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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 CASturgeonResearch@gmail.com 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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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).