Fishing for Sturgeon
Fishing for sturgeon is – or should be – the province of the patient and prepared angler.
Sturgeon are known to be less than picky when it comes to bait, but these fish have also been known to show regional preferences. For example, in Ontario, the river and lake sturgeon hate the smell of pike meat. What sturgeon like and dislike will vary from area to area, of course, with some sturgeon loving shrimp and others going straight for sardines and shad. A hungry sturgeon will snap at just about anything, but you’ll definitely improve your chances of a great catch when fishing for sturgeon by giving the fish something they’re excited to eat. Bait your hook liberally – don’t skimp. Sturgeon want a mouthful!
Your rigging is also high up on the list of importance. Sturgeon have rigid, sharp ridges running from nose to tail along their backs and sides, and these can slice through your line and leader if the fish gets wrapped up in it. Fishing for sturgeon successfully means choosing gear that works with how these fish move and how they bite. Use a wire sturgeon leader that can’t be cut easily and make sure your leader is long enough – think 3 feet with sizeable barrel swivel on one end and two large opposing hooks on the other. Making a sturgeon leader isn’t that hard and is the best solution when you can’t find a leader long enough. Opt for forgiving braided 40 pound test line, and make sure you have a long-handled, large hooped, deep net.
And this is where the patience comes in. As tempting as it is to check your bait when fishing for sturgeon, let it go unless you’re getting bites or seeing debris in the water. When you do start getting some action, it’s important to remember that sturgeon, for all their power, are relatively gentle eaters. Their mouths are built for suction, not grab-and-yank. Common wisdom says that a sturgeon will take two soft bites, then latch on – that’s when it’s time to set that hook because you only get one chance with a sturgeon’s rubbery mouth. This is when the battle begins. Have your fishing partner reel in all the other poles and pull up your second anchor (if you’re using one) so you can move around the boat. A sturgeon will fight like a champ, even dragging the boat, so your job is to tire your fish out. You know they’re beat when you pull them in belly up – which is just a sign of exhaustion, not mortality.
Once you’ve pulled in your sturgeon, be careful! Those barbs can do plenty of damage and even a tired sturgeon can get a second wind when it finds itself on the deck of your boat. Practice safe hook removal. Other than that, remember the limits when fishing for sturgeon and be cool about gently releasing any fish that’s under or over the keeper limits.