Tagging California’s Sturgeon

Sturgeon are being tagged and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will now use report cards to tag catch rates. (CDFW)
Sturgeon are being tagged and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will now use report cards to tag catch rates. (CDFW)


Look for a story on California’s Delta sturgeon fishing in an upcoming issue of California Sportsman, but here’s a report from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife about regulating the sturgeon population better through tagging and report cards:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) crews recently completed a successful season tagging white sturgeon in Bay Area waters. The tagging operation is part of a comprehensive population study aimed at managing California’s white sturgeon and its habitat.

Information developed from tagging this year will be complemented by information provided by anglers’ 2014 Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards. Anglers use the cards to record data on species, location and date of catch. The card was implemented in 2007 as part of a suite of significant changes to sturgeon fishing regulations.

“Research, management and enforcement staff work together to protect the sturgeon population and the fishery,” CDFW Environmental Program Manager Marty Gingras said. “From Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards, we know how many sturgeon were caught, where and when they were caught and what size they were. We have tremendous insight into the population’s status and ecology because we look at data from anglers and the tagging study, as well as data we develop about juvenile white sturgeon and sturgeon habitat.”

Tagging this year included a first-time collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This age and growth study was conducted by two research vessels on fishing grounds in San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay between Aug. 6 and Oct. 22. The crews caught 468 white sturgeon, 250 of which were above the minimum study size and were subsequently tagged. Most of the captured white sturgeon were about 3 feet long, which means they were born in the year 2006. The largest white sturgeon captured was just under seven feet long.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin system is the southernmost spawning grounds for white sturgeon, which is why the population and fishery typically experience major boom and bust cycles. The white sturgeon fishery was closed for decades due to overfishing, then managed with very liberal regulations for nearly 50 years. It has been further restricted since 2006 to address concerns about white sturgeon and green sturgeon populations.

White sturgeon can live more than 100 years and weigh over 500 pounds, but — even 20-plus years after the establishment of regulation to limit the maximum size of fish that may be kept — less than 10 percent of the fish seen by anglers in California are ‘oversized’ fish (greater than 60 inches fork length) and must be released. Green sturgeon are so uncommon that fishing for and harvesting them is illegal under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Anglers can submit Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards by mail or online by logging into the CDFW license system and submitting catch data here:https://www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/CustomerSearch/Begin

To submit Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards by mail, please send them to:

CDFW – Sturgeon Fishing Report Card
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

To receive a reward for catching a tagged fish, please submit disk-tags along with mailing address, catch date, approximate location of catch (e.g., San Pablo Bay), length of fish and fate of fish (released or kept) to:

CDFW – Sturgeon Disk Tag
2109 Arch-Airport Road, Suite 100
Stockton, CA 95206