IDAHO FALLS – White sturgeon are a rare find for anglers in eastern Idaho, but the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have been supplying them in rivers and reservoirs for more than 20 years.
Fish and Game Officials introduced four sturgeon into the Snake River near John’s Hole Bridge last week, and EastIdahoNews.com caught it on camera. Watch it in the video above.
Those who happen to catch one are lucky. Greg Poulsen of Eagle Mountain, Utah, hooked a monster sturgeon out of C.J. Strike Reservoir near Bruneau this summer. It was more than 10 feet long. As per Idaho rule, he had to let it go because sturgeon are catch-and-release only in the Gem State.
John Heckel with Fish and Game was one of several people who helped introduce the four adult sturgeon, each between five and six feet long.
“Through our introductions, we have created a fish population of white sturgeon up here,” Heckel says. “They’re native to the Snake River and Columbia system farther downstream in the drainage and they’ve co-evolved with salmon.”
Heckel says building a thriving sturgeon population is a bit challenging. Although the fish typically have long lifespans, it can take a decade or more before they reach sexual maturity.
“It depends, but sturgeon often don’t mature until they’re about 20 or 30 years old,” says Heckel.
Melissa Wagner from the College of Southern Idaho was present during last week’s sturgeon stocking. She says the sturgeon that were introduced were between seven and 10 years of age.
The IDFG partnered with the College of Southern Idaho to stock fish in areas throughout eastern Idaho. About 30 were stocked above American Falls Reservoir and 16 of those were planted in the Idaho Falls area.
Heckel says there are several ecological benefits for having a sturgeon population.
“Sturgeon are bottom feeders,” Heckel explains. “And since they are bottom feeders, they … are known to eat decaying salmon carcasses, eggs and whatnot. (They) forage on some of those benthic prey items.”
While the Fish and Game have been stocking sturgeon throughout the state since 2000, Heckel says they’ve only stocked fish as large as the ones in Idaho Falls a few times.
“So it’s a pretty unique opportunity for anglers to have the potential to catch one of these big giants,” he says. “We’ve got special regulations for them, and you can check that out in our fishing regulations to find out the gear type you can use.”
White sturgeon fishing rules and regulations are available here.