When it comes to Columbia River sturgeon fishing trips, Oregon is one of the few places on earth an angler can still catch one of the largest freshwater fish in existence today, the infamous white sturgeon. In the Pacific Northwest there’s two species of sturgeon that reside in the various waterways of the region. The first being the green sturgeon, which is the smaller of the species reaching approximately 7ft. in length and 350 lbs. Amazingly enough these fish can live to be 70 years old, however, retention of green sturgeon is illegal because at this time they’re currently listed as threatened by the ESA. This is largely due to the decline in adequate fish habitat for the various fish populations. Never fear, on the Columbia you can still fish for the green sturgeons bigger brother, the infamous white sturgeon. White sturgeon are more commonly found in the deep waters of the of the Columbia and are by far the larger of the Pacific Northwest sturgeon species. We love to target these amazing fish on our various Oregon Sturgeon Fishing Trips and go after them pretty much all year long.
Interestingly enough, this ancient fish predates the time of the dinosaurs and can literally grow in excess of 14 ft. in length and weigh over 1000lbs. Even more amazing, they can live to be older 100 years old. Granted, finding white sturgeon of that size are fairly rare today, it’s still fairly common to catch them in the 12ft. – 600 lbs. range in several sections of the Columbia River. Also the Columbia River is one of the few places sturgeon retention is still allowed in Oregon. Keep in mind the larger fish have to be released due to the decline white sturgeon populations over recent years. The fact that white sturgeon are not listed as endangered is the only reason Washington and Oregon still allow retention although in a limited capacity.
White sturgeon in the 4-5 foot range are referred to as keeper sturgeon. These fish can be retained during certain times of the year depending on the regulations set forth by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife. The great thing about keeper sturgeon is that the meat is of exceptional quality. Sturgeon does not have a strong fishy flavor and the meat is firm unlike other popular white fish like cod or halibut. Another great thing about sturgeon is that there are no small bones. It offers a delicate flavor and has a consistency similar to chicken. Sturgeon of keeper size were prized among Russian royalty at the dinner table and once you try some for yourself it’s easy to see why.
Whether you’re interested in going after keeper fish or chasing record class sturgeon you’re in luck. We are one of the few Northwest sturgeon fishing guides that target these fish all year long. We not only fish both Trophy class and keeper sturgeon, we also target salmon, steelhead, and walleye as well. Many times we’ll even do doubles and fish for salmon in the early morning hours and go after sturgeon in the afternoon. Keep in mind the fish we target largely depends on the times allowed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife due to the various in season fishing rule changes. If you’d like to target more than one species and go for doubles just let us know. These trips start in the early morning and tend to run into the late afternoon but we’re sure you’ll enjoy the double limits, basically a sturgeon fishing trip and salmon fishing trip all in one.
The catch and release sturgeon fishery generally takes place in the lower sections of the Columbia from the mouth up to the Bonneville Dam. There are several great spots like the Multnomah Channel and the Willamette River to catch them. Also, further up river at the I-5 bridge and up near the Bonneville. The sections of the Columbia below the Bonneville Dam are part of the catch and release sturgeon fishery. Up above the bonneville in certain section keeper sturgeon fishing is allowed. These keeper fish are generally targeted during the spring and fall. For example, the John Day dam and just below the McNary are a couple of great spots to target these fish. The Columbia River Gorge is definitely one of our favorite areas of the Columbia to target sturgeon as well. This section has one of the strongest sturgeon populations in the region with plenty of keeper fish to go after as well as a few monsters. Our clients love our Oregon sturgeon fishing trips in this section because the catch rates are phenomenal. It is not unreasonable to literally have over 50 hookups with these gnarly fish on just one trip.
When fishing for sturgeon it’s important to understand that you need to fish fairly heavy gear for when you hook into one. For example, even the small ones generally weigh around 40-60 lbs. We like to use the size 8-12 gamakatsu octopus hooks and use about 2-6 oz lead weight to get our setup down to the bottom. Sturgeon are considered opportunistic bottom feeders, however, they will chase down bait as well. We’ve had several clients reeling in to do a bait check when suddenly their setup get’s slammed. After that the fight is on. When it comes to bait, shad is probably our favorite bait to use. Sturgeon like to go after shad during the spring time when the shad inter hte Columbia to spawn. Don’t have any shad? That’s perfectly ok. Sturgeon also love lamprey, shrimp, herring, mussels, clams, smelt, anchovies and other dead stuff, some guys swear by chicken livers or even hot dogs. I’ve even heard of guys shooting some WD-40 on their baits to inspire the bite. On our sturgeon fishing trips, we at Columbia River Fishing Adventures tend to stick to baits that are part of the Pacific Northwest Sturgeons natural diet. It’s always worked great and has never failed us thus far.
Once you get your bait one and start fishing it’s just a matter of doing whatever works best for you. Some anglers like to plunk it. Basically let it drop to the bottom and leave it there till the fish takes it. Although this is a fairly effective method, we like to work the baits off the bottom in the deep free flowing water of the Columbia where sturgeon like to hang out and feed. Basically Sturgeon jigging. You, simply let your set up drop to the bottom and occasionally work the bait up and down in the water till you entice one of those monsters to take a bite. Once you feel a tug you give it a yank and that is when the magic happens. I have to say that even after all these years as a sturgeon fishing guide, one of the amazing aspects of catching a sturgeon is that even though they are an exceptionally large fish they tend to surface with such ferocity that it literally gets the heart pumping to see one of the beasts leap from the water. Anytime a fish over 100lbs. catches air and slaps it’s body on the river’s surface the wake it leave behind will definitely get the boat a rocking. There’s also nothing quite like the sound of a squealing reel as a sturgeon peels off the line off while making a run for it. These fish will literally toe the boat around as well as give the old arms the kind of workout you’ll never forget. However in this case you’ve love every second of feeling the burn.
Once the fish finally rolls over and give up it’s belly, you’ll know it’s finally surrendered. From that point it’s time to get out the camera for a photo shoot. After a healthy dose of glamour shots, we safely set the beast go back to the deep or we start cutting up your keeper fish to take home. In the end you’ll have pictures of yourself and one of the oldest fish on earth or a pile of meat to enjoy with your friends, family and loved ones at the dinner table. Even better both. As long time Oregon fishing guides we always strive to provide Columbia River sturgeon fishing trips like no others. Contact Buddy Dupell of Columbia River Fishing Adventures and book your guided sturgeon fishing trip today. The best way to get ahold of Buddy is on the phone. You can give him a all at 503-490-3099. Book your trip now, as these Columbia River sturgeon fishing trips fill up fast.
Oregon Sturgeon fishing guides
Columbia River Fishing Adventures
19580 S Kalal Ct, Oregon City, OR 97045