Lake sturgeon is one of the largest freshwater fish species that you can catch in North America. They are commonly targeted by anglers throughout the great lakes regions, Canada, and as far down south as Alabama and Mississippi due to the Mississippi River.
If you’re targeting this ancient species you need to read this. In this guide, we will cover how to identify lake sturgeon, where to catch them, their seasonal patterns, the equipment you will need to catch them, and offer a few additional tips to help you catch more of them.
Lake Sturgeon Identification
Lake sturgeon are commonly a grayish-brown color and have white bellies. They have four barbels on the bottom of their snouts, a flattened head, and have a bottom facing mouth.
They commonly reach size ranging between 3 to 6 feet and can weigh on average between 30 to 100 lbs.
Where to Catch Lake Sturgeon
Lake sturgeon are prominent throughout the great lakes regions in the United States and parts of Canada, though they can also be fished as far down south as Alabama and Mississippi. They are a freshwater fish that are found in lakes and rivers with soft mud, sand, or gravel bottoms. They are usually found in waters ranging from 15 to 65 feet deep.
They feed by foraging areas with mud, sand, or gravel bottoms. Sturgeon are bottom feeders that locate food by dragging their barbels across lake and river bottoms and suck up with their mouth to acquire food. They commonly eat insect larvae, small fish, leeches, clams, crayfish and snails.
Though they can be caught in both lakes and rivers, lake sturgeon will migrate to their spawning sites between April and June. They usually spawn near river banks in rocky areas with shallow water ranging from 1 to 15 feet deep.
Best Time to Catch Lake Sturgeon
The best time to fish for lake sturgeon is generally early mornings or evenings. The fish tend to be more active just as the sun is rising, or just as the sun is setting, making it a great time to target them.
Lake Sturgeon Equipment Recommendations
Rods and Reels
For lake sturgeon, you need a heavy-duty rod and reel that can withstand a tough fight. Some anglers opt for muskie rods which can handle battling sturgeon quite well. Spinning gear and baitcasting rods and reels can work fine as long as you make sure your reel has a good drag system. Whether you go with spinning or baitcasting rods, something around 8 to 9 feet in length that is medium action should work well.
Lures and Baits
Using natural bait tends to work best for lake sturgeon. Anglers commonly use nightcrawlers, minnows, shad and other baitfish to target sturgeon. You can also cut your baitfish up into smaller chunks and use that. Artificial lures are not commonly used for sturgeon. Since they hunt for food by dragging their whiskers along the bottom, bringing natural bait down their level works best.
Circle hooks are commonly used for lake sturgeon. Something around a 5/0 size is great if you are using natural bait.
You will need a pretty tough line for sturgeon. Braided line ranging from 50 to 100 lb test is a good choice. You can get away with lighter lines for smaller sturgeon, but you want to keep it in between this range for catching larger ones. If you end up using a leader or a swivel, just make sure it is strong enough and matches your line strength.
Lake Sturgeon Rigs
Rigging for lake sturgeon is pretty simple. Most anglers will use a line threaded with a slip sinker ranging from one to five ounces in weight. Since lake sturgeon are bottom feeders you want to use just enough weight to get your bait to the bottom.
Next, tie a barrel swivel (make sure it matches your line strength) to your line. Then, tie about a foot to 18 inches of line to the end of the barrel swivel to use as leader. Finally, tie your hook to the end of your leader and place your bait on your hook. Nightcrawlers or minnows work fine.
Tips to Catch More Sturgeon
Fish Deep Holes
Sturgeon are known to hang out in deep holes, seams, and pools in the river bottom. If you’re fishing from a boat, best practice is to hover over these deep sections and drop your bait down into the hole to entice sturgeon to bite.
Pay Attention to Taps
Sturgeon aren’t known to viciously attack your bait. Instead, you will often feel little taps or a slight weight on your line. If you are using a circle hook, you don’t need a hard jerking hookset. Just tighten your line and move the rod in the opposite direction of the fish and you should have a good secure hook set.
Use Strong Gear
Sturgeon are one of the largest species that you can catch in freshwater, which is why you need gear that can withstand a heavy battle. Make sure you have a strong line, a stout rod, and a good drag system that can handle a hard fighting sturgeon.