Sturgeon are popular fish to go after because of their massive size and because they produce caviar, which is a delicacy around the world. But the survival of the mysterious and prehistoric-looking fish has been threatened by decreased habitat and commercial fishing over time.
Thanks to conservation efforts, however, sturgeon have found refuge in many areas around the United States.
There are generally a lot of regulations and restrictions around sturgeon fishing. Short seasons, barbless hooks, and wet release requirements are a few of the rules you’ll need to commit to before attempting to reel in a dinosaur.
For the most part sturgeon fishing will be catch and release only, though a very limited harvest in some states. But that doesn’t make it any less fun.
Sturgeon fishing can be done both legally and responsibly. But first you need to know where to catch sturgeon.
Most sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they spawn in freshwater and migrate to saltwater. In North America, sturgeon primarily live in freshwater lakes or rivers. Deep rivers of the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region generally offer the best sturgeon fishing opportunities in the US.
We have compiled a helpful list of where you can find and fish for sturgeon throughout the US. We have broken it up into three main areas: Pacific Northwest, Midwest & Great Lakes, and Other Areas in the US.
Where to Catch Sturgeon: Pacific Northwest
Some of the best sturgeon fishing in North America is found along the Columbia River, and its estuaries, in Oregon and Washington.
The white sturgeon, found along the West Coast, is the largest freshwater fish in North America. It is the largest sturgeon that you can catch, reaching lengths of 10-20 feet. They can weigh in at up to a whopping 2000 pounds. However, most are under 10 feet and weigh around 500 pounds.
You have many options to choose from when it comes to sturgeon fishing in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and beyond. Here we outline the best spots. Remember to check the regulations and current rules before you head out on a fishing trip.
Columbia River Estuary
The Columbia River is probably the best-known area for sturgeon fishing. And the Columbia River Estuary is thick with food for these beasts, so it has sturgeon all year round. But the most popular time to fish for them is during the late spring and early summer when the numbers are high and seasons open.
Here are a few spots to try:
- Astoria: There’s an area off the northwest shore of Astoria called Desdemona Sands. It’s a shallow area north of the deep shipping channel.
- Baker Bay: There are other shallow spots in this bay, near Chinook and Ilwaco, that are great for catching sturgeon and aren’t as challenging to get to.
Be sure you are mindful of other fishermen and be especially careful to stay out of the shipping channel and away from the big ships. They have the right-of-way and you should give them a wide berth.
If you are in the Portland/Vancouver area and want to get out sturgeon fishing, there are a lot of great areas to do so. Be prepared to have some crowds since you’re so close to two major cities. But this can be a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and try to find a dinosaur.
- Government Island, on the Washington side of the island
- Kelly Point Park area, at the mouth of the Willamette River
- Sauvie Island, on the tip of the island near Warrior Rock
- Scappoose Bay
- St. Helens
There are sturgeon in these areas year-round, but it’s best to fish for them during the colder and wetter months of November through March.
Bonneville Dam Area
The Bonneville Dam, on the Columbia River, has been a very popular site for sturgeon fishing for a long time. Due to the falling population, sturgeon fishing has become very heavily regulated in this area. Be sure to check the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife site for updated rules and regulations.
Sturgeon fishing is only open for catch and release in this area, but don’t let that stop you. Fighting one of these huge fish is a rite of passage and a ton of fun. There are only certain dates and times it’s open, so check the website and book a trip.
Upper Colombia River
Portions of the Columbia River above the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington have opened to sturgeon fishing in recent years. This area is open under emergency regulations, so you will need to check fishing regulations regularly to be sure you are in compliance.
For the 2022 fishing season, this area was open from Grand Coulee Dam to China Bend Boat Ramp. It was declared open from June 18-September 30, 2022. Check for announcements regarding the 2023 season for white sturgeon.
There are certain portions of the Snake River that are best for sturgeon fishing.
Southern Idaho: According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the best sturgeon fishing in the state is in and around C.J. Strike Reservoir. This 65-mile stretch of the Snake River is some of the best sturgeon fishing in the state.
“The healthiest populations of white sturgeon remaining in Idaho are found in the free-flowing stretch of the Snake River between the Bliss Dam and the upper end of C.J. Strike Reservoir in southern Idaho.” – IDFG
North/Central Idaho: Hells Canyon has produced some of the biggest sturgeon caught in Idaho. The most popular areas are between the Hells Canyon Dam in western Idaho down to Lower Granite Dam in eastern Washington.
Where to Catch Sturgeon: Midwest & Great Lakes
Like many areas of the US, commercial fishing and habitat loss lead to a decline in the population of sturgeon. With conservation efforts, numbers are now rebounding and sturgeon are returning to their native waters.
The midwestern US and Great Lakes regions have seen a great rebound in their sturgeon numbers. While this is a very large area, we have outlined a few spots for you to go find that monster sturgeon of your dreams.
You can have some success in the Greak Lakes, but you will see your opportunities increase the farther north you go. The more you can fish upriver, the more likely you will succeed.
The Rainy River
With the right gear and patience, anglers can find Lake Sturgeon in various spots in Minnesota. Some of the most successful areas are:
- The Rainy River
- 4 Mile Bay
- Lake of the Woods
In any of these areas, it’s best to fish in deep holes in the river. Position yourself just upstream from the hole to try to snag the sturgeon as they swim up current to feed.
The St. Croix River
This is a popular spot for Anglers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN area. Just 20 minutes east of St. Paul will get you into some great fishing spots on the river.
The season opens in June, but the fishing won’t be great until the temperature starts to cool off. When the fall temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit kick in, you know it’s time to head to the river.
Where to Catch Sturgeon: Other Areas of the US
We have listed some of the areas with the largest sturgeon populations. But this is by no means an exhaustive list. Here are some additional areas you could look into if you’re looking to fish for sturgeon closer to where you live.
- Missouri River
- Upper, Mid- and Lower-Mississippi River
- Mississippi Delta
- Gulf Coast
- San Francisco Bay Area, California
Sturgeon fishing is a thrill of a lifetime. These monsters will give you a run for your money. If you are able to reel one in, you will have a souvenir photo like none other.
Regulations vary widely depending on where you go, the time of year, and the type of sturgeon. So, be sure to check with the local fish and game office before you head out.