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John Day Reservoir White Sturgeon Tagging Project

Commercial Fisher Contract Announcement 2012-13

John Day Sturgeon Tagging Project Application  (74 KB)

This is a call for applicants who wish to participate in white sturgeon tagging in John Day Reservoir during the winter of 2012-13.

Project Description:

Since 1996, tribal fishers, Yakama Nation (YN) fisheries technicians, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) sturgeon staff have combined efforts to tag/mark large numbers of white sturgeon for later recapture by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Tribal fisheries staff. Population estimates calculated from these field efforts help to determine commercial and sport harvest levels in Zone 6 reservoirs.

By tagging and subsequently recapturing as many tagged sturgeon as possible, we can more accurately estimate their numbers, thus providing better management for sturgeon and the fisheries that depend upon them. Winter provides excellent opportunities to capture and tag sturgeon in a relatively short time due to high catchability of white sturgeon in the late fall and early winter months. Tribal fishers with winter sturgeon fishery experience are ideal candidates to implement this effort.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, in cooperation with YN fisheries and the ODFW, will contract with three (3) tribal fishers and their crews to catch and tag white sturgeon in John Day Reservoir this winter. Tribal fishers and their crews will utilize their own boats and fishing gear to catch sturgeon and work cooperatively with YN fisheries technicians, mark/tag and release these fish for later recapture by co-management researchers in the summer of 2013. The overall goal is to catch and tag approximately 2,500+ white sturgeon by late January 2013. Staff from the CRITFC and YN will oversee daily tagging operations. The project will be closed for all fishers when the tagging goal is reached or project funds are exhausted, whichever comes first.

Fishers will fish Monday through Friday every week, setting and pulling gear daily Monday through Thursday, and removing gear for the weekends each Friday. Fishers are expected to start at first light, in order to have daily operations completed before nightfall, whenever possible. Nets will be fished overnight. All gear will be marked on both ends with the fisher’s tribal ID number. Additional net markers will also be provided to indicate that this is a research effort. To maximize the catch of sub legal and legal sized sturgeon, a minimum of 8” stretched mesh will be required on all nets, unless otherwise discussed with CRITFC project leader. Nets must be no longer than those used for commercial seasons. Each fisher must have at least 10 nets to work with for the project, although we will likely only set 5 nets or less each day, unless other specified by CRITFC staff. Recent efforts have shown that population numbers are sufficient to use fewer nets, as daily catch rates are sufficient to keep crews busy tagging and marking sturgeon each day. All fishers will fish the same river section at the same time, moving to a new section each week, until all the sections have been fished at least once or until the tagging goal has been reached or the project funds have been expended, unless otherwise directed by the CRITFC Project Leader.   Fishers should exercise some caution with regard to the locations of their nets in relation to the nets of other contractors. Recently captured and handled sturgeon can drift downstream for some distance and may be recaptured in another net. This quick recapture may reduce fish survival and can negatively impact other contractors as they will not be paid for these recaptures (see Work Schedule and Compensation). Fishers should be prepared to work seven days a week if budget delays or poor weather reduce the period of operation. An early December start date is targeted, although the start date could be later in December.

In order to participate in this project, tribal fishers who are selected will sign a binding contract with the CRITFC. Selected fishers will be required to provide all of the necessary equipment and crew to safely and successfully capture white sturgeon for data collection and tagging.

The CRITFC will require that all eligible boats and their associated equipment and fishing gear be inspected prior to the contract signing. This is necessary to verify the presence and condition of necessary equipment (for example: boat, motor, trailer, nets, life jackets, etc.) to conduct the work. Depending upon the results of this inspection, prospective contractors may be required to make specific repairs or alterations, purchase safety equipment, repair worn or broken parts, etc. before the contract can be signed.

Given the rough weather common to John Day Reservoir, each contract fisher must meet or exceed United States Coast Guard requirements for their particular size of boat (see Required Qualifications). Each contracted fisher will be assigned a technician from the YN who will oversee the safe capture, handling, and tagging of sturgeon, while ensuring accurate data collection. Technicians will not be considered crew and as such will not be allowed to pull fishing gear. Each fisher will be required to have a minimum crew of 3 people, not including the boat operator/contractor, for a total crew of four (4). The crew and contracted fisher must also be mentally and physically able to work each day upon arrival at the boat ramp. If a crew member or the fisher is not mentally or physically capable to work that day, and the crew size is reduced to less than 4 individuals, then the fisher will forfeit that day’s boat lease fee (see Work Schedule and Compensation). Fisher effort (number of nets set) will be determined through the coordinated efforts of fisher, CRITFC Project Leader, and the assigned YN technician  to ensure the fisher’s ability to safely catch, tag and release all sturgeon, while accurately recording all necessary data (see Work Schedule and Compensation).

No additional persons will be allowed on vessel during work operations without permission from CRITFC staff. To prevent conflicts of interest and an unbiased database, contracted fishers will not be permitted to participate in the winter commercial fishery while under contract. All closed areas and sanctuaries observed during the commercial seasons will be in effect for this tagging operation. All sturgeon captured during the contracted work must be released, this includes any sturgeon mortalities and all other fish species, alive or dead. After completion of the contract, fishers may resume commercial fishing efforts for the remainder of the season. Effort and data accuracy will be monitored daily.

Project Area:

  • John Day Reservoir. All contracted fishers will be required to fish the same section of river each week before moving to the next section, unless otherwise instructed by the CRITFC Project Leader. Each section will be approximately 7-10 miles in length. Depending on catch rates, more than one section maybe fished each week. All fishers will fish their assigned section(s) each week, no exceptions.  This is necessary to ensure that adequate numbers of sturgeon are marked throughout the entire reservoir. Reservoir specific maps will identify the locations of all sections that are to be sampled in this reservoir.
  • Housing, transportation, fuel, fishing supplies are the responsibility of the fishers and their crews.

Work Schedule and Compensation:

  • The approximate term of contract is from the start date (early December) until project funds are exhausted or late January, whichever happens first. Note: Exact start date has not been determined and likely will not be known until the close of the application period (November 28, 2012). 
  • Contracts with all fishers will be terminated if the tagging goal (2,500+ marked/tagged sturgeon) is reached or funding is exhausted prior to late January.
  • Compensation rate is set at $20 per each sturgeon tagged, released alive, recorded on project data sheets, and verified at the CRITFC Portland, OR office.
    Recaptured sturgeon from John Day Reservoir 2012 sampling period (as evidenced by the fresh condition of the scute scar) will not be eligible for compensation.
  •  Contractors will be paid $200 per operational (setting or pulling gear) day. The $200 daily operational compensation will be forfeited if the contractor is unable to staff a full crew (a minimum of 3 crew persons, not counting the contractor/boat operator) by the time the first net is pulled. The YN technicians will not be permitted to assist with gear setting or pulling or other aspects of fish collection and processing (measuring, scute marking, tagging, etc.).
  • To maintain data quality, it is essential that technicians’ efforts be reserved for data collection and project oversight only, not assisting with fishing operations.
  • Contractors are expected to use their discretion during poor weather and water conditions to minimize property loss, personal injury, and reduced effectiveness. Any concerns the YN technician has regarding the weather or boat condition are also to be taken into account. If a disagreement arises, the CRITFC project manager will make the final ruling on whether the boat(s) go on the water that day. 

Contractual Duties and Project Information:

  • Contractors are expected to insure themselves, their crew, and property. Injuries and/or property losses incurred during the contract are the responsibility of the contractor, not the CRITFC, and as such, the contractor or his crew will not be reimbursed for any losses incurred during the project.
  • Fishers and crews can expect physically demanding and adverse working conditions, with some non-fishing days due to hazardous water and weather conditions.
  • Primary duties include setting and retrieving gillnets and setlines, assisting technicians by marking and tagging fish, collecting length and other biological data and ensure that these data are relayed to the YN in a timely and efficient manner, and maintaining routine contact with CRITFC staff as necessary.
  • CRITFC staff may periodically board fishers’ boats to ensure data quality and safe and efficient working conditions. An occasional visit by ODFW sturgeon research staff may also occur.

Required Qualifications:

Fisher must have sufficient resources (boats, nets, crew, etc) to fish entire contract period without significant delays (> 48 hours). A second similarly equipped boat is highly recommended.

  • Contractor will be required to provide a list of crew members with the CRITFC Project Leader (only working personnel will be allowed on vessel during fishing operations unless otherwise approved by CRITFC project managers).
  • Contractor and crew must provide and arrange their own transportation to and from the project sites. Technicians will not be permitted to provide transportation to contractors and their crew.
  • The contractor must also be the boat operator and on board each and every day, unless otherwise arranged with CRITFC staff.
  • The contractor must also be the owner (co-owner) of the boat(s) used during the project (copy of title will be sufficient proof of ownership).
  • Fishers must have extensive experience in set net fishing for white sturgeon in Zone 6 reservoirs.
  • Must maintain a minimum crew of 3 persons (not including contractor, for a total of 4) each fishing day of the contract to provide adequate fisher and technician support.
  • Technicians are hired to collect data, not to pull gear or run boats.
  • Boat must have sufficient room for up to 5 persons, fishing gear, live fish, and data collection equipment.
  • High level of responsibility, reliability, and motivation.
  • Flexibility: as work site and weather conditions will vary greatly during the course of the contract.
  • Able to work safely from a boat.

Required Equipment:

  • See Recommended Equipment at end of announcement.

Desired Qualifications and Equipment:

  • Fishers who have extensive knowledge of sturgeon locations and habitat in John Day Reservoir.
  • Fishers with previous experience with this tagging program.
  • Bow-Picker boats or boats with net reels with enclosed cabins are highly useful and efficient in the rough and windy conditions that are often the norm on this project.
  • Cell phone is required for safety and communication purposes


Fishers who meet or exceed the required qualifications, have the necessary equipment (boat(s), nets, etc.) and have obtained able bodied crew (all prior to applying), are encouraged to complete the accompanying application form and submit it by the specified date.

Application Forms Available from:

  • TERO, Yakama Indian Nation, Toppenish, WA
  • TERO, Nez Perce Tribe, Lapwai, ID
  • TERO, Umatilla Indian Reservation, Mission, OR
  • Office of Personnel, Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Warm Springs, OR
  • Mid-Columbia River Council, Celilo, OR
  • Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (address and phone below)
  • Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Enforcement Office in Hood River
  • Online (John Day Sturgeon Tagging Project Application  (74 KB))

Application Deadline:

Applications must be received (not postmarked) at the close of business (5:00 pm) November 28, 2012, at the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.  Faxed copies are permissible.

Send completed application form to:

Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
Attn:  Blaine Parker
729 NE Oregon Street, Suite 200
Portland, OR  97232
(503) 731-1268
FAX (503) 235-4228

Interviews:  Applications will be evaluated and potential contractors will be notified by phone or mailing.  Potential contractors will be asked to attend a contract and technical information meeting prior to beginning operations (this is generally the morning that work begins). Pre-contract boat inspections will occur 7-10 days prior to contract signing to allow for any necessary compliance issues.  Applicants will be notified as to the location and time for their specific inspection. Applicants not selected will also be notified by phone or mail to determine interest in being placed upon an alternate list in the event that additional contractors are needed.

Employment Opportunity: Preference will be given to qualified Indian applicants who provide proof of enrollment in a federally recognized Tribe.  If qualified, priority will be given to the Commissioner’s four member Tribes (Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama).  The CRITFC is an equal opportunity employer and determines the applicability of Indian preference and appointment to positions. 

Required Equipment List

  • Spare bilge pump (pre-tested, fitted for easy and quick replacement)
  • Toolbox with appropriate tools, electrical tape, wiring, fuses as needed
  • Spare parts (prop, spark plugs, appropriate tools)
  • First-aid kit
  • Boat hook (6’ long handle or longer)
  • Plug-in spotlight
  • Spare 5 gallons of fuel (treated with Sta-Bil), oil, transmission, hydraulic fluids as needed
  • Extra gloves & raingear
  • Net repair equipment
  • Anchor and 100’ of rope
  • Marine band radio
  • Throw rope
  • Boat drain plug

Required USCG items for boats under 40’ in length:

  • White masthead or stern light (visible from 2 miles)
  • Combination or separate red and green navigational lights (1 mile visibility)
  • Type-I lifejacket for each individual on board
  • Two type B-1 fire extinguishers (for flammable liquids; i.e. oil or gasoline)
  • Several long-lasting road flares for signaling help
  • Two to three serviceable oars for rowing if necessary

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