Study of the Idaho White Sturgeon Fishery in the Upper Snake River
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – Last summer, fishery biologists from the Magic Valley area spent weeks on the Snake River between Milner Dam and Idaho Falls to study the white sturgeon population.
The work, which will continue for a few more years, will help Fish and Game gain a better understanding of how the upper Snake River hatchery white sturgeon grow, survive, move and how many there are.
White sturgeon are not native to the Snake River above Shoshone Falls; however, since 1990, Fish and Game has occasionally stocked white sturgeon upstream of Shoshone Falls to provide additional sturgeon fishing opportunities outside of its natural range.
Angling for sturgeon across the state has continued to gain popularity over the years throughout its original range, which includes the Snake, Kootenai and Salmon rivers.
“There is a fun, rowdy and hard-working group of local fishermen and guides out there who don’t hesitate to share exactly how much they love sturgeon and the fishing opportunities they offer,” says the regional fisheries biologist. , Joe Thiessen. “These same people were very helpful in helping us find and, in many cases, collect sturgeons for this study.”
The results of the 2021 survey were interesting to say the least. Overall, biologists collected 116 sturgeon from Milner Dam upstream to Idaho Falls. The fish ranged in size from two feet to eight feet long. Line catch rates suggest sturgeon numbers are highest immediately downstream of a dam, such as American Falls or Gem Lake. Biologists have also learned that most sturgeons moved within five miles of where they were released; however, one fish migrated downstream for nearly 83 miles and managed to pass four dams during the migration.
Fish and Game is working with the University of Idaho over the next two years to learn more about the white sturgeon upstream from Shoshone Falls and the sport fishing they offer. The objective of the research project is to determine the number of populations for each section of the river, the survival of hatchery-reared sturgeons, growth rates and whether the sturgeons reproduce naturally. Ultimately, this work will help develop management strategies to maintain and improve the opportunities for catching these amazing fish.
As a reminder, Fish and Game has specific gear requirements for sturgeon fishing, can be found on page 54 of the 2019-2021 fishing regulations booklet.
For more information on the sturgeon hatchery program in the Magic Valley region and further efforts to conserve these fish, check out the seven-part series on Snake River Sturgeon Conservation: Introduction (part 1 of 7) | Idaho Fish and Game.