Oregon Man Does Jail Time for Poaching 7-Foot White Sturgeon, Estimated to Be 80 Years Old

by Vern Evans

Julio Duran spent 20 days in jail and must pay $5,000 in restitution following a sturgeon poaching bust in 2022. Two other poachers were also involved

A giant white sturgeon lays on a dock.

This mature white sturgeon was likely 80-plus years old. Photograph by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Details of a 2022 poaching bust involving three anglers and five oversized sturgeon recently came to light in a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. As a result of the incident, Julio Duran of Salem spent 20 days in Columbia County jail and was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution. Two other poachers, Jose Plascencia of Dayton and Axel Guell of St. Helens, were also sentenced.

Anglers fishing from the shores of Scappoose Bay on the Columbia River witnessed three men in a boat catch and keep sturgeon, even though they were in a catch-and-release only zone. The shore anglers reported what they witnessed to Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife troopers, and the troopers began surveilling the trio two days later, ODFW says. 

When troopers Scott Bernardi and Justin Morgan approached the men following two days of surveillance, the anglers claimed they hadn’t caught any fish. But lines tied off to the dock indicated otherwise. When the troopers lifted the lines from the water, they found four large sturgeon still alive on the other end, one of them a giant white sturgeon measuring over 7 feet long. They found a fifth sturgeon in the poachers’ boat. 

While the sturgeon of the Columbia River make for a popular sportfishing opportunity, and white sturgeon fisheries in the lower Columbia and Willamette rivers currently generate up to 40,000 angler trips each year, according to ODFW. However both Washington and Oregon have strict and detailed regulations for the species. In recent years, declining populations have meant catch-and-release only seasons below the Bonneville Dam.

Duran pled guilty to felony take/possession of a giant white sturgeon, misdemeanor take/possession of four oversized sturgeon, and fishing without a license. In addition to his 20-day jail sentence and the $5,000 fine, Duran also must pay $500 to Oregon’s Turn in Poachers (TIP) Hotline, is on probation for three years, and is under a three-year fishing license suspension. He also had to forfeit all the equipment used to in the incident.

Plascencia and Guell both pled guilty to fishing without a resident license. Plascencia was sentenced to either 10 days on a work crew or 80 hours of community service, 24 months on probation, and $750 in restitution. Guell must pay $500 in restitution and serve 24 months of probation. Both men also lost fishing privileges for three years. 

“This poacher spent 20 days in jail over the holidays in hopes of changing his behavior,” Morgan said in the press release. “Luckily, the quick-thinking juvenile sportsmen were able to report what they witnessed to the Oregon State Police, through the TIP line, and we were able to apprehend this individual and release the large sturgeon back into the bay.”

Members of the reporting party received $500 rewards for their assistance.

Read Next: Idaho Biologists Catch and Release Three 10-Foot, 500-Plus Pound Sturgeon

ODFW officials estimate that the giant white sturgeon Duran poached was 80-plus years old. Sturgeon don’t reach breeding maturity until they’re 20 years old, or around 6 feet long. This slow reproductive cycle means the presence of mature sturgeon is crucial to the species’ conservation success, ODFW says.

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