, and the hook will dislodge. Be quick, but gentle. A fish that is deeply hooked, hooked on or near the gills, or bleeding profusely has a much lower chance of survival once released. You can improve its chances by cutting the leader and releasing the fish with the hook left in. The line will rot and the hook will eventually drop out.

3. Leave the fish in the water wherever possible.
A fish suffocates when it’s out of the water, and is at risk of internal injuries due to its own weight, especially if it is large (greater than 1.5 m in length). Ropes, tailers, nooses or any other device are not used on any part of any fish to hold or land the fish.

4. Land larger fish in shallow water near the shore.
Do not drag any fish out of the water onto the shore. Do not land a large fish at the boat and then tow it by the tail to shore. Towing a fish to shore is very damaging to the fish and can lessen its’ chances of survival or even kill it. If you land a large fish at the boat, then release it at the boat. Smaller fish can be landed on the boat by lifting and cradling it with gloved hands underneath and behind the front fins and just forward of the tail. It should be placed into a wetted sling. A fish should never be pulled into a boat by using a rope or by its’ gill plates. mouth, or pectoral fins. Use as many people to cradle the fish as is necessary to not hurt it.

5. If you handle a fish, then do so with care.
Keep your fingers away from the gills and out of the gill plates, and don’t squeeze of hug it. If you want photographs then leave larger fish in the water, smaller fish should be cradled. Have your camera ready and be quick so the fish is only briefly disturbed. Take the time to hold the fish in the water to recover. Point the fish upstream into the current while reviving it, and when the fish begins to struggle and swim normally, let it go.

Take Care and be gentle
to help maintain this amazing fishery & allow these gentle giants of the Fraser to live another day.

Here are some issues that hopefully will promote some discussion about this important document .....

1) Should something be included (maybe Section 2) regarding what to do regarding a foul hooked fish?

2) In Secton 4 it refers to a "wetted sling" in that every sturgeon fisher should go out and purchase a sling and have it on board. Is this something every person fishing for sturgeon should have ......... or only those tagging sturgeon?

3) In Section 4 clarify "Do not land a large fish at the boat and then tow it by the tail to shore. Towing a fish to shore is very damaging ........". Certainly towing a fish by the tail backwards to shore is very damaging to the fish ....... but does this also include slowly leading a large fish just a short distance toward shore?

4) One more concern is that the document seems to imply in Section 4 that handling a sturgeon by "crabbing it by the mouth" is very harmful. If we are to admit this then we certainly must be hurting it when we stick a 9/0 hook in it's mouth and play it for 1 hour. Historically, crabbing a fish by the mouth to remove the hook or to tag it has been the norm.

There are possibly more concerns if you review the document closely ........... these are just some main concerns ........


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