Lake sturgeon fishing is starting to become more and more popular, and for good reason. The fish are plentiful in the Rainy River, they eat a lot and are can be caught with consistency and the fish can grow in excess of 100 lbs which is fun! When the walleye bite isn’t at its prime, sturgeon fishing is a fun and exciting option.
Where do I start? One option is to get a guide from a local resort. This is an easy way to use heavy duty sturgeon gear you might not own, be introduced to the right set ups with sturgeon rigs and of course, have the opportunity to fish some of the best sturgeon hot spots on the river.
If you are going to use your own boat and tackle, some ideas. Use strong rods, reels and line. Muskie gear or your strongest freshwater gear is a good choice. These fish fight hard and on walleye gear, the fight often times can last an hour. Heavier gear will allow you to pull in the fish quicker, which puts less stress on the sturgeon and ultimately is better for releasing.
Basically, a no roll sinker combined with a sturgeon rig will get the job done on the tackle end. A sturgeon rig is an 18″ snell with a 5/0 circle hook loaded with a combo of night crawlers and frozen emerald shiners. Some anglers also like to put rotten chicken or pork down as well. In short anything that emits a strong smell works great. Fish this set up on the bottom much like you would fishing for carp or catfish.
Where to fish for sturgeon.
Although sturgeon do roam the vast waters of Lake of the Woods and are often caught by unsuspecting walleye anglers, the best stretch of water to fish for sturgeon is at the mouth of the Rainy River called Four Mile Bay all the way up river to the falls near Birchdale. This is about a 40 mile stretch of ideal sturgeon habitat.
Anglers typically choose areas to anchor just upstream from a deep hole in the river. The idea is when the sturgeon decides to eat, it swims upstream from the deep hole to shallower water to feed.
Equipment to have ready.
-Use tackle that is suitable for landing a fish that weighs 100 pounds, or more
-Large landing net
-Gloves, especially for handling small sturgeon that have razor-sharp projections (scutes)
-Pliers to remove hooks from fish. Sturgeon are almost always hooked in the mouth.
-Device to accurately measure the length of a long fish. We see fish over 80 inches long.
-A wet towel to place over the fish’s head when measuring. This helps calm the fish.
-Device, such as a seamstress tape, to measure maximum girth for weight estimation
-A pen or pencil and a pad of paper to record numbers from tagged fish that you catch
The first time sturgeon fishing is always the most intimidating. Most anglers have some success their first couple of times out. Over time, knowledge and confidence grows leading to even more sturgeon success.
Local bait shops and resorts are a great resource to get you started. Bait shops also have the necessary bait and tackle to catch a sturgeon.
There are two sturgeon seasons on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River, a catch and release season and a harvest season in which you can keep one fish per calendar year. The harvest season runs from April 24th – May 7th and July 1 – Sept. 30. The catch and release season runs May 8th – May 15th and Oct. 1 – April 23rd. This means from May 16 – June 30, no sturgeon fishing. The rest of the year, you can fish for sturgeon. See MN DNR Fishing Regulations for more info.
For more info on fishing the Rainy River, go to https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/rainy-river/
For places to stay and guides, go to https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/lodging/