How To Fish For Sturgeon

Sturgeon are a fascinating and unique type of fish, known for their distinctive characteristics and historical significance. These fish belong to the Acipenseridae family and are among the oldest families of bony fish in existence, with a history dating back over 200 million years. Sturgeons are characterized by their elongated bodies, scutes (bony plates) instead of scales, and a heterocercal tail, which is asymmetric with the upper lobe being longer than the lower one.

Sturgeon can vary widely in size, with some species growing up to several meters in length. The most commonly known sturgeons are the Beluga, famous for producing caviar, the valuable eggs that are a prized delicacy. These fish are found in temperate waters of the Northern Hemisphere, and many species inhabit large rivers and coastal waters.

Sturgeons are not easy to catch due to their size, strength, and the specific regulations that protect them in many regions. Anglers need to be patient, well-prepared with the right gear, and knowledgeable about the sturgeon’s habitat and behavior. Despite these challenges, the thrill of catching a sturgeon makes it a highly sought-after experience for many anglers.

This article will help you learn everything related to Sturgeon fishing including the best setups, effective baits and lures, fishing techniques, the best times to fish for them, their preferred habitats, and tips for beginners, as well as essential fishing gear and tools.

Sturgeon Fishing Setup

The most common tackle for catching sturgeon involves a combination of heavy-duty gear due to the size and strength of these fish. The ideal fishing rod is typically a heavy-action rod, about 7 to 12 feet in length, which provides the necessary strength and leverage to handle large sturgeon. Coupled with this, a high-capacity fishing reel is essential. It should be robust, capable of holding at least 200-300 yards of fishing line, to accommodate the long runs of sturgeon. The fishing line itself should be strong, with many anglers preferring braided lines of 60-100 pounds test, due to their durability and lack of stretch, which provides better sensitivity to bites.

The best setup for sturgeon also includes an appropriate weight and leader configuration. The weight depends on the current of the water body; in strong currents, heavier weights up to 16 ounces may be necessary to keep the bait anchored. The leader, typically made of a heavy mono or fluorocarbon, should be about 1-3 feet long and capable of withstanding the abrasive mouth of the sturgeon, with a test strength often ranging from 80-150 pounds.

The most effective rig for sturgeon fishing is often the slip sinker rig. This setup consists of a sliding weight on the main line, followed by a swivel that prevents the weight from sliding down to the hook. The leader is then tied to the other side of the swivel, with a hook at the end. For hooks, a size 5/0 to 9/0 is generally suitable, depending on the size of the sturgeon targeted. Circle hooks are preferred as they are more likely to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, making it easier for catch and release, which is important for conservation.

slip sinker rig

In summary, the ideal sturgeon fishing setup includes a heavy-action rod (7-12 feet), a strong reel capable of holding 200-300 yards of 60-100 pound test braided line, a sliding sinker rig with appropriately heavy weights, a strong leader (80-150 pounds test), and large circle hooks (size 5/0 to 9/0). This setup balances the need for strength and durability to handle large sturgeon, while also being sensitive enough to detect bites.

Best Bait For Sturgeon

Sturgeon are opportunistic bottom feeders, primarily consuming a diet consisting of small fish, worms, crustaceans, and other aquatic organisms. This diet preference is key in determining the best bait for catching them.

The best live bait for sturgeon includes nightcrawlers, which are large earthworms, and smaller baitfish like shad, smelt, or herring. These baits are effective because they closely mimic the sturgeon’s natural diet. When using live fish, it’s important to hook them in a way that keeps them lively and attractive to the sturgeon. For nightcrawlers, threading multiple worms onto the hook can create an enticing bundle that is hard for sturgeon to resist.

In terms of artificial lures, sturgeon are less likely to be caught with traditional lures like spinners or crankbaits, as they primarily feed on the bottom. However, anglers have success using scent-infused soft baits that resemble the creatures sturgeon feed on. These can include rubber worms or other soft, plastic baits designed to mimic the smell and texture of live bait.

Sturgeon Fishing Techniques

Here are the best fishing techniques for Sturgeon.

1. Bottom Fishing

Bottom fishing is one of the most effective techniques for catching sturgeon. This technique involves casting your line and allowing the bait to rest on the river or sea bottom where sturgeon feed. Use a heavy-action rod, a robust reel with 60-100 pound test braided line, and a sliding sinker rig to keep your bait anchored in place.

Bottom fishing is most effective in areas where sturgeon are known to forage, such as deep river channels, near underwater structures, and in estuaries. The key is to keep the bait stationary and on the bottom, making it an easy target for sturgeon.

2. Anchor Fishing

Anchor fishing involves anchoring your boat in a strategic location and casting bait into the current. This method allows your bait to spread scent downstream, attracting sturgeon. The setup is similar to bottom fishing, with heavy-duty gear and a sliding sinker rig.

This technique is particularly effective in rivers with strong currents where sturgeon move upstream. Positioning the boat upstream of known sturgeon hotspots and casting downcurrent can yield excellent results, especially during migration seasons when sturgeon are actively moving.

3. Drift Fishing

Drift fishing is a dynamic technique where you allow the boat to drift with the current, covering more area. The gear setup is similar to bottom fishing, but the approach is more mobile.

This method is effective in large rivers or estuarine areas where sturgeon are spread out. By drifting, you can present your bait through different territories, increasing the chances of encountering sturgeon. This technique works well when sturgeon are not concentrated in one area, or when you are searching for feeding grounds.

4. Still Fishing from Shore

Still fishing from the shore is a simple yet effective technique for sturgeon. It involves casting your line from the riverbank or shoreline and waiting for a bite. Use a long, heavy-action rod and a sliding sinker rig to keep your bait on the bottom. This method is most effective in areas with easy shore access to sturgeon habitats, such as river bends, feeder creek mouths, or near submerged structures. It’s a great option for anglers without a boat and can be surprisingly productive, especially in rivers with good sturgeon populations.

Best Time To Catch Sturgeon

Best time of day to catch sturgeon? Early morning and late evening are optimal, as sturgeon are more active during these cooler, lower-light conditions.

Best time of year to catch sturgeon? Fall and spring are the best seasons for sturgeon fishing. In the fall, they feed actively to prepare for winter, and in spring, they migrate and spawn, making them more accessible.


In spring, sturgeon start migrating upstream to spawn, making them more active and easier to locate. The best technique during this time is anchor fishing in river channels or near spawning grounds. Using robust tackle with heavy weights and live bait like nightcrawlers or small fish can be particularly effective. Early morning and late evening remain the best times to fish, taking advantage of their increased activity.


During summer, especially post-spawn, sturgeon may be less active, but fishing can still be productive. Bottom fishing in deeper, cooler waters can yield good results. Sturgeon tend to retreat to these areas to recover after spawning. Fishing during early morning or late evening, when the water is cooler, is more effective.


Fall is an excellent time for sturgeon fishing as they feed aggressively before winter. This is a good time to try drift fishing, covering more areas as sturgeon are actively moving and feeding. Early mornings and late evenings are ideal, utilizing live bait or scent-infused soft baits to attract these hungry fish.


Winter can be challenging due to colder temperatures and reduced sturgeon activity. However, still fishing from shore or bottom fishing in deep holes where sturgeon may overwinter can be successful. Patience is key during this season, and midday might be more productive when the water is slightly warmer.


Fishing for sturgeon at night can be highly rewarding. Sturgeon are active at night, especially in warmer months. The best technique is anchor fishing, using heavy-duty gear and bait that produces a strong scent trail. The key is to fish in known sturgeon habitats like deep river bends or near food sources. Quiet and patience are crucial, as sturgeon can be wary and are more likely to bite in undisturbed conditions.

Where To Find Sturgeon

Rivers, estuaries, and coastal areas are prime locations for sturgeon. Sturgeons are often found in varying depths, from 15 to 60 feet, depending on the water body and time of year.

A fish finder is an electronic device that will help you find the perfect spot to fish for a sturgeon. It’s especially useful in deeper or murkier waters, as it can identify underwater structures and depths where sturgeon may congregate.


Rivers are classic habitats for sturgeon, especially larger river systems with deep channels and strong currents. The best technique here is anchor fishing, positioning the boat in the current and using heavy-duty gear. A sliding sinker rig with live bait like nightcrawlers or small fish is effective. Target areas with varying bottom compositions, such as where sandy bottoms meet rocky areas, as sturgeon often frequent these transition zones.


Estuaries, where freshwater meets the sea, are excellent for sturgeon fishing, particularly in areas with slower currents and muddy bottoms. Bottom fishing from a boat using a heavy-action rod and a robust reel is ideal. Sturgeon can be found in depths of 15-30 feet in these areas, so adjust your weight and bait accordingly. Live baits like herring or smelt, common in estuarine environments, can be particularly attractive to sturgeon.

Coastal Areas

Coastal areas along the sea or large lakes are productive for sturgeon, especially in bays or near the mouths of feeding rivers. Drift fishing is a suitable technique in these areas, allowing coverage of a larger area. The setup remains similar: heavy-action rods, strong reels, and braided lines. Here, depth can vary widely, so a fish finder is especially useful to locate sturgeon holding areas.

Tips To Catch Sturgeon For Beginners

  • Start with a heavy-duty fishing rod (about 9-12 feet long) and a reel capable of holding at least 200 yards of 50-80 lb test line. Braided line is preferable for its strength and sensitivity.
  • Use a sliding sinker rig. Thread a weight (3-8 oz depending on current) onto your line, followed by a bead, and then tie a swivel to the end of the line. Attach a 18-36 inch leader line to the other end of the swivel, and tie a hook (size 4/0 to 6/0) to the end of the leader.
  • Nightcrawlers or cut bait like herring, smelt, or shad are excellent baits for beginners. They are easy to obtain and handle, and are very attractive to sturgeon.
  • For live bait like nightcrawlers, thread multiple worms onto the hook to create a tempting target. For cut bait, hook it through the top to keep it secure and appetizing.
  • Cast your line into deep channels, near underwater structures, or in estuaries, as sturgeon tend to dwell near the bottom in these areas.
  • Sturgeon often take bait gently. Watch your rod tip for subtle movements and be ready to set the hook with a firm pull.
  • If you catch a sturgeon, handle it gently and release it quickly if you’re practicing catch and release. Sturgeon are often protected species.
  • Be aware of and adhere to all local fishing regulations, including seasons, size limits, and licensing requirements.

Best Sturgeon Fishing Gear And Tools

Fishing Rod

The best fishing rod for sturgeon is a heavy-duty, high-quality rod, typically around 9 to 12 feet in length. It should have a strong backbone to handle the weight and fight of a large sturgeon, yet enough sensitivity to detect subtle bites. A longer rod provides better control when casting and fighting these powerful fish. Fiberglass or a composite of fiberglass and graphite makes an excellent material choice for its durability and strength.

Fishing Line

Braided line is the ideal choice for sturgeon fishing due to its high strength and lack of stretch, providing greater sensitivity to detect bites. Opt for a line with a test strength of 50 to 80 pounds to ensure it can withstand the powerful runs and heavy weight of sturgeon. Braided lines also have a smaller diameter compared to monofilament, allowing for more line capacity on the reel, which is crucial when battling these large fish.

Fishing Reel

A robust, high-capacity reel is essential for sturgeon fishing. Choose a baitcasting or a heavy-duty spinning reel that can hold a large amount of heavy-test braided line. The reel should have a strong, smooth drag system to handle the long, powerful runs that sturgeon are known for. A quality reel ensures durability and reliability, crucial factors when targeting such large and powerful fish.

Fish Finder

A fish finder is an invaluable tool in sturgeon fishing. Look for a model with high-resolution imaging and good depth range capabilities. It should be able to accurately depict the bottom contour and pinpoint structures where sturgeon may be holding. GPS functionality is also beneficial for marking productive spots and navigating waters. A good fish finder not only aids in locating sturgeon but also enhances safety by providing detailed information about underwater terrain.