Matt Wilson pours newly fertilized sturgeon eggs into an incubator at the College of Southern Idaho Fish Hatchery near Twin Falls.

BOISE — You may have heard about sturgeon being collected from the Snake River below C.J. Strike Dam during April. Don’t be alarmed. This is all part of ongoing conservation efforts to help boost the number of sturgeon in the river.

Sturgeon are getting a helping hand below C.J. Strike Dam to increase the population and improve fishing in the Snake River. Working together, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Power Co. have stocked since 2014 more than 500 white sturgeon below the dam. This is part of a larger conservation program that includes partnering with the College of Southern Idaho to raise sturgeon at the college’s Twin Falls fish hatchery.

To do this, Idaho Power biologists capture up to six reproductive sturgeon below C.J. Strike Dam during late winter and take them to the Twin Falls hatchery for spawning. After the eggs are collected at the hatchery, all the adults are returned back to the Snake River.

During surveys below C.J. Strike Dam, Idaho Power biologists have found some of the stocked fish have already grown to more than three feet long in just a few years. Of course, there are already bigger fish in the population. Biologists estimate there are currently about 243 sturgeon between three and eight feet long in the section downstream of C.J. Strike Dam. The number of larger fish should improve as the hatchery sturgeon stocked as small juveniles grow into adults.

Idaho Power is also experimenting with an alternative strategy to using hatchery sturgeon as part of the conservation program. This unique approach collects naturally-spawned sturgeon eggs directly from the river. The eggs are collected using specialized nets placed downstream of sturgeon spawning areas. Fertilized eggs are carefully removed from the nets and taken to the CSI Twin Falls hatchery.

Within five to six weeks after hatching, the tiny sturgeon larvae will grow to size, then these naturally-spawned baby sturgeon are raised at the hatchery until they are about a foot long. Before stocking into the Snake River, each fish will be tagged so that biologists can monitor their growth, survival and migrations.

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