In the watery depths of North America’s rivers, a prehistoric marvel glides silently, captivating the imagination of those fortunate enough to encounter it. The white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) stands as a living testament to the ancient legacy of aquatic life, with a lineage dating back millions of years.
The white sturgeon is an awe-inspiring creature, renowned for its colossal size and distinctive appearance. Among the largest freshwater fish globally, these giants can reach lengths of up to 20 feet and weigh over 1,500 pounds. Their elongated bodies are covered in tough, bony plates known as scutes, providing a layer of armor that helps protect them from predators.
These ancient fish are easily recognizable by their elongated snouts, or rostrums, which house sensory organs that help them detect prey in the murky depths. Despite their formidable appearance, white sturgeon are primarily filter feeders, using their vacuum-like mouths to suck in small invertebrates, fish, and other aquatic organisms.
White sturgeon are native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, with their range extending from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska down to Baja California, Mexico. They are particularly abundant in large river systems such as the Columbia, Sacramento, and Fraser Rivers. These rivers provide the ideal mix of freshwater and saltwater conditions that white sturgeon require for different stages of their life cycle.
These remarkable creatures are anadromous, meaning they migrate between freshwater and saltwater environments. Adults spawn in freshwater, while their young, called fry, spend the early years of their lives in estuaries before migrating upstream.
How to catch White Sturgeon
Equipment and Gear:
Sturgeon are powerful fish, so a sturdy rod and reel are essential. A medium to heavy-action rod with a strong backbone is recommended. A baitcasting reel with a high line capacity is also crucial, as sturgeon are known for making long, powerful runs.
Use a heavy line, around 50-80 pound test, to withstand the sturgeon’s strength. A fluorocarbon leader can provide added abrasion resistance.
Sturgeon are often caught using a sliding sinker rig. This consists of a sliding sinker, a swivel to prevent line twist, and a leader with a baited hook. Circle hooks are commonly used, as they tend to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, increasing the chances of a successful catch and release.
Lures and Bait:
White sturgeon are opportunistic feeders, and their diet includes a variety of live and dead baits. Popular baits include lamprey eels, herring, shad, and squid. Freshness is key, as sturgeon are sensitive to the scent of bait.
Sturgeon are bottom-dwellers, so the most effective method is bottom fishing. Anchor your boat in a known sturgeon hotspot, drop your bait to the riverbed, and wait for the sturgeon to bite.
Sturgeon are often more active during tidal changes. Plan your fishing trips around the incoming and outgoing tides for increased success.
Present your bait close to the bottom, as sturgeon feed on the riverbed. Use a fishfinder to locate the depth where sturgeon are holding, and adjust your bait accordingly.
Sturgeon fishing requires patience. These fish may take their time inspecting the bait before committing, so resist the urge to set the hook too quickly. Let the fish fully take the bait before setting the hook with a slow, steady pull.
Some regions require anglers to report their sturgeon catches. Check with local authorities or fish and wildlife agencies to understand reporting requirements and contribute to conservation efforts.