white sturgeon

Guidelines for Angling for White Sturgeon in B.C.

June 13, 2023
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The Lower and Middle portions of the Fraser River provide the only recreational fishery for white sturgeon in all of British Columbia. The Middle Fraser includes the section from the confluence of the Fraser River and its Williams Lake River tributary in the Cariboo, down to the city of Hope in the Lower Mainland. The Lower Fraser is comprised of the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River from Hope down to the Mission CPR Bridge, as well as the tidal portion which flows from the Mission CPR Bridge down to the Strait of Georgia in Vancouver. The population of white sturgeon in these two portions of the Fraser River is currently considered healthy enough to support a catch-and-release sport fishery. All other white sturgeon populations in British Columbia are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act, and are closed to recreational angling. 

Sturgeon | Chad Fritz

Sturgeon | Chad Fritz

Sturgeon fishing has grown in popularity in recent years due in part to diminishing opportunities to fish for non-tidal salmon on the Fraser River (because of low returns); substantial growth in British Columbia’s tourism sector; and a healthy sturgeon population in the lower and middle reaches of the river. Many anglers are drawn to these magnificent fish, which can reach over three metres (10 feet) in length – the largest freshwater fish in North America. Sturgeon fishing on the tidal and non-tidal portions of the Lower Fraser River is open year ’round, with March through to November generally the most productive months. This makes their fishing “window” much larger than many other local species.

There are also additional seasonal opportunities to fish for sturgeon in the Middle Fraser River. Be sure to check the BC Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis for specific area and seasonal openings and closures. Note that there are currently seven voluntary and three mandatory sturgeon angling closure areas located between the Harrison River confluence and just upstream of Hope, BC between May 15 and July 31 each year. These closure areas were established to protect confirmed white sturgeon spawning areas.

You also require a White Sturgeon Conservation Licence, in addition to your basic freshwater fishing licence, if you intend to fish for white sturgeon on the non-tidal section of the lower and middle portions of the Fraser River watershed (including Fraser River tributaries). 

White sturgeon, Fraser River. | Jessica Yarwood.
White sturgeon, Fraser River. | Jessica Yarwood.

With the large number of anglers partaking in this fishery, it is imperative that the fish are handled correctly to minimize impact and ensure that the fishery is sustainable. The Ministry of Forests (with support from the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society, Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association, Recreational Sturgeon Anglers of BC, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada) has developed guidelines for catching and properly releasing sturgeon. Anyone who fishes – or plans to fish – for sturgeon on the Lower or Middle Fraser River is encouraged to read and follow the Guidelines for Angling White Sturgeon in BC.

White sturgeon, Fraser River | Arielle Friedrich.

White sturgeon, Fraser River | Arielle Friedrich.

The Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society (with support from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Rick Hansen Foundation) has also put together a video that covers these guidelines in more detail: Can you Handle It? Guidelines for Angling Sturgeon in BC.

Please remember to follow these guidelines when setting up your tackle, fishing for, and handling white sturgeon on the Fraser River.  Tight Lines.

Author: Mike Gass, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
Photo Credit: Dale Wilson