Hooking a giant lake sturgeon could be considered the pinnacle of angling experiences in North America. These ancient giants are capable of growing to more than 100 pounds and provide the fight of lifetime.
Once fished to near extinction, lake sturgeon populations are rebounding in their northern habitats and are providing some exceptional angling opportunities.
Once the subject of lake monster legends, if you want to try your hand at hooking one of these giants, here are a few tactics you will need to know.
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Canada offer some of the best lake sturgeon angling opportunities, but other areas of the Great Lakes also hold these enormous fish. Seasons typically begin after Sept. 1, but some regions also offer spring and summer sturgeon fishing opportunities.
Lake sturgeon prefer a habitat of large rivers and lakes, and spend most of their time feeding on the bottom. Do some homework beforehand to find the best sturgeon waters in the area you plan to fish.
Sturgeon are commonly found in deep holes, eddies and along drop offs, so concentrate your efforts there.
The best times to fish for lake sturgeon are early morning and evening.
Lake sturgeon are the largest freshwater game fish in North America, and it is not uncommon to catch fish weighing in excess of 20 or 30 pounds, so you will want heavy duty tackle that can stand up to the strain of fighting one of these giant fish.
An 8 to 9 foot rod with a heavy butt and medium action is the best choice. Some anglers use a muskie rod, which is a good choice to handle the fight of a sturgeon. Both baitcasting and spinning reels work, but make sure they are heavy duty and have a quality drag system. For smaller sturgeon, you can use 20-pound test line, but if you hook a big one, you will likely be in trouble. A better choice is a braided line in the 50 to 80 pound range. This will ensure you are prepared if a big one takes your bait.
Make sure your leader or swivel matches the strength of your line. A good pick is something in the 80-pound range.
Fishing for lake sturgeon does not require any fancy lures. The most popular and productive bait is a glob of night crawlers, fished at the bottom. It is important to keep your bait at the bottom, because lake sturgeon suck their food right off the bottom. Make sure you have enough weight on your line to hold the bait down, especially if you are fishing in a strong current. If your bait is suspended too far off the bottom, the fish will likely miss it.
Other good baits include flathead or sucker minnows, in whole or cut into pieces. Again, these should be fished right on the bottom.
LANDING A STURGEON
One of the toughest steps in lake sturgeon fishing is getting the fish in the boat, especially if you hook a giant. A muskie net can handle smaller sturgeon, but anything over 50 inches will likely require a different tactic. The best way to get a monster in the boat is to grab the fish right in front of the tail and lift, while putting your other hand under the belly. Larger fish will take two people, so it is a good idea to fish with a partner.
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