Idaho Sturgeon Fishing

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    • White sturgeon can reach tremendous size, commonly over 6 feet, but they used to grow much bigger. A famed photograph in the Oregon Historical Society archives shows a massive sturgeon of about 1,500 pounds caught in 1895. Sturgeon have long lifespans, sometimes estimated at over 100 years, and fishing pressure has prevented modern sturgeon from getting old enough to reach the sizes they once did.


    • The Snake River in Hells Canyon is a productive sturgeon river, but it is also dangerous. Because of its shallows and rapids, access is mostly limited to aluminum jetboats, and going with an experienced guide is recommended (for a list of local guides see link in the Resource section below). Roads to the river are limited and mostly seasonal, so traveling by boat is the most practical way of reaching the river.

    Finding Sturgeon

    • Snake River sturgeon spend most of their time near the bottom in deep holes. These are not necessarily the deepest parts of the river, but rather are those in which current and other conditions are optimal. As you get to safely know the river, you will discover where the best holes are. Again, hiring a guide is the best way to accomplish this. While there is no harvest season for sturgeon in Idaho, summer is the best time to fish.


    • Idaho guides often use saltwater rods and reels for sturgeon. Rods should be six to nine feet in length, with enough backbone to turn a running fish. Line needs to be a minimum of 40 pound test, with up to 160 sometimes being used. Reels need to be tough, and should be able to hold at least 300 yards of line. Fighting belts are generally used.

    Bait and Rigging

    • Fresh trout, carp, whitefish, catfish, nightcrawlers, salmon roe and belly fat, and crayfish are all used as bait. Fish can either be cut in half or fished whole. The rig usually consists of one or two 8/0 or 10/0 barbless hooks tied on a 24-inch leader attached to the main line by a swivel. Above the swivel is a slider or dropper swivel to which the weight dropper is tied. Standard weight is about a pound.


    • Sturgeon fishing in Idaho is exclusively catch and release, and barbless hooks are required to lessen injury to the fish. Other regulations may apply, and can be found on the Idaho Fish and Game website. As with any species of fish, a valid Idaho fishing license is required; these can be purchased at most bait shops and sporting goods stores in the state.

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