Increasing Sturgeon Mortalities Prompt Closure of Fishing on Part of Columbia River

A white sturgeon at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Sturgeon Center at Bonneville Dam.

With higher-than-normal numbers of adult-size sturgeon found dead in several pools of the Columbia River this summer, white sturgeon fishing was closed by authorities on a large portion of the mid-Columbia on July 29.

Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon announced July 26 that the closure would extend from the Dalles Dam upstream to Priest Rapids Dam. The closure is scheduled to remain in place through Sept. 15.

“Water temperatures increase throughout the summer, but have been running warmer than the historical average, likely contributing to the increased mortalities,” the states’ officials said in a statement. “The fishing closure is a proactive measure being taken out of an abundance of caution to prevent additional stress on the population.”

About two dozen sturgeon have been found dead in recent weeks, primarily in the John Day Pool with additional observations in the Dalles Pool, McNary Pool and the Hanford Reach.

“Sturgeon are very hardy fish in a lot of ways, but they’re also very vulnerable to certain stressors, especially in the late spring and summer period after they spawn,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife sturgeon lead Laura Heironimus said. “We see some sturgeon mortalities reported every year, but the number this year is higher than normal and in areas with lower abundances and recruitment concerns, and we want to give these fish every chance possible to survive.”

Washington and Oregon fishery managers jointly made the decision to close the portion of the river that forms part of the border between the two states. Catch-and-release fishing for white sturgeon remains open in the sections of river downstream of the Dalles Dam and Bonneville Dam, where populations are higher.

Members of the public can report fish and shellfish carcasses online using an online reporting form at

“We definitely want to know about any additional mortalities and encourage anyone who finds a dead sturgeon to use the reporting tool,” Heironimus said. “Fortunately, we are seeing fewer adult-size sturgeon mortalities than what was observed during the drought of 2015, but we’ll continue monitoring for the rest of the summer.”