Three Arrested for Sturgeon Poaching in Olivehurst, California

State game wardens have arrested three Olivehurst men on suspicion of sturgeon poaching on the Bear River. While serving search and arrest warrants at the suspects’ homes on May 12, Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens also discovered evidence of deer and bear poaching.

Sutter County Game Warden Nate Stebbins received two citizen tips over the course of a few weeks in April, both related to possible sturgeon poaching. Stebbins gathered a team of wardens to conduct surveillance of the suspects over the course of several nights. They observed Peter Anthony Gibbs, 25, Steven Michael Logan, 28, and Steven Allen Patterson, 29, all of Olivehurst, target sturgeon using snagging techniques with very heavy duty fishing tackle, complete with oversize treble hooks and one-pound weights connected below the hook. The wardens watched as the men retained the fish without tagging them – including one 82-inch-long sturgeon.

When the suspects returned to the boat ramp, an unidentified man met them, transferred the oversized, untagged sturgeon to his trunk and then sped away. All of these actions are violations of state law.

The wardens obtained search warrants for each of the suspects’ homes, where they discovered and seized sturgeon meat, two boats, heavy duty fishing tackle, deer meat and parts of a bear. All three suspects were arrested and booked into Yuba County Jail. The case remains under investigation.

California’s green sturgeon is listed as a threatened species while the relatively healthy status white sturgeon is dependent on very careful management of the fishery.  Fishing for and possession of green sturgeon is not allowed, and commercial fishing for white sturgeon is not allowed.  The white sturgeon sport fishery is highly regulated due to biological and demographic characteristics that make the species particularly susceptible to overfishing and high black market value.  Sport anglers are allowed to retain three white sturgeon per year within a slot limit of 46 to 66 inches, and are required to document catch on a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card.  The size and bag regulations protect the most prolific breeders of the population and moderate harvest rate, while Report Card data helps the Department manage the fishery and deter poaching.  Sturgeon management is made complicated by poachers who target sturgeon for meat and for eggs to be sold on the black market as caviar.

Anyone with information about this or any other poaching or pollution case is encouraged to call DFG’s CalTIP hotline at 888-334-2258.

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