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If you’re looking for a fishing adventure that offers a thrill unlike any other, sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River is an absolute must. These prehistoric beasts are incredible: growing to astonishing sizes, living extraordinarily long lives, and putting up a fight that will leave you breathless. Their size, history, and fighting power make them a popular fish to target in Northern Minnesota. Best of all, sturgeon fishing is surprisingly simple, making it an accessible adventure for anglers of all experience levels.

Looking for a place to stay? I highly recommend River Bend Resort on Rainy.


Lake sturgeon in the Rainy River routinely reach impressive sizes. A quick glance on social media in the spring will show the incredible opportunities this body of water has for anglers looking to catch their fish of a lifetime. Anglers frequently encounter sturgeon over 50 inches, and fish exceeding 70 inches are a very real possibility. These ancient giants are a true symbol of conservation success and a reminder of the incredible angling opportunities (beyond just walleye) that are abundant in Northern Minnesota.


The Rainy River, forming the international border between Minnesota and Ontario, flows from Rainy Lake to Lake of the Woods. It offers fantastic fishing for various species, including the iconic Lake Sturgeon. However, due to their threatened or endangered status historically, Lake Sturgeon fishing opportunities are carefully regulated. On the Rainy River, fishing for sturgeon is permitted only on the Minnesota side, so make sure to keep a close eye on your GPS to avoid crossing the border. Sturgeon seasons are complex, with designated harvest, catch-and-release, and closed periods. Always consult the latest Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regulations before your trip. Remember, regulations for sturgeon fishing can vary significantly between locations and even between years, so thoroughly research the local rules.

You can check out the latest on Rainy River (spring 2024) here.



When targeting Rainy River sturgeon, remember: these fish are big, powerful, and feed on the bottom. Your gear needs to reflect that! Here’s the breakdown:

  • Rod: Choose a heavy-duty rod designed for catfish or muskie, capable of handling a 50 lb test line or higher. Lighter gear might do the trick, but will require a longer fight and a much greater chance of losing the fish – and stressing it out more.

    With a sturgeon, the bite can be surprisingly subtle. If you’re looking for high-end gear, opt for a rod with a lighter tip action for better bite detection and a heavier backbone for fighting power. Remember, circle hooks do most of the work for you, so no need to set the hook aggressively – just let the fish take the bait and run with it.
  • Reel: A robust spinning or baitcasting reel will do the trick. Make sure it matches your line strength.

Ultimately, I like to run a medium – heavy rod with a faster action. This allows me to bring the fish in while being sensitive enough to detect any bites.


    For a strong and responsible setup, use a 5/0 circle hook. This design helps the fish hook itself and minimizes damage. Combine this with a non-rolling weight suitable for the current (a 4 oz flat sinker might be a good starting point). Attach your hook and weight to opposite ends of a leader. Begin with a shorter leader (around 18 inches) to keep your bait near the bottom where sturgeon feed. If needed, you can lengthen it later.

    • Hook: Circle hooks are a favorite for sturgeon fishing. A 5/0 circle hook is ideal. It helps the fish hook itself and minimizes injury, allowing for a better release.
    • Weight: Use a non-rolling sinker heavy enough to keep your bait anchored in the current. A 4 oz flat sinker is a good starting point but adjust based on conditions. The higher the river, the heavier the weight.
    • Leader: Create a rig with your hook and sinker on opposite ends of a leader. Start with an 18-inch length, but be prepared to experiment if you’re not getting bites. Sturgeon are bottom feeders, so the number one goal when rigging your line is to keep your bait on the bottom.


    As for bait, you can’t go wrong with nightcrawlers.  It’s also common to throw on dead salted shiners as well. Perhaps it’s the overwhelming scent of minnows starting to rot (sturgeon can smell and “taste” with their barbels) or the fact that there are certain times when crawlers haven’t made it through the frost yet, but we found more success with salties than anything else. Not to mention, it seems they grow accustomed to free handouts from walleye fishermen throwing minnows all spring long.

    I recommend re-baiting the hook to keep the scent as fresh as can be.  Sometimes the current will take the bait, walleye and suckers will get a piece of the feast, or it simply will get worn out.  There is nothing worse than reeling up the line to find nothing was on it for the last half hour. Take time, often, to check your bait and add a fresh scent.


    Livescope Rainy RIver Sturgeon

    Locating Rainy River sturgeon isn’t the challenge – getting them to bite is. These fish tend to gather in large numbers within the deep, calm sections of the river. If you pass over them with your sonar, you’ll see a massive mark on the screen (or with Livescope you can see them actually swimming)! While you might think dropping anchor right above that deep hole is the ticket, it’s often not the best strategy. Instead, sturgeon often move from their deeper holding areas into shallower sections to feed. That’s why experienced anglers position themselves upstream of the deep holes and patiently wait for the sturgeon to come to them. Remember, sturgeon are especially active at night, so if the daytime bite is slow, shift your focus to overnight trips or at least target those prime low-light hours of early morning and late evening.


    When handling a Rainy River sturgeon, protecting their gills is crucial. There are two main ways to do this:

    • Netting: If possible, use a large, sturdy net designed for big fish. This minimizes contact.
    • Tailing: If you don’t have a suitable net, grasp the sturgeon firmly by the base of its tail. With help, carefully lift the fish, supporting its belly. Larger sturgeon often tire from the fight, so they usually don’t put up a fight in this process. The biggest key is strength and stability when lifting into the boat.

    Remember, smaller sturgeon are feisty and have sharp spines! Gloves offer protection while handling them. To release a sturgeon, use the same methods in reverse. Hold the tail firmly until the fish shows signs of energy and tries to swim away. Be patient, especially with larger sturgeon, as they may need time to recover.


    Sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River offers a thrilling and accessible experience for anglers of all levels. However, these fish are vulnerable, so it’s absolutely crucial to handle them with care to ensure future generations can enjoy this unique fishery.

    Fights can last from minutes to over an hour, depending on your gear. To avoid heartbreak at the end of a long struggle, make sure you have a heavy setup and educate yourself on the know-how to properly land and release these fish.

    The best way to learn is to simply do! With a little preparation, you’ll have a successful day on the water and ready to plan your next trip to target them.


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