STURGEON FISHING IN OREGON
White Sturgeon Ė The white sturgeon migrate up and down the
Columbia River from the mouth to the first Dam which is the Bonneville Dam.
Sturgeon are always looking for food and follow different food sources up
and down the river. The first couple months of the year the juvenile
sturgeon (keeper size) work their way from the salt water up river following
the smelt in which they depend for their food. Just outside Portland Oregon
is where we will intercept these fish and it is a lot of fun. To keep a
sturgeon on the Columbia River, the fish has to be 38-53 inches. These size
fish will stay up river until mid May at which time they will work their way
back to the mouth of the river and start eating on anchovies, sand shrimp
and other food sources the ocean provides. June can offer some incredible
action for keeper size sturgeon, down in Astoria at the mouth of the
While the juvenile size fish are heading down river, the adult sturgeon are heading up river to spawn. These trophy size fish are following the shad up river which are the big sturgeonís main course. That is what we will use for bait. These giant sturgeon will average 200-400 pounds and are the Marlin of the fresh water. To see a 3oo-pound fish tail walk behind the boat is an awesome sight and by the way, you have him on your line. These fish make some of the best videos you will ever have. These trophy sturgeon will stay up river until the end of summer at which time the spawning is done and the shad are gone and it is now when they will head back to the ocean and the keeper size fish will head back up river to just below Bonneville Dam and the keeper action begins again in October.
The white sturgeon are bottom feeder so that is where we will be fishing for them. There is a belief that the sturgeon like stinky old fish to eat. I am not a believer in this. I think a person does better with the freshest, natural food you can get in the water. The keeper size sturgeon like smelt, anchovies, sand shrimp and squid while the trophy sturgeon are shad eaters. That is what I want in the water while fishing for these great fish.
Peak times for sturgeon:
- Keeper sturgeon: Mid-March-mid May, October-November
- Trophy sturgeon (oversize sturgeon): May 16-1st week of July
Fishing for sturgeon in Oregon is not for the faint-of-heart. Catching and landing a truly big sturgeon is an adventure in itself. Can you imagine a 200 lb. or 300 lb. or even a 400 lb. fish on your line? If we go after these monsters, you better bring a lunch along as it may take a while to land them.
These huge sturgeon start moving up the Oregon rivers in May and the peak times for catching them on the Columbia River is in June and July. They jump, they roll, they dive deep and dance on the water as they put on quite a show for you. Not bad for a fish that might be one hundred years old! It's something you won't see trolling for bass in a lake.
I have seen hundreds and hundreds of trophy sturgeon tail-walking across the water when we hook them up, and I still get amazed on just how big they look coming out of the water. When you see a 10-foot fish dancing on the water, and he is on the end of your line, it gets a bit intimidating. But then the fight is on, and after 30 minutes of giving all you have, you start gaining on him. And after a little while, you get to see this great fish lying up on the side of the boat. Thatís when you get that photo of your life, before releasing it with pride to live a few more decades. I am telling you, I donít know of anywhere in the world that you can go out and catch a fish in fresh water that is 200-400 pounds and more. These fish make some of the best videos you can imagine.
If smaller "keeper" sturgeon are on your wish list, then March and April are your peak times. The beautiful and scenic Columbia River Gorge literally fill up with white sturgeon providing steady action and some good eating. You can only keep these fish when they are from 42" to 60" long. (That's 3 1/2 - 5 feet of pure fighting machine!)
Keeper Sturgeon Fishing
Oregon sturgeon fishing in the spring makes for a lot of action and fun for all ages. In the Columbia River Gorge around Bonneville Dam, a sturgeon has to be between 42" and 60" before you can keep them. While looking for that great eating fish, some days in the peak of our spring season we will see over 50 fish hooked a day. Many times a day we will see four rods working at the same time. The Columbia River has the biggest white population in the world, so in our peak time you wonít want to miss it. I have many customers that book for the next year as soon as we get off the boat. A couple of sturgeon customers have told me to never give a certain date away, that they will die with that date.
March through May is peak time for the spring keeper sturgeon fishing. We will start a bit at the end of February. The April full-day dates fill up fastest. However, after I fish a full day, I also book half-day, 4-hour afternoon trips at the end of the day. These are good trips because I have just spent 8 hours looking for fish, and by the afternoon, I am pretty dialed in on where the bite is. I have guys come down from Seattle for the afternoon trips and they do very well. Most years, even the half-day trips are just about all limited with fish. In April the last couple years have been off the charts with fish. Most boats are just getting off the water by the time we are just getting started.
October means the re-opening of keeper sturgeon season, and it is usually very good fishing when it opens. While fishing for keepers (42" to 60" long), we will also see one or two larger trophy sturgeon hooked up in a day. The peak time for oversized sturgeon is June and July.
In the fall, we continue catching keeper sturgeon until the water temperature starts to drop. After November as the winter sets in, the sturgeon will become a bit lethargic. We will still catch fish through the winter but we will probably not see our typical 20-30 fish days until springtime. Then it will be rock and roll again.
As your sturgeon fishing guide in these waters for over 35 years, I can offer you a relaxing fun-filled day that I am sure will keep you coming back. The peak time for keepers is February through April and then again October and November. We can catch sturgeon all year but there are times of the year that are better then others. In mid May through summer we are catching the trophy sturgeons.
Oversize Sturgeon Fishing
Trophy sturgeon fishing, or oversize sturgeon fishing as it is called here, is as exciting as anything you will ever fish for. Our world-famous trips here in the Columbia River Gorge, just minutes from Portland Oregon, offers you the fish of a lifetime - the largest white sturgeon population in the world. You will see sturgeon after sturgeon that will average 200-400 lbs. and they can get up to over 1000 lbs. It is not for the faint of heart. A guided trip with us will certainly get your heart pounding and your adrenalin pumping. While doing seminars and shows, I invite people to come and dance with a sturgeon. When hooked up, they will bolt straight out of the water and dance on their tail then dive to the bottom faster then we can say "Fish On."
The peak time to fish for these giant sturgeon are from mid May through the summer. At this time, the oversize sturgeon are coming up from the ocean and show up below Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, eating shad as they are heading up to spawn. So, we often do shad fishing in the morning for bait, then go after trophy sturgeon by mid morning, using a 3-pound bait. It's the way to spend a day here in Oregon.
Before one of the TV shows we did, the host told me that he was not really looking forward to fishing for these trophy sturgeon. He had fished all over the world and he was sure that these sturgeon were just going to be a lazy lethargic fish. But he told me how impressed he was with their fight. He told me that these trophy sturgeon were one of the best-kept secrets in the fishing world.
In May the trophy sturgeon come up out of the salt water and are heading up to the gravel bars below Bonneville Dam here on the Columbia River to spawn. So from May 1st to August 1, we have a sturgeon sanctuary that is closed so that the sturgeon can spawn without being harassed. So since these fish have not been messed with for 3 months, you can bet that I'm up there in early August chasing fish. We continue to fish trophy sturgeon through August and September. We cannot retain sturgeon until October 1st but it is sure fun getting a lot of bent rods. And you donít want to miss that October opening for keeper sturgeon either. It is like the opening of the sanctuary - these fish have not been touched for a few months and there will be a lot of keepers to be caught.
We want to keep this fishery as healthy as we can. A female sturgeon is 23-28 years old before she even gets her reproduction system. A male is 15-18 years old. We are told that a female sturgeon will drop a million to a million and a half eggs and only 2-3 will make it to adulthood. Now it is even worse for them because the sea lions have now learned the last few years that sturgeon is very easy to catch and apparently tasty because they are killing them at a alarming rate. Seeing a sea lion killing a fish that is possibly over a hundred years old is terribly. So you see that the sturgeon are an incredible species and we need to do what we can to preserve them.
If you donít care about keeping your sturgeon but just want some incredible fishing, book a spring trip with us. By mid May the trophy sturgeon will be back eating shad and coming up the Columbia River to Bonneville Dam to spawn. Often while you're fishing for sturgeon, most fishermen will be fishing for salmon, so the fishing pressure is low. This makes good business trips for employees and associates.
For some fishing thrills that few people can claim to have experienced, give me a call and we will arrange a date to go after these powerhouses.