The best sturgeon fishing on the planet is right here on the Columbia River. An estimated 2 million sturgeon inhabit the Columbia River, making it the largest population in the world. Sturgeon have earned the nickname “living fossils” as they have remained largely unchanged for the last 200 million years. Instead of scales, sturgeon have thick skin and bony plates called scutes. Their skeletal structure is largely cartilage and they use four barbels which hang in front of their toothless mouths to detect their food.
The White Sturgeon is one of approx. 27 species of Sturgeon. It is the largest and most recognized and can grow to 20′ in length and weigh 2000 pounds. The White Sturgeon of the Pacific Northwest and Columbia River mature at an older age and larger size than the Sturgeon of the rivers in California. That is one of the reasons for the different size limits of the sturgeon. The size limit was adjusted to protect the female “spawning” sturgeon.
The majority of sturgeon migrate back and forth from the Pacific Ocean to the Columbia River and feed on freshwater clams, lamprey eel, anchovies, smelt, shad, salmon and steelhead. Sturgeon fishing is excellent all year round on the Columbia River. For angling purposes, sturgeon are classified into three categories: shakers, keepers, and oversize. I will guide you to fish for keepers and oversize fish.
KEEPER STURGEON: A “Keeper” is a sturgeon between approx. 38″ and 54″ to the fork in the tail in length. The reason we are saying “approximately” is that rules are always changing and we don’t want to post improper lengths if the rules change suddenly. This size fish may be retained when caught. The Keeper is easily distinguished because it shakes the rod somewhat slowly and will run hard, taking line off the reel at least for a few seconds.
OVERSIZE STURGEON: An “Oversize” Sturgeon or Trophy Sturgeon is any sturgeon that exceeds the maximum keeper measurement. Oversize Sturgeon can run from over five feet to twelve feet on average, with some exceeding this size and hundreds of pounds in weight. If big game fishing is your goal, then take a shot at matching your strength up to a 500 pound Sturgeon. These hard-fighting, aerial-performing giants will test even the strongest fisherman. Don’t let size fool you, even the “Keeper” Sturgeon put up a fight to remember. Best time for “Oversize” is late May through October, and the best time for “Keepers” is October through April.
With the large population of Sturgeon in the Columbia River there is non-stop action catching and releasing smaller and sometimes much larger sturgeon, until you get the one you want to take home with white flaky meat similar to halibut, a great tasting fish.