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Sturgeon Fishing- How to Catch Sturgeon, Rigging Bait For Sturgeon,

Catching sturgeon requires the best sturgeon bait available for the area that you are fishing for sturgeon in.  A big part of knowing how to catch sturgeon besides having good bait to catch sturgeon is having the proper tackle for fishing sturgeon and knowing how to rig it.  This is a sturgeon fishing article made for the novice and even experienced sturgeon fishermen might learn a few things from the sturgeon fishing tips and techniques explained here and you should also read the other good sturgeon fishing articles here as well including how to use a sturgeon snare, as you will need it if you are serious about catching big sturgeon!  May as well make your sturgeon fishing trips as fun and successful as possible so read on!
Sturgeon fishing is one of those types of fishing that takes patience.  The bait that you use is different than what most other fish that are found in areas where you fish sturgeon like to eat so your actual bites are few and sometimes far between.  Not to say you won’t catch a striped bass or catfish on it, but usually those are better caught on baits chosen for them.  However, having said that, last time out we limited on both stripers and sturgeon with sturgeon bait!   If you do start to pick up catfish, you can switch to another type of sturgeon bait to avoid the bait loss as it is usually expensive.  I like to use grass shrimp and ghost shrimp for sturgeon fishing here in the Sacramento delta in California and a pound of grass shrimp will run you over $20 a pound and the ghost shrimp run about six bucks a dozen usually.  I usually use a double hook sturgeon rig with good sized hooks so I typically will use 4 ghost shrimp or about 15 grass shrimp for each bait up so it isn’t cheap.  Of course, what fishing is? Many people will use lamprey eels for them and they have a skin like leather and stay on the hook really well.  If I use lampreys, I will use them on one hook and ghost or grass shrimp on the other hook and sometimes I will use just mix up the ghost and grass on both hooks for a little smorgish board meal for fish.

Speaking of the sturgeon rig, I like to use about a two foot wire leader and a sliding sinker set up, just like I use for striper fishing with cut bait  and I fish with a bait runner reel.  I use good 40 or fifty pound test line.  Fishing in a boat, all the weight that you need is enough to just hold it stable on the bottom which is typically 2 to 3 ounces.

When I cast the pole and set it down, I prop it in the pole holder so that it is balanced like a teeter totter, but secure so it doesn’t get drug in if a big sturgeon runs with it or a big striper grabs it.  This allows it to tilt downward with very little resistance when the sturgeon tugs on it and makes the bite more apparent as these big prehistoric fish usually bite ever so slightly.  Their mouths are rubbery “vacuum-type” tubes that they extend outward into rocks and crevices to search for food.  Their bite is not a big bite, but rather a slow “pull down” from the suction action and can be very easily mistaken for a little current movement or debris brushing against the line.  Windy conditions can make spotting these subtle nibbles almost impossible.  Usually they will find the bait and suck it in once, then again, and then again deeper into their throat and this third pull is the ideal time to set the hook and be ready for the battle!  Now, on occasion they will come up and suck it in once or twice hard and take off with it and the pole will just double right over without any fooling around and this is the time to “put the wood to him” (aka-Set the hook)!

I like to fight the fish as far away from the boat as possible to wear him out.  When he heads to the boat though, you have to keep the slack out of the line as with any fish even thought their mouths are very rubbery and are less apt to easily toss the hook out like a striper and some other fish.  They are a strong fish that like to hug the bottom when you fight them and when you bring them to the boat, the anchor like and the motor in the water can become major issues.  Sometimes, people will tie an empty Clorox jug to the anchor line so it can be released from the boat and be found later after the battle ends away from it.  With huge sturgeon, this is almost a necessity in order to land them without breaking the line.  You might even “follow” them with the boat as the fight ensues.  Back in the day when people kept the huge ones and there was no “slot limit”, my brother in law and his cousin landed a 316 pounder and 200 pounders were not that uncommon and they might tow the boat around for an hour!  Luckily, the importance of these huge and ancient monster fish in replenishing the fishery was recognized and the slot limit requires that those under 48 inches and over 72 inches be released.  With the enhanced breeding environment there are plenty of keeper fish within this slot, which are the best eating anyway.  It is also a common practice that the fish of legal size with little damage are released back anyway as there is a season limit as well.

The sturgeon like to feed on mud beds where clams, mud shrimp, and other docile and stationery sea creatures live.  They also like to feed where the water washes across areas such as this and washes through tules and weeds to a “down hill” slope where they will sit and scour and scavenge.  So, you would get up current of one of these slopes that you identify with a visual scope of the surroundings and with your depth finder, and anchor such that your bait lies on the upper half of that downhill slope.  You can picture the sturgeon facing up-current and moving side to side as they ascend up this slope searching for food.  This is one place I will look to fish, but just one and not my most preferred.

I like to find moving water to fish them where it is running out of a backwater area, old flooded island or narrow pass that then flows into a wider spot in the river or slough caused by the tide receding or filling.  If you have ever owned and aquarium and filled it after cleaning it with a hose, or it has any fast moving water in it for any reason, you will notice that all the fish will swim right into it by instinct.  Some of my best striper fishing has been in very shallow and fast moving water.   It rarely matters what type of fish, they all are attracted to this moving water and I believe the fish in all the rivers have this same tendency.  Here, I will find a spot where it looks like food would be being swept from weed beds and tulles and into a slow spot below this moving water and anchor such that my bait is at the tail end of the flow.  Here in the delta where I fish, the sturgeon mostly bite the outgoing tide and primarily only the last couple hours of that tide and the last half hour of the outgoing is the hottest.  I don’t know why, but that is just a fact and you will see the boats heading in after the tide as proof.

Another place I like to fish is kind of off the wall.  There are old flooded islands in our delta that due to cost were never reclaimed once flooded by a levee breaks.  These islands are shallow and flat and some are several thousands of acres in size.  Those sturgeon seem to love these shallow feeding areas and the striped bass are thick in them as well. Many times we are fishing for both sturgeon and stripers in 4 or 5 feet of water.  These big flooded islands must be full of food as there is not any particular rhyme or reason to fish in any one place to catch them.  We all have our special spots in them, but I have a feeling that they only exist in our minds! These big open water inland oceans are covered in floating duck blinds and it is pretty common to see fishing rods hanging out of them when the hunters are in them.  We have caught boatloads of stripers, sturgeon, and catfish on our duck hunting days---talk about heaven!

Sturgeon love to feed at night and are a lot more active then.  Nothing is better than fishing a good outgoing tide at eleven at night on a calm day with no wind!  It takes stamina and a decent boat to do it but this will truly enhance your sturgeon fishing success immensely.  Just remember to use your head for safety as the winds can kick up and other boats need to see you if you fall asleep and your light is not on.  And dress warm!  I like to throw one of those throw away hand warmers in the toe of each of my boots when I go, and the same when I go duck hunting!

Don’t forget to bring a big net or a sturgeon snare to land them once they are up to the boat.  The snare is a metal pole with a cable in the center that has a handle to pull it tight around the fish once in place.  It has a mechanism that locks it into place so once tightened it can’t loosen without releasing it. The snare slides over their tails and up to their upper bodies behind the gills where it is then cinched down to lift the fish into the boat.   Make sure you don’t damage the gills as the fish may not be legal or you may decide to release it and this could be fatal to it.  A big net is your best bet in most cases.  You have to be careful because sturgeon have little sharp ridges protruding ever inch or so in line for their full length on their back and on both sides.  These are very sharp and will cut your hands easily.  Grabbing one around the body is a real bad idea!

Cleaning sturgeon is not too hard, but different than other fish and there is a good article on how to clean a sturgeon here on our site as well.

This is some of our technique in the delta and we would love for you to share yours in these in our fishing forums, here below this blog, or better yet, join and start your own fishing blog on our sitewhich is free and simple!  If you have any questions or comments, or just want to meet and BS other fishermen about any kind of fishing, try our fishing forums out.  It will be fun and you can meet some folks which is what our social network is about.  Post your fishing photos on our site and show them off to us.  Come join our fishing community and join our fun.  We look forward to having your belong to the most useful and fun fishing site on the net!  Why not, it’s free!