New rules now in effect for Washington sturgeon fisheries

Photo Credit: Courtesy of WA Department of Fish & Wildlife

by WA Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff

OLYMPIA – A number of rule changes affecting Washington sturgeon fisheries went into effect beginning Monday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced.

The changes, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its December meeting in Bellingham, are meant to clarify existing regulations and modify others to help meet conservation objectives, said Laura Heironimus, WDFW's Columbia River smelt, sturgeon, and lamprey lead.

"Some of these changes are intended to specifically help conserve and improve sturgeon stocks, while others are meant to clarify regulations under WDFW's efforts to simplify fishing regulations statewide," Heironimus said.

Changes that went into effect Monday include:

  • Closing Columbia River sturgeon spawning sanctuaries upstream of Bonneville Dam to sturgeon fishing from May 1 to Aug. 31. Previously, some sanctuaries reopened on Aug. 1; this change was requested to minimize handling stress on mature female sturgeon after spawning.
  • Expanding the area of sturgeon sanctuaries in John Day Reservoir (below McNary Dam) and in the Hanford Reach (below Priest Rapids Dam).
  • Shifting retention fisheries upstream of McNary Dam to catch-and-release only, as a precautionary conservation measure.
  • Closing night fishing for sturgeon on the Chehalis River, aligning it with other rules statewide. This was previously the only area open to night fishing for sturgeon in Washington.
  • Defining oversize sturgeon as a fish larger than 55 inches in fork length, which may not be removed in part or totally from the water unless otherwise allowed by emergency rule.
  • Clarification and simplification of other catch-and-release and statewide regulations.

For a full breakdown of the new rules, see updates and clarifications to the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet at Additional information can also be found in the December presentation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at

The new rules were adopted following an extensive public comment period, including several in-person public meetings held throughout the state in 2019.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.

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