Sturgeon are an ancient fish. They first appeared more than 175 million years ago and have changed little since. They are one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. White sturgeon, which are found in the Snake River--which flows through Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Idaho--can grow to be 20 feet long and weigh more than 1,700 pounds. While most of the sturgeon on the Snake are smaller than that, catching a monster sturgeon is an experience that can't be beat. Plus, keepers taste great smoked. These sturgeon tips can help maximize your Snake River experience.
Snake River guide Andrew Klassen recommends a 7-or-8 foot fishing rod with medium-to-heavy action. Klassen says because sturgeons don't strike and run, your rod needs to have a soft tip. A soft tip allows you to see the telltale tapping of the rod's tip as a sturgeon takes the bait. Because a sturgeon strike often can't be detected by feel, a bigger, less sensitive rod is beefy enough to land a big sturgeon.
Because sturgeon don't strike the bait violently, fishermen need to set the hook quickly once the fish starts tapping the rod's tip. A braided line with little or no stretch is recommended because it translates the rod's action instantly to the hook. Most Snake River anglers use line that is 50-to-80-pound test. Thinner line allows the line to sink quickly in a current, but heavier line holds up better to abrasion on the bottom. Add a heavy sinker to a heavier line to get your bait to the bottom quickly.
Any bottom-style rig will catch fish--because sturgeon feed on the bottom. An easy setup is a hook, a swivel and a flat-sided sinker. Attach the stinker far enough above the hook and swivel so the hook will move naturally in the current. The sinker should be heavy enough to keep your rig on the river bottom.
Like all bottom-feeders, sturgeon will eat anything that comes their way. Worms and frozen minnows work great. Because sturgeon hunt with their noses, the smellier the bait the better. Fresh herring makes a great bait. Most successful anglers carry several types of bait.
Several Snake River studies, compiled by researcher Yetta Jager, show that most of the longer impoundments have a larger fish density, with a good division of small- and medium-sized sturgeon.
Anglers should fish parts of the river that have a trough. Sturgeon feed in the trough, letting the strong current float the food to them. A good location will produce bites within a half-hour. Snake River anglers usually move to a new location every 30 minutes until they find fish.