Prehistoric White Sturgeon within the Snake River: Series part 2

Prehistoric White Sturgeon within the Snake River: Series part 2
LEWISTON, ID - We conclude our two-part series examining the White Sturgeon within the Snake River.

In Thursdays story, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game discovers metal in the pre-historic fish. Now Reporter Sophia Miraglio learns what the study is showing and how the population compares to ten years ago.

Sturgeon fishing in the Gem State is strictly catch and release. But Idaho's most popular game fish isn't faring well against sharp hooks fishermen leave behind.

"The sturgeon have hooks in them not because people are catching them and breaking them off, it's because people break off their hooks on the bottom and then sturgeon go around like vacuum cleaners sucking up all the food they can," said IDFG Clearwater Regional Fisheries Manager, Joe Dupont.

Now Idaho Power Company and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are catching those sturgeon to learn more. By tagging the fish and x-raying them, they can see if the hooks are moving through their body.

"It doesn't appear that it really affects survival much but it could affect growth," said IDFG Senior Research Biologist, Tony Lamansky. "I've seen a little bit of body conditions the fish with metal in them are not as fat or robust as the ones that don't have metal in them."

"What we're learning now at least in this section, the Hells Canyon section these fish are reaching maturity at 40-45 years old so it's taking them a long time to reach that spawning size," said Dupont.

Sturgeon that are 20 to 40 inches long appear to be growing less than an inch a year. However, a 10 year study shows that the population is healthy and stable.

"They're just a really important species in the ecosystem right here so it's something we really need to look at and monitor," said Idaho Power Co. Fishery Biologist, Phil Bates.

The studies these organizations are conducting provide groundbreaking information on the bottom feeding fish.

"Because these fish live so long we want to do our part to make sure they're around for a long time to come," said Dupont.

Both Washington and Oregon are interested in the final results.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is in charge of setting rules and ensuring protection for the White Sturgeon. Depending on the final results of this study, the way people fish for the prehistoric game fish could change.