When it comes to sturgeon fishing in Oregon, few thrills and adventures equal that. The most abundantly found sturgeons in Oregon are the white variety, and anglers are likely to encounter white sturgeons in other fishing colonies in the world. Although diminishing food supplies have caused the number of white sturgeons to decrease in recent years, anglers can still be kept busy in the Willamette and Columbia rivers, including some coastal estuaries.
Sturgeons feast on eels, worms, fish, and clams. The most common baits are squid, shad smelt, and shrimp among others. Unlike salmon, sturgeon rarely move over waterfalls, and likely habitats include fresh and salt waters and are to be found crisscrossing the Columbia in search of food.
Sturgeon fishing in Oregon is strictly controlled and is managed by a quota system, which includes different open dates. So, anglers are advised to check out opening dates and off periods. If you're looking to embark on a sturgeon fishing trip in Oregon, here are the best fishing spots:
The Willamette River, which is the largest tributary of the Columbia River provides an enormous sturgeon habitat in its dark water reaches. It covers a 26 mile stretch from Portland to Willamette Falls.
Sturgeon and other fish are abundant, and fishing is done throughout the year. But the best times for catching sturgeon is between Fall through early Spring. The area below Willamette Falls has come under new regulations recently making it a strictly “catch and release" zone.
The Columbia River is arguably Oregon's largest sturgeon fishery. And the area around the Columbia River Gorge and parts of Portland offer excellent fishing. In March and April, the area surrounding Bonneville Dam inhabit large numbers of oversized fish and angler are to be seen avidly competing for the prize catch. But the most intense fishing is done around October as this is the month young sturgeons hatched earlier in the year reach catching age.
The area below Bonneville Dam is now “catch and release" zone and above Bonneville Dam - sturgeon retention seasons open January 1st and continue until quotas are reached. Check regulations updates on the ODFW website.
Nehalem Bay does not attract as many anglers as the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. But you can catch sturgeon above where the town of Nehalem is located all the way to North Fork.
Sturgeon almost invariably will be seen on every Oregon estuary searching for shrimp, which grow abundantly wherever fresh water meets the ocean, clamps and other foods. The best time to catch is during winter through to early spring.
This is one of Oregon's northern bays and is known to produce the most reliable stocks of sturgeon outside the Columbia and Willamette rivers, throughout the year. But if you're not an experienced angler, beware of getting caught in the sand when the tide is low. So, avoid travel brochures telling sturgeon fishing in Oregon is to be found all over the state.
If you travel alongside the Umpqua River Estuary any time of the year, you're likely to encounter small kayaks, medium motorized boats, and larger steamers all competing for the available stocks of sturgeon and other fish varieties. There are also large numbers of green sturgeon nest to the ocean which for some years now have been under protection.
Methods of Fishing Sturgeon
Here are the steps you need to take to catch sturgeon:
- Buy the right tackle equipment. Purchase a fishing rod 6 to 9 feet in length. Ensure the reel can hold at least 80 pounds and have enough line about 230 meters.
- Tie the right hook at the end of your fishing reel.
- Add the right bait to the hook. Ensure the bait you add is freshly-looking.
- Buy fresh baits including freshwater clams, salmon eggs, smaller fish, and crawfish. These are tasty foods for sturgeon. If you fail to get fresh bait, smear some scent to the bait that will attract the sturgeon. Scents familiar with surgeons include sardine oil, shrimp oil, and shad oil. You can get these from the fish markets.
- Identify the right spot to catch. Look for deep waters.
- Tighten your fishing rod to secure the catch. If you feel the bite, yank the rod to make the hook lodge inside the sturgeon's mouth.
- Haul in your catch as quickly as possible. Plant yourself on both feet and yell for help if the fish overpowers you. Sturgeons can be enormous and powerful.
Sturgeon fishing tips
Sturgeon catching tips are important if you're looking to hone your skills in fishing large numbers of surgeons consistently. Here are six sturgeon fishing tips that experienced anglers have used to come back from their fishing trips with their boats full:
- Always keep your sturgeons bait fresh.
- Red hooks are the best. They stay sharp the longest.
- Always use a light-tipped rod
- Fish where sturgeons are to be found. Sturgeon are very mobile fish, and you may get disappointed to pinpoint preplanned fishing spots.
- Change your bait as frequently as possible. You may encounter a sturgeon that just finished a clam's dinner and is looking for a salmon eggs dessert.
Be patient. The stuff that makes a good angler is patience. You may fish for miles and miles, hours and hours and get tempted to give up.
Fighting stubborn sturgeon
When you're in the middle of a successful sturgeon fishing trip, you're likely to encounter one large, stubborn fighting sturgeon. Many newbie anglers have no idea how long they should struggle with such a tough fish. A reasonable period should be less than 30 minutes. If you fail to overpower a sturgeon, then it's time to hand over the rod to your stronger companion. You are not and should not fish alone. It would be a much more pleasant experience when you have company, trust me!