Fish and Game investigates two cases of sturgeon poaching

Idaho Fish and Game is investigating two different reports of sturgeon being taken illegally along the Snake River below C.J. Strike Reservoir and the agency is asking the public for help in the case.

Only catch-and-release fishing is allowed for white sturgeon. The fragile fish, which has a skeleton of cartilage, can't be removed from the water when hooked and must be released immediately.

In the last two weeks, the Fish and Game's Nampa office has received two different reports of large sturgeon being landed, loaded into vehicles and taken away.

The poaching investigation is continuing in both incidents and officers have found the suspected kill sites where the fish were landed, the agency said in a press release.

“We’ve collected some great evidence at this time, and are closing in on some suspects,” Fish and Game conservation officer Kurt Stieglitz said. “But we would be very interested in visiting with anyone who has information regarding these or other possible sturgeon-poaching incidents along the Snake River.”

Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) is offering a reward for information in both cases and callers can remain anonymous. The CAP number is (800) 632-5999 (24 hours a day).

In addition to the CAP hotline, persons with information can also contact the Fish and Game's Nampa office at 465-8465 or Idaho State Police at 846-7550 on weekends.

Historically, sturgeon up to 1,500 pounds were caught by anglers in Idaho. They can live to be more than 100 years old.

Sturgeon are found in the Snake, Lower Salmon and Kootenai rivers in Idaho. From the early 1900s through the 1970s, construction of dams on the Snake River concentrated the fish to free-flowing sections of the river. The dams also eliminated, or greatly reduced, important food sources for sturgeon, such as lamprey, salmon and steelhead, F&G said. Populations of sturgeon also suffered because of poorly regulated fishing.

As a result, Fish and Game adopted catch-and-release fishing in much of the Snake River in 1970. The healthiest populations of sturgeon are found in the free-flowing stretches of the Snake River between Bliss Dam and the upper end of C.J. Strike Reservoir and in the free-flowing Snake River from Lewiston upstream to Hells Canyon Dam, according to F&G. Smaller numbers are found below American Falls Dam and C.J. Strike Dam.