Sturgeon Report Card

white sturgeon under water

Sturgeon Fishing Report Cards (Cards) are an integral part of Department and legislative efforts to reduce the illegal commercialization of sturgeon. Cards provide critical data on catch and harvest that enable the Department to make informed fisheries management decisions surrounding White Sturgeon and federally threatened Green Sturgeon populations. While Card reporting is legally mandated for all anglers targeting White Sturgeon, it also serves as one of the most important actions anglers can take towards conserving these species.

Fees and information on the Report Card and other California sturgeon fishing regulations may be found on our Regulations page.

Program Overview

The California Sturgeon Report Card program was initiated in 2007 to help CDFW gather good quality data about the White Sturgeon recreational fishery. The Report Card gives us information on things like how many anglers are fishing for sturgeon, how many fish are caught per year, and how many are released vs. kept for the table. This is some of the most useful information we can get, and we use it to help monitor the fishery and determine how much fishing pressure the population is experiencing. Filling in the Report Card completely and returning it on time are some of the most important things anglers can do to help CDFW manage these fish and keep them around forever.

CDFW Biologists tagging a white sturgeon and recording data

Regulations at a glance

Species Restrictions

  • Only White Sturgeon may be targeted.
  • Green Sturgeon are listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act and take is prohibited.

Bag Limits

  • One White Sturgeon may be kept annually in 2024. In 2023, if you have already used one or two tags, you may not harvest additional fish even if you still have unused tags. If you have not harvested any fish yet in 2023, you may harvest one before December 31.
  • After keeping one fish, anglers may not continue to fish catch and release for sturgeon on the same day, but may catch and release sturgeon starting the following day.

Daily Vessel Maximum Harvest

  • A maximum of two sturgeon may be taken per boat per day.
  • Anglers in the boat who have not taken sturgeon that day may continue to fish catch and release.

Size Limits

  • White Sturgeon must be greater than 42 inches or less than 48 inches fork length.
  • Removing a Green Sturgeon, or a White Sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length, from the water is prohibited

Gear Restrictions

  • One single point, single shank, barbless hook may be used on a line when taking sturgeon.
  • Anglers may use two rods if they are east of Carquinez Bridge and they have a purchased a Second Rod Validation.
  • The sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure inside its mouth. No sturgeon may be taken by trolling, snagging, snares, or by the use of firearms.

Closures to sturgeon fishing (including catch and release)

  • Sacramento River upstream of the Highway 162 bridge to Keswick Dam: all year
  • Sacramento River upstream of the Highway 50 bridge: January 1 through May 31
  • San Joaquin River upstream of the I-5 bridge: January 1 through May 31
  • Central San Francisco Bay (within boundaries: a direct line between Pt. Chauncy and Pt. Richmond, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and a direct line between Pt. Lobos and Pt. Bonita): January 1 and March 15

Additional information on the Report Card and other freshwater and saltwater California sturgeon fishing regulations may be found at our Fisheries Regulations page.

Areas off-limits to sturgeon fishing

For the most complete and current sturgeon fishing regulations, please check the current state fishing regulations.

Anglers may fish for White Sturgeon throughout the state, all year long, with the exception of the following area closures.

Closed all year:

  • The upper Sacramento River from the Hwy 162 Bridge upstream to Keswick Dam
  • The Yolo Bypass, Toe Drain Canal, and Tule Canal upstream of the Lisbon Weir
  • North Coast District (Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Siskiyou counties)

Closed January 1 through May 31:

  • Sacramento River and tributaries upstream of the Highway 50 bridge
  • San Joaquin River and tributaries upstream of the I-5 bridge

Closed from January 1 and March 15 

  • The portion of San Francisco Bay within the following boundaries: A direct line between Pt. Chauncy (National Marine Fisheries Laboratory) and Pt. Richmond, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and a direct line between Pt. Lobos and Pt. Bonita. Map of seasonal closure area (PDF)

Green Sturgeon may not be taken at any time or location.

Sturgeon Reward Tags

white sturgeon with a CDFW disk tag attached below the dorsal fin
(click to enlarge)

As a highly mobile species with a complex life history, sturgeon are often challenging to study. Effective management requires knowledge about things that effect population health, such as migration, abundance, and fishing pressure. Collecting enough data to make accurate estimates of these population metrics is often beyond the scale that agency resources can support. We rely heavily on angler information through Card reporting to augment data collected from on-going monitoring studies conducted by the Department. One of the most useful pieces of information we can collect from anglers is reward tag data.

Each year between August and October, CDFW biologists survey White Sturgeon in the Delta using large nets fished from boats. All sturgeon caught are counted and measured. Sturgeon that are close to the legal harvest size (42-48 inches) are also tagged (if possible) with a small plastic disk below the base of the dorsal fin (top photo). Reporting disk numbers provides us with critical information about the biology of these fish, such as individual movement patterns and growth rates. With enough tag data, we can also estimate population size and harvest rates. The population size gives us an idea of the number of White Sturgeon currently inhabiting the Delta, while harvest rates tell us how many sturgeon are removed from the system through fishing. These data help inform management decisions surrounding the fishery, such as setting bag limits and length requirements, determining where and when anglers can fish, and implementing gear restrictions. Our goal is to maximize sturgeon fishing opportunities for the public while promoting sustainable management practices that protect these highly sensitive and vulnerable populations.

sturgeon report card showing the 'Reward Disk' sections

If you catch a sturgeon with a disk tag, please clearly write the tag number on your report card in the section of the card that best applies. Tag numbers should begin with two letters followed by a series of numbers. CDFW currently offers rewards of $50, $100 or $150 per disc tag, although older fish with a $20 tag are sometimes caught. See the Purchase and Reporting tab on this page for information on how to return a Reward Tag (under "Returning Reward Tags") and properly report tag data (under "Filling out your Sturgeon Report Card”).

If you have additional questions, please contact

Card Purchasing and Reporting

Report Cards may be purchased online or wherever fishing licenses are sold. Just like licenses, they are good for one year, from January 1 to December 31. You must have a Report Card with you if you are fishing for sturgeon, even if you do not plan to keep any. Anglers must return their completed Report Cards, or submit the information online, by January 31 after the Report Card expires. Prior to purchasing your sturgeon report card you must have a valid sport fishing license.

Where to Purchase

Online License Agents CDFW Offices


How to Report

Reporting Period: January 1 - 31

Report Your Harvest Online (preferred)

Or report your harvest by mail to the address listed on the report card.

Filling out your Sturgeon Report Card

If you caught sturgeon

There are 2 main sections on the Sturgeon Card to write catch information:

  1. Sturgeon retained: White Sturgeon only, 42-48" fork length
  2. Sturgeon released: Green or White. If all the lines are filled, record additional entries for sturgeon released on the back of the card.

If you did not fish OR did not catch any sturgeon--we need to know!

  • For those who did not fish for sturgeon, please mark the 'Did Not Fish' check box
  • For those who fished but did not catch any sturgeon, either leave the card blank or (preferably) make a note of 'No Catch' on the card


sturgeon report card with information filled in according to the example provided
On April 7 you went fishing for sturgeon on the Sacramento River near the Rio Vista Bridge and caught two White Sturgeon that you released. One fish measured 51” fork length and possessed the CDFW disk-tag HH3356, and the untagged fish measured 55” fork length. The next day (April 8) you go sturgeon fishing in Suisun Bay and catch one 47” fork length White Sturgeon that you keep. Per regulations, you cease fishing for sturgeon for the rest of that day. The card represents the correct reporting of this example.

Returning Reward Tags

CDFW reward disc tags ready to be attached to white sturgeon - link opens in new window
(click to enlarge)

Some White Sturgeon in California are carrying reward tags as part of our ongoing efforts to monitor the population. Returned tags help us estimate the size of the population and reveal important trends in the fishery. CDFW currently offers rewards of $50, $100, or $150 per disc tag, although older fish with a $20 tag are sometimes caught.

Tags can be returned to the Department physically by mail or a photograph of the tag can be emailed to Both methods of tag return must include a completed sturgeon tag recovery form (PDF Form). Tags will be returned to the angler upon request if they are desired as a souvenir. Anglers will also receive a commendation card with information about the fish, along with the specified reward amount.

Anglers can mail reward disc tags and forms to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Sportfish Unit
2109 Arch-Airport Road, Suite 100
Stockton, CA 95206

Please make a note on the form (or in an email) if you would like the tag returned to you.

Report a lost or stolen card

If your Sturgeon Report Card has been lost or stolen, you should download and complete the Sturgeon Fishing Report Card Affidavit (PDF Form). Fill out, from your best recollection, the same information that appears on the report card, including the date, location, and length of any sturgeon kept or released.

If you DO wish to fish for sturgeon again during this license year: Bring or mail the completed form to one of the offices listed below along with the Sturgeon Report Card Replacement fee.

If you DO NOT wish to fish for sturgeon again during this license year: Bring or mail the completed form to one of the offices listed below before January 31 of the year after the Report Card expires (e.g. your 2021 card must be received by January 31, 2022).

  • SACRAMENTO - License and Revenue Branch, 1740 N. Market Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95834 (916) 928-5805
  • EUREKA - 619 Second Street, Eureka, CA 95501 (707) 445-6493
  • FAIRFIELD - 2825 Cordelia Road, Suite 100, Fairfield, CA 94534 (707) 428-2002
  • FRESNO - 1234 E. Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93710 (559) 243-4005
  • LOS ALAMITOS - 4665 Lampson Avenue, Suite C, Los Alamitos, CA 90720 (562) 342-7100
  • MONTEREY - 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, CA 93940 (831) 649-2870
  • RANCHO CORDOVA - 1701 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670 (916) 358-2900
  • REDDING - 601 Locust Street, Redding, CA 96001 (530) 225-2300
  • SAN DIEGO - 3883 Ruffin Road, San Diego, CA 92123 (858) 467-4201
  • STOCKTON – 2109 Arch Airport Road, Suite 100, Stockton, CA 95206 (209) 234-3420

Report poaching

Poaching, or illegal harvest, remains a serious concern for California sturgeon. Not only do poachers take more sturgeon than legally permitted, they usually specifically target the largest spawning females in order to produce valuable caviar. When fish grow, they produce exponentially more eggs than smaller fish, so a large, older female may contain many times the eggs of a first-time spawner. The survival of large females is critical in order to reproduce the next generations of sturgeon and maintain the population.

Any suspected illegal activity can be reported confidentially to the CalTIP (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) program. Call 1-888-334-CalTIP (888-334-2258) or text anonymously to "CALTIP", followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Anglers may also download the free CALTIP smartphone App for Android or Apple phones.

For more details about CalTIP, visit the CDFW CalTIP page.

Card Data Results

Anglers are required to return Sturgeon Cards in January of the following year (by mail or using the online reporting system; see the "Purchase & Report" tab for more details). After January 31, we compile all Card data from the previous year and produce an annual technical report. The resulting report summarizes data from the previous Card year for comparison with past Card years. This allows us to document trends in sturgeon catch, harvest, and angler participation in the fishery. Visit our Bibliography page for access to the most recent report (PDF), as well as past reports.

The following tabs display graphs for various analyses of Card data, along with explanations for each plot.

Annual Sturgeon Card Purchases

Graph of annual sturgeon card purchases.
The figure above shows the trend in annual Sturgeon report card purchases over time. Sturgeon cards were issued free of charge at the onset of the program in 2007, evidenced by the increase in card purchases until a $8 fee was implemented in 2012. Since the incorporation of a fee, it is apparent that anglers have become more selective in the additional tags purchased with a fishing license.

Kept vs. Released Sturgeon

Graph of the annual percent of reported White Sturgeon catch that is kept versus released.
For every sturgeon caught, anglers must record whether or not the fish was kept (and thus harvested) or released. This plot describes the percent of catch reported as ‘kept’ vs ‘released’ as a fraction of the total caught. In other words, this plot answers the questions: “Out of the total number of White Sturgeon caught each year, what portion is kept by anglers? What portion is released?” The lines represent the trend in catch across the two groups over time, and the r2 values are a statistical measure that describes how well the lines fit (or represent) the data. The closer an r2 value is to 1, the better the fit. This helps us easily see the increasing trend in the percent of reported ‘kept’ catch and the decreasing trend in the percent of reported ‘released’ catch. These results indicate that over time, anglers are harvesting more White Sturgeon relative to the total amount caught.

White Sturgeon Catch

Graph of the average percent of all anglers that report catching White Sturgeon (kept or released).
Not all anglers that target White Sturgeon are successful in catching them. This plots shows the average percent of reporting anglers that catch 0- 15+ sturgeon. Calculations were made using data only from anglers that expended fishing effort (i.e., does not include anglers that did not fish). On average, most anglers (74%) that fish for sturgeon do not catch any. 1-2 fish are caught by an average of 19% of reporting anglers, and even fewer (6.8%) catch 3 or more sturgeon.

Catch by Harvest Level

Graph of the annual proportion of all reporting anglers that keep 0, 1, 2, or 3 White Sturgeon. ‘NoEffort’ denotes anglers reporting ‘did not fish.’
Anglers participate in the sturgeon fishery at various harvest levels. The plot above describes the fraction (ie. proportion) of reporting anglers that keep 0-3 fish (3 being the annual limit) or do not fish at all. The color associated with ‘Kept 0’ takes up most of space within each bar on the plot. This means that each year, the majority of reporting anglers keep 0 fish (on average, 53.9%). The next dominant color block belongs to the ‘No Effort’ category. On average, 34.2% of reporting anglers do not end up fishing for sturgeon. Those that report keeping one fish make up, on average, 8.9% of all reporting anglers. Some keep two fish (less than 3.2%), and a small percentage of the total reporting anglers keep the annual bag limit of three fish (less than 1%)

Catch by Month

Graph of the mean annual percent of White Sturgeon catch by month, vertical bars represent standard deviation.
The figure above describes trends in reported catch as a fraction of the total caught (represented as a percent) for each month, averaged across all years. The vertical bars represent the standard deviation of the average value (the points on the plot), which describes the variability in the individual data values compared to the average. A longer bar means a wider range of reported catch values for that month over time, while a shorter bar indicates a smaller range of catch values for that month over time. We see that highest catch of White Sturgeon typically occurs in the late fall through the early spring, while lowest catch occurs in the late spring through the summer. An important caveat to note is that this analysis does not take fishing effort into account. This means that higher catch in the late fall/ early spring could be simply due to anglers fishing more often during those months, and less during late spring/ summer. However, these trends coincide with the timing of sturgeon spawning migrations into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and lower rivers, which could be linked to higher observed reported catch by anglers in the winter and spring.

Sturgeon Identification Tips

Green Sturgeon

  • Olive green with dark stripe on sides and belly
  • Barbels closer to mouth
  • 8-11 sharp dorsal scutes
  • Scutes behind vent
  • Vent between pelvic fins

White Sturgeon

  • Gray with pale belly
  • Barbels closer to tip of snout
  • 11-14 dull dorsal scutes
  • No scutes behind vent
  • Vent behind pelvic fins

white and green sturgeon
Photo credits: NOAA Fisheries

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the emergency regulation change last and what happens next?

On October 11, the Fish and Game Commission (FGC) voted to enact emergency regulations for the White Sturgeon Commercial Fishery. Those regulations went into effect on November 16, 2023, and will continue until further notice. The Department is developing new long-term regulations to manage the fishery, including permitting harvest, and will present those to the public and the FGC in 2024 for the 2025 season. Information on FGC meetings can be found on their meeting web page.

Can I continue to fish for sturgeon after I have tagged and kept a fish?

No. Once you have used your tag, you may no longer continue to catch and release fish for sturgeon that same day. Anyone with you may continue to fish for sturgeon if they have not used their tags. You may switch to other tackle and fish for other species, and you may fish catch and release for sturgeon for the rest of the year starting the next day.

How many sturgeon can be caught on one boat per day?

A maximum of two White Sturgeon may be harvested per boat, per day, regardless of the number of anglers on board. Anglers must have in their possession a report card with a valid tag in order to retain a White Sturgeon. When the daily vessel maximum harvest is reached, only anglers that have not tagged a White Sturgeon that day may continue to fish catch and release for White Sturgeon.

Can I fish catch and release for sturgeon if I have used my tag? Or can I buy a second Sturgeon Report Card?

Anglers may not continue to catch and release fish for sturgeon on the same day they have used their tag, but may fish catch and release for sturgeon starting the next day. You may only purchase one Card per year.

Can I fish for White Sturgeon in rivers?

All sturgeon fishing is prohibited in the:

  • Sacramento River and tributaries upstream of the Highway 162 bridge to Keswick Dam all year to protect ESA-threatened Green Sturgeon.
  • Sacramento River and tributaries upstream of the Highway 50 bridge from January 1 through May 31 to protect migrating and spawning White Sturgeon from harassment and injury.
  • San Joaquin River and tributaries upstream of the I-5 bridge from January 1 through May 31 to protect migrating and spawning White Sturgeon from harassment and injury.

The Card was free when it first came out, why does it cost money now?

When the Card program started in 2007, the Cards were offered for free for the first five years so anglers could get used to needing to carry a Card and use tags. Starting in 2013, an $8 fee was charged to help offset the costs of running the Card program and pay for law enforcement to prevent illegal fishing and poaching. The current annual fee for a Card in 2022 is $9.46.

I caught a sturgeon accidentally while fishing for something else, can I keep it?

Sturgeon are usually pretty picky about what bait they’ll take, but occasionally anglers get a very big surprise! If you do not have a current Sturgeon Report Card, you may not keep the fish. You may not buy a Card later, after the fact. Remember that you are also always subject to all current California fishing regulations, and it is your responsibility to be familiar with those rules. For example, White Sturgeon may only be caught using a single point barbless hook, and must take the bait voluntarily in the mouth. If your catch conforms to all regulations and you have a Sturgeon Report Card in your possession, you may harvest a legal fish caught when fishing for other species.

Do I need to return my Sturgeon Report Card if I did not fish or I did not catch any?

Yes! State fishing regulations require that all Report Cards be returned by January 31 after the year they were issued. Reports of “did not fish” and “did not catch” are extremely valuable to fishery scientists as measures of fishing effort and success. The most valuable things anglers can do as stewards of these ancient fish is to follow all fishing regulations and return Report Cards on time.

Can I use two rods to fish for sturgeon?

Anglers who possess a second-rod stamp may use two rods to fish for sturgeon in Suisun Bay and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and rivers east of the Carquinez Bridge. Anglers on the coast or in San Francisco Bay may only use one rod.

San Francisco Bay is defined as the waters of San Francisco and San Pablo bays plus all their tidal bays, sloughs, estuaries, and tidal portions of their rivers and streams between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge.

I found a fresh sturgeon carcass that had been recently killed by something else. Can I keep it if I have a Sturgeon Report Card?

California fishing regulations state that “the sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure inside its mouth.” Since a carcass cannot voluntarily take bait, it is illegal to possess that fish.

CDFW is currently partnering with a group of universities and federal and state agencies to study causes of death for adult sturgeon in California. Please report any observed carcass to so experts can find and examine it. Include the date, location (smartphone map coordinates preferred), and a common object for size reference. Do not move or disturb the carcass.

Do I need a Sturgeon Report Card on free fishing days?

Yes. In California, two days a year are designated as “free fishing days” when anyone can fish in the state without a fishing license. However, all other fishing regulations, such as bag and size limits, gear restrictions, report card requirements, fishing hours and stream closures remain in effect. Anyone fishing for White Sturgeon at any time must have a current Sturgeon Report Card in their possession.

What are “golden sturgeon”?

Long-time sturgeon anglers occasionally talk about catching “golden sturgeon”. While these fish look very distinctive, they are not a different species. They are an unusual color phase of Green Sturgeon that is bright yellow rather than the usual olive green. Remember that all Green Sturgeon, including the golden ones, are protected by state law. They may not be removed from the water for any reason and must be released immediately.

Are there sturgeon in ________ lake or reservoir?

White Sturgeon do exist in a number of large lakes throughout the state. In most areas, the fish were released on purpose back when it was legal to do so. In Lake Shasta, it is possible that the fish may have been trapped when the large hydropower dams were built, though they may also have been planted on purpose. It is not currently legal to plant White Sturgeon in any state waters. There is no evidence that any of these lake dwelling sturgeon successfully spawn, but given the very long lifespan of White Sturgeon (over 100 years!), they are likely to be there for many more years. Remember, all sturgeon in California are subject to state fishing regulations, including gear restrictions, size limits, and possession of a Sturgeon Report Card,

Does CDFW release hatchery-raised White Sturgeon like you do trout and salmon?

The state does not run a hatchery for White Sturgeon or plant hatchery sturgeon in any California waters, and it is illegal for any other person to do so. There is a thriving, well-regulated, aquaculture industry in the state that produces White Sturgeon caviar and meat, but those fish live entirely in captivity. With the exception of a few reservoirs, all sturgeon in the state were naturally spawned in the wild, and it is the goal of the Department to manage and conserve those wild populations so that hatchery releases of sturgeon are not necessary.

What is the best way to handle a sturgeon that I plan to release?

Sturgeon are remarkably tough fish compared to other species like trout, but they are not invincible. White Sturgeon should be able to live over 100 years, but not if they are handled roughly. Please handle any fish you plan to release very gently, and when possible, do not remove them from the water. Sturgeon skeletons are made of soft cartilage, much like sharks, and are not good at dealing with gravity. Because of this, never dangle a large sturgeon up by its tail or mouth. Also, never hold any sturgeon by its gill plates – this can seriously harm the fish, and any injury to the delicate gills is very serious and may kill the fish. If you want to take a trophy picture before releasing a fish, hold the fish horizontally with a hand under the pectoral fins and one holding the tail. Lastly, dragging a sturgeon around a boat deck or on a muddy bank will remove the important slime coat that protects the fish and expose it to infection. A large net designed for sturgeon, or a sling or small tarp, can be really helpful for landing and safely releasing the fish.

I see or know of someone fishing illegally for sturgeon. What should I do?

Sturgeon are tough, amazing, ancient fish, but their unique life history makes them susceptible to over-fishing and they need to be managed carefully. People taking fish illegally puts the health of our California sturgeon populations at risk. Please report any illegal activity to CalTIP. Reports can be made anonymously and may be eligible for rewards. More information can be found at the CalTIP page.

If you know of a crime that is currently taking place, call: 1-888-334-CalTIP (888-334-2258).

You can also report online but this is only checked during weekday business hours. You can also send non-urgent anonymous tips by cell phone by texting "CALTIP", followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

Sturgeon Report Card Map

Click on the map image to access the ArcGIS online map for further details on fishing regions and catch analytics. Scroll down for numerical code definitions.

Map of Sturgeon Report Card location codes - link opens in new window

Card Code Card Description
1 Sacramento River: Red Bluff to Colusa (2007-2009)
01A Sacramento River: Upstream of Red Bluff (closed area, not labeled on map)
01B Sacramento River: Red Bluff to Hwy 32 bridge (closed area, not labeled on map)
01C Sacramento River: Hwy 32 bridge to Colusa
2 Sacramento River: Colusa to Knights Landing
3 Sacramento River: Knights Landing to Rio Vista
4 Sacramento River: Rio Vista to Chipps Island
5 Feather River
6 American River
7 Sacramento Deepwater Ship Channel
8 Yolo Bypass
9 Montezuma Slough
10 Napa River
11 Petaluma River
12 San Joaquin River: Upstream of HWY 140 bridge
13 San Joaquin River: HWY 140 bridge to Stockton
14 San Joaquin River: Stockton to Sherman Lake
15 Old River
16 San Pablo Bay
17 Carquinez Strait
18 Suisun Bay
19 Grizzly Bay
20 San Francisco Bay: North of HWY 80
21 San Francisco Bay: South of HWY 80
22 Pacific Ocean: North of Golden Gate Bridge
23 Pacific Ocean: Golden Gate Bridge to Point Sur
24 Pacific Ocean: Point Sur to San Diego
25 Any reservoir or lake (not labeled on map)
26 Klamath River (closed area, not labeled on map)

For more information about the Sturgeon Report Card, email

Fisheries Branch
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605 |