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Fishing for sturgeon is one of my favorite ways to get out and enjoy nature beside the water. They offer fantastic sport and some of the biggest fish I have ever caught in freshwater have been sturgeon. It is safe to say that I am hooked on fishing for these beasts, so much so that my yearly fishing trip for them burns a significant hole in my wallet every time! If you have never hooked up to a sizable sturgeon before, you are probably wondering what all the fuss is about? Don’t worry, in this article, I will show you exactly why sturgeon fishing is one of the biggest loves in my life and how you can hook up to your first 100lb+ fish!
There are over 26 species of sturgeon in the world with some like the white sturgeon of North America and the Beluga of the Caspian Sea reaching sizes of over 20ft and 3,000lbs in weight! Sturgeon are present in waters around the world with the largest populations in America, Canada, and Europe. I personally target sturgeon in European waters in France, Italy, and Belgium however I have many friends over in the U.S and Canada that have landed sturgeon up to 1,000lbs.
Where Can You Catch Sturgeon?
You can catch sturgeon from rivers and lakes using a variety of techniques. Due to the decline in populations, you will have to do a bit of research before you head out to your local lake with the hope of hooking up to one. When you are in a good sturgeon fishery the fishing can be lucrative and the sport plenty, the challenge is finding out where they are! We can’t tell you exactly where the sturgeon are, but we can tell you the areas that they are present.
In this section, we will be looking at the main locations in the U.S, Canada, and Europe where you can fish for sturgeon and hopefully bag yourself a big girl! Just remember that sturgeon fishing is strictly for sport and all catches must be released without harm back into the waterways. Protecting these beautiful creatures is vital in protecting the integrity of the aquatic ecosystem. Releasing these beasts back into the depths ensures that they go on to breed and gain weight so that future generations can enjoy the incredible sport that they offer!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the locations you will find sturgeon in and what subspecies are present in different areas.
Sturgeon in Europe
Sturgeon are present in lakes and rivers across Europe. You won’t find them in every country however they are present in at least 12 countries within Europe. In most of these countries, sturgeon are legal to fish for, with permits and fishing tickets available from local tackle shops, online, and from lake owners. The best places to fish for sturgeon in Europe are France and Belgium by far. Although you won’t find many prowling in the extensive river systems, you will find large lake fisheries stocked to the brim with them.
I have had much luck in all areas of France from North to South catching sturgeon of varying species in lakes that are specifically designed for the angler. If you want to head out on a fishing holiday for sturgeon in Europe, then France is definitely the place to go. You can book a lake for a week-long trip that is full of large sturgeon, carp, and wels catfish. These fisheries usually have access to toilets, showers, and washing facilities as well as a personal rowing boat to use throughout your trip. The rowing boats are used to tow your baits out into the lake to get them amongst the monster fish in the deeper water.
You can book a French fishing trip online on sites such as Angling Lines. Here you will find deals on weekend, week-long, and two-week fishing trips. For most lakes, you will need some kit to get fishing, but if you are coming from afar without your rods, bivvy, and tackle, some places will rent out what you need for the duration of your trip. Bait can usually be purchased from a small shop or the owner of the lake with the best bait usually being the same pellet the fish are fed with during the off-season.
Sturgeon in Canada
Canada is like the Mecca for sturgeon anglers. Canada is home to the famous Fraser River which holds the callosal white sturgeon within its banks. Anglers swarm here every year to get their hands on a giant and it is not hard to see why, especially when the sturgeon here reach over 12 feet and weigh over 1,000lb! You will have to head out with a guide if you want to fish the Fraser for sturgeon and all fishing is strictly catch and release because these fish are protected.
Catching a white sturgeon from these waters is a buzz. The power of these beasts is out of this world and unlike any other fish you are likely to catch. The appearance and size of the white sturgeon hasn’t changed for millions of years and when you first lay eyes on one it is like looking back in time. The equipment needed to fish for these beasts is on par with the gear you would find on a marlin or shark fishing boat. You need some serious kit if you are going to land a sturgeon from the Frazer!
You can find a guide for a trip to the Frazer with Cascade Fishing Adventures. Here you will find experienced guides that have everything you need to land your first giant white sturgeon, from boat to hook. You may only catch one fish during your trip here but that single fish will be a fish of a lifetime! If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience and are searching for monster sturgeon, then Canada is the place to be!
Sturgeon in the U.S.
You can find lake sturgeon in the rivers and lakes of North America primarily. They are present in around 20 states but have become quite rare through population decline from harvesting, dam construction, and habitat destruction. That being said, it is certainly not impossible to get your hands on a sturgeon in America, and if you head to the right place you can be in with a treat! Lake sturgeon love gravel, rock, and sandy riverbed and lakebed.
If you are hunting for sturgeon, the northern states of Minnesota and North Dakota are great places to look. The lakes here are packed with sturgeon over the 50lb mark and there are even reports of fish over the 100lb mark being caught from the Rainy River in Minnesota. I would recommend heading over to Rainy River and the Lake of the Woods for your first sturgeon adventure. This area has the most prominent sturgeon population of all of North America and you are likely to hook up to something while you are there.
Although sturgeon are more prominent in the northern parts of the country, they can be found as far south as Mississippi and Louisiana. The Mississippi River and many of its tributaries have even produced sizable sturgeon for the angler that dares to find them. The best way to find out if there is any good sturgeon fishing close to you is to head over to the local tackle shop or get on some local fishing forums. Not many people fish for these beasts and half the country does not even know they are present in U.S waters, so networking with other anglers in your area is your best bet.
How Can You Catch Sturgeon?
Once you have tracked down a few lakes or rivers that you are certain hold a good head of sturgeon you need to start fishing for them! Before you start, you need to know how they can be caught of course. There are a few different ways you can fish for sturgeon but the most common is bottom bait fishing.
Surgeon feed on the bottom of rivers and lakes over clear gravel or sandy areas. Their barbels (the whiskers that sit under the nose) are used to feel and sense for food items drifting along the riverbed or sitting stationary on the lakebed. Their protruding mouth helps them vacuum up crayfish, shrimp, spawn, snails, worms, and clams. They are basically giant hoovers that will eat almost anything in their path, think of them as scavenging opportunists.
You can catch sturgeon with most baits. If you are fishing lakes and slow-flowing rivers you are best off using a bolt rig set up with a hard smelly pellet or boilie as bait. Using pellets or large boilies makes sure your bait stays on your line for many hours without disintegrating or getting hammered by small fish. When you are fishing for sturgeon it can take a while to get a bite as they are known to be sensitive finicky feeders.
Your rigs have to be well-made and your bait may have to sit out for a few hours at least before you temp a sturgeon to your hook. In my opinion, your best way to fish for these beasts in freshwater lakes and slow-flowing rivers is to set up and wait for long periods. I tend to find 2 or three clear sand or gravel spots and fish one rod on each of them. I place a rig out with a tempting hook bait and then tip a bunch of freebies over the top to draw the sturgeon in. I sit my rods on bite alarms and sit back and relax in the bivvy or in front of a barbeque until a bite occurs, then I jump into action.
If you are fishing for white sturgeon on the Fraser, you will likely have a different approach. Many of the Fraser stretches are fast-flowing and rocky, making it difficult to hold a bait firm on the bottom of the river from the bankside. To target these monster fish on this river you will likely head out on a boat where you will trot a sack of salmon eggs downstream or find a slack area of the river. From the boat, you will be positioned so you can hold a large lead and bait on the bottom without the line dragging from the flow and lifting your baits.
The kit you will use in Europe and America to fish for lake sturgeon and other similar-sized species will be fairly strong. Heavyweight carp and catfish rods are a popular option when coupled with a big-pit bait runner reel. When you are fishing for white sturgeon you have to step up the game. When you are heading out on a boat for white sturgeon there is a chance that you will hook up to a fish that weighs well over 500lbs, so some seriously strong gear is needed.
Large capacity conventional sea fishing reels that are spooled up with heavy braid are attached to heavy offshore fishing rods. When you first get on a sturgeon fishing vessel you will think you’ve walked on to a shark fishing boat! The kit needed to tame these beasts is serious and they are just as strong as most fish you will find in saltwater.
Sturgeon are hard fighting powerhouses that can reach astonishing sizes. They are present across the U.S, Canada, and Europe, so you may be surprised at how close the nearest sturgeon fishery is to you! You can fish for sturgeon with a wide range of baits, but you need some decent kit to be in with a chance of landing the fish.
There are plenty of places to start your sturgeon fishing ventures, with the best venues being paid fisheries where you know there is a large head of fish stocked. The other ways are guided tours and heading out on your own. If you are heading out on your own, then do some networking first and make sure you know for certain that there is sturgeon in the water you are targeting. When it is time to head out, bring your strong rods, high capacity reels, and be prepared to wait a while!
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