Guide for Sturgeon Fishing in Idaho

Sturgeon, particularly the White Sturgeon found in Idaho, are prehistoric fish that have been around for millions of years. They are known for their strength and size, with some specimens reaching lengths of over 10 feet. Idaho provides a unique backdrop for sturgeon fishing, with its stunning landscapes and diverse waterways. Anglers can look forward to testing their skills against these giant fish, which are known for their impressive size and fighting ability.

We’ll cover the essentials of sturgeon fishing in Idaho, covering everything from the best locations, specific fishing seasons, and the regulations put in place by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). We also have a detailed guide on how to catch sturgeon with best setups, techniques, baits, and more.

Where to catch Sturgeon in Idaho

The best locations to find sturgeon in Idaho are the stretches of the Snake River that provide optimal conditions for these giants. The best locations include the free-flowing stretch of the Snake River between Bliss Dam and the upper end of C.J. Strike Reservoir, as well as the section from Lewiston upstream to Hell’s Canyon Dam.

The stretch between Bliss Dam and the upper end of C.J. Strike Reservoir is in southern Idaho. The best fishing spots in this area are found in the deep holes and channels where sturgeon typically feed and dwell. The use of cut bait, squid, herring, and shrimp on the bottom proves effective baits to catch sturgeon in this location.

CJ Strike Reservoir
C.J. Strike Reservoir

Further north, the stretch from Lewiston upstream to Hell’s Canyon Dam is another premier location for sturgeon fishing. This area is characterized by its rugged terrain and the scenic beauty of Hell’s Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge. Lewiston, located at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, serves as a convenient starting point for fishing expeditions. The deep pools and swift currents near Hell’s Canyon Dam are particularly productive for sturgeon anglers, offering the chance to catch some of the larger specimens.

Sturgeon Fishing Season in Idaho

Sturgeon fishing on the Snake River offers distinct experiences throughout the year, shaped by the changing seasons, water conditions, and fish behavior. Here’s an overview of what to expect during the prime sturgeon fishing seasons:


Spring (April through June) marks the onset of the sturgeon fishing on the Snake River. As temperatures rise with the spring thaw, sturgeon emerge from their winter dormancy, driven by hunger and the increasing river levels. This season is characterized by high, often muddy waters, making fishing from the shore challenging due to strong currents and back eddies. Anglers find success in deep waters (30-80 ft), especially in slower currents and eddies, where bait can remain stationary. It’s a dynamic time with the potential for quick action and witnessing the impressive sight of sturgeon jumps.


Summer (July through September) brings an uptick in fishing activity making sturgeon more selective in their feeding. Water temperatures in the 60s change the sturgeon’s diet to include fresh water mussels, crawfish, and various fish species. Despite the challenges, using enticing baits like live steelhead smolt can be particularly effective. Summer fishing demands patience and persistence.


As temperatures cool in mid-October, sturgeon activity increases significantly. The Snake River becomes abundant with fall Chinook salmon and summer-run steelhead, providing ample feeding opportunities for sturgeon. With many anglers shifting their focus to steelhead, sturgeon fishing pressure decreases, making fall an ideal time for those dedicated to pursuing these giants. Fall represents an excellent opportunity for anglers to enjoy less crowded conditions and the chance to catch large sturgeon in a more serene setting.

Idaho Sturgeon fishing rules

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has established specific rules for sturgeon fishing to ensure the conservation and ethical treatment of these ancient fish. The key regulations include:

  • All sturgeon caught must be released unharmed back into the water. This rule is crucial for maintaining the population of these long-lived fish.
  • Fishermen must use barbless hooks when fishing for sturgeon. This requirement helps minimize injury to the fish, making the release process safer and less stressful for them.
  • It is illegal to fully remove sturgeon from the water. This means that anglers cannot bring sturgeon onto shore or a boat for pictures or any other reason. Removing sturgeon from the water can harm them, as they need water flowing over their gills for respiration, especially after the exertion of being caught.
  • Starting from 2011, the use of sliding sinker rigs is mandated. This regulation aims to reduce the amount of fishing gear left in the river, thereby protecting both the sturgeon and their habitat.

Tips to Catch Sturgeon in Idaho

  • Start with a heavy-duty rod and reel capable of handling large fish, paired with at least 50-80 lb test line for the strength needed to battle sturgeon.
  • Use a sliding sinker rig for your setup. This includes a weight on your main line, allowed to slide freely, followed by a swivel to stop the weight, then a leader line (about 18-24 inches) connected to your hook. This setup helps present your bait naturally on the river bottom.
  • Opt for barbless hooks to comply with IDFG’s sturgeon fishing regulations and to facilitate easier release of the fish. A size 5/0 to 9/0 hook is suitable for sturgeon.
  • Baits like herring, squid, shrimp, or pieces of fish (cut bait) such as salmon bellies or steelhead gills can be very effective for sturgeon.
  • Cast your bait into deep holes, near river bends, or in areas with slower currents where sturgeon are likely to feed. Using a fish finder can help locate these deep pools.
  • When you feel a bite, wait for the sturgeon to take the bait and start moving off before setting the hook. Since you’re using a barbless hook, a firm, steady pull is more effective than a sharp jerk.
  • Maintain constant pressure on the line once hooked. Sturgeon are known for their powerful runs and acrobatic jumps. Keeping the line tight reduces the chance of the hook slipping out.
  • Remember, all sturgeon must be released unharmed. Avoid removing the fish from the water. Use a net if necessary to support the fish while removing the hook.