White sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) are anadromous and the largest fish occurring in fresh-water habitats in North America. The largest population is found in the lower Fraser River (LFR), British Columbia, Canada where anglers target the species in a catch-and-release (C&R) recreational fishery. Yet, little is known about the consequences of C&R on these wild fish. Sixty-three angled sturgeon had blood samples taken to assess the physiological stress response relative to fight times. Seven sturgeon were also fitted with acoustic transmitters equipped with accelerometer sensors to assess immediate post-release locomotor behaviour. To understand the relationship between accelerometry and fish behaviour, we calibrated the tags in a lab before deploying them in the field. A physiological stress response was apparent (i.e., increased whole-blood lactate and reduced plasma potassium) and was influenced by fight time. Post-release activity profiles showed a general decrease in activity over time. Post-release displacement was 2–75 m from the release site and all 7 sturgeon were relocated closer to shore. The possible preference we identified for nearshore areas after release should be examined in greater detail in the future as this may lend insight into optimal release locations for white sturgeon. Although C&R mortality rates are low for this species, there is some evidence of transient sub-lethal effects emphasizing the need to refine C&R practices to further improve fish welfare.

Accelerometry, Acoustic telemetry, Angling, Exercise, Stress, White sturgeon
Fisheries Research
Department of Biology

McLean, M.F. (M. F.), Litvak, M.K. (M. K.), Cooke, S.J, Hanson, K.C. (K. C.), Patterson, D.A. (D. A.), Hinch, S.G. (S. G.), & Crossin, G.T. (G. T.). (2019). Immediate physiological and behavioural response from catch-and-release of wild white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus Richardson, 1836). Fisheries Research, 214, 65–75. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2019.02.002