Lake sturgeon provide some exhilarating fishing opportunities throughout the Midwest and Canada where there are open seasons. Depending on the state or province, many major river systems that have healthy populations of sturgeon have a spring season to target these exotic fish. Before you fish for sturgeon, however, make sure to check on the legality on the water you intend to fish. For many anglers that have cut their teeth on freshwater fishing in the Midwest, the lake sturgeon is the biggest fish that swims. A unique opportunity to catch a pure monster of a fish. Some rivers like the Minnesota side of the Rainy River routinely produce giant fish that measure over seventy inches. Not many fish you can target in this part of the world that even come close to the size and power. When a fish that is over five feet long, jumps three or four feet out of the water behind the back of the boat and screams back down to the bottom, you will be hooked on sturgeon fishing.
According to Chris Zahn who is a guide in northern Minnesota for Rainy Daze Guide Service, sturgeon have a loyal following and this prehistoric fish is becoming more popular all the time. According to guides like Zahn, the sturgeon fishing today on the Rainy River is better now than ever because of special regulations and catch and release practices. Sturgeon can get big, and they also grow old, some of these massive fish are several decades old.
While sturgeon typically spawn later into early summer with the season closing on the Rainy River in mid-May, Zahn believes many sturgeon migrate up into the Rainy River in the spring to follow spawning walleye and suckers. The beauty of sturgeon fishing is that sturgeon will continue to bite during high water situations that muddy the water and make walleye fishing much more difficult. Sturgeon can definitely save a tough trip when the walleye are not cooperating.
According to Zahn, there are two key locations to target or find spring sturgeon. Back Eddies with deeper and faster water often hold sturgeon. These back eddies create a reverse flow that offer sturgeon slower current to lay in near the bottom. The second key location is any type of hole or trough that offers slower current. These types of locations often have fast current near the surface, so the key is using a large enough anchor to hold in the current. Spot lock on trolling motors can also work well depending on the battery life and don’t be afraid to use a traditional anchor in conjunction with spot lock to work in tandem to hold the boat in current.
Zahn prefers to use a 6/0 size circle hook paired up with a short eighteen-inch snell. Depending on the current, pyramid style river sinkers of flat no roll sinkers are used to hold in the current with the pyramid style sinkers working the best in the strongest current. There have been times this particular spring when Zahn has had to use eight-ounce pyramid sinkers to hold in the high water. The snell and main line are typically an eighty-pound braid. Heavy duty catfish rods are typically all that is used for sturgeon. A seven foot long heavy-action fiberglass rod paired up with a large capacity spinning or baitcasting reel with a good drag will suffice.
Bait typically consists of several night crawlers gobbed up on the hook. The goal is to gob up four to six night crawlers to create a ball of meat. Some anglers will also tip the night crawlers with a shiner or two to bulk up the bait and add an additional scent.
Despite the massive size of these fish, the bites can often resemble pecks from much smaller fish. In fact, it is not uncommon to catch suckers and other fish while targeting sturgeon. With the circle hook setup, the key is to leave the rod upright in the rod holder and let the fish hook themselves. If you do have to set the hook with a circle hook, crank on the reel to bend over the rod. The circle hooks typically always hook the fish near the outside or corner of the mouth which helps reduce angling mortality immensely.
Big sturgeon simply inspire awe. When these massive fish roll and run in the current or jump out of the water, the sight is amazing. These fish will leave your arms soar and make your lower back burn. No other fishing opportunity in the Midwest even resembles sturgeon fishing. If you get an opportunity to target these amazing fish… do it.