Trophy Sturgeon Fishing on the Snake River
White Sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in the United States. These remnants from the dinosaurs age can reach lengths in excess of 10 feet and can provide an angler a once in a lifetime experience.
When fishing for sturgeon you should always consider the fish first. If fishing from a boat limit your lines to no more than 2 to prevent tangling and loss of fish.
Always watch your rods. Never just toss a bait into the river and then ignore it! Sometimes a fish will gently take a bait and if you are not paying attention the fish could actually swallow the bait before anyone even knows. This can damage a fish so badly it can get sick or die.
Your tackle should be heavy enough to handle a very LARGE fish.
The fishing rod should have a sensitive tip but lots of back bone. You may have to really lean on a trophy fish and this may take a lot of pressure. Rod length is up to the user. Shorter rods work well in a boat and a long rod will cast a longer distance from the bank. Use whater fuits your needs.
Reels – My choice for a reel is a Penn Senator. These will hold a large amount of line and have sturdy, smooth drags. If necessary they will handle the drag being cranked tight to turn a fish or in the rare case break one off.
If that situation arises the fish should not have anything but a hook and very short leader to deal with. This will not cause the fish harm and the hook will dissolve out in a short period of time.
Use circle hooks as they are less likely to be taken deeply and causing injury to the fish. Your leader should be 20 lbs lighter weight than your mainline.
Tie you weights on with line (25 pound line maximum) so you can break off if the weight becomes wedged in the rocks.. We have had to break off weights a number of times and still managed to boat the fish. This is a win win situation.
Every section of the Snake River has fish-able numbers of sturgeon and at this time you are allowed to keep sturgeon. The number of fish that can be harvested has been changing so please read the regulations to determine how many fish a year the rules allow.
Our observations from 40 years of fishing these rivers is recruitment of young fish has been down and high fishing pressure has reduced this population significantly. We suspect poaching might also be an issue but have no evidence.
The harvest of fish in the slot is reducing the age class that will become spawners and may in the future cause a devastating crash in fish numbers behind all the Snake River Dams.
We highly suggest you practice catch and release to maintain these fisheries.
Main line 80 to 120 pound. We like the braided line because of its strength and the lack of pressure from current flow. Less of a belly in your line makes felling the fish much easier.
Weights are totally dependent on how fast the water is moving. Take a good selection from relatively small to 16 ozs or more. To attach the weight you can use a two way swivel or a put your weight on a plastic slider. This has been our preferred method.
Baits – Any good tackle shop has a selection of commercial baits. They all work, so take a selection. Some people like bait as in salmon heads or cut bait from suckers, pikeminnows or whatever fish you can catch and use legality
Sturgeon fishing tends to be a waiting game. If a fish doesn't bite within an hour or two moving might be a good choice.
When you pick a spot to to fish look for deeper holes where food might accumulate. These are naturals but also don't overlook sand or gravel bars. In free flowing areas sturgeon of all sizes will sweep these areas for food. I have see some very large fish take baits in some very shallow water. It is always a surprise to have tis happen.
If you decide to fish for sturgeon consider that at any time you might hook a very large fish. In my opinion you should have at least 2 people that are fully capable of handling a big fish. This number goes up to 3 if you are boat fishing – some one might have to drive the boat if you have to go off anchor. Handling means sustained strenuous activity for extended periods of time.
It is your responsibility to make sure these fish come to the boat or bank as fast as possible. Often anglers simply do not realize that over stressing these animals can be a real issue and in some cases can prove fatal.
In our experience the majority of cases fish can be brought to the boat within 45 minutes.. Occasionally a fish can fight a lot longer but they are not the usual fish in the 7 thru 10 feet sturgeon.
From experience, I know that some people are not willing or have the ability to work hard enough to do the job by themselves. Bring a strong friend with lots of determination or stay home.
Sturgeon fishing....the experience" is a short essay into the experience of sturgeon fishing. It was written with the idea of sharing the thrill and excitement that goes along with this freshwater trophy fishing.
Trophy sized White Sturgeon caught in the lower Hells Canyon region of the Snake River.
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