Hot sturgeon bite, 6 March 2016


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I had not been on the river in about a month and I was chomping at the bit to get out. When I saw the weather forecast for last Sunday I was a little worried about the wind levels but I decided venture out anyways. I chose to launch at Swan Island, as I often do in the winter since it is protected, I am so glad that I did.

I was on the water by about 8am and there was a steady wind out of the South that was strong enough to make white caps out on the main river. I decided to search for sturgeon back in the harbor but it was surprisingly devoid of fish. While there is an ebb and flow of fish in and out of the harbor it seemed particularly empty of fish. As I made my way to the mouth I started to mark fish. Whew!

I stopped at a couple of the spots where I was marking fish but I did not get any bites. However, I did not spend much time trying since the outgoing tide was predicted to end late in the morning. Around 9:30, I got to a nice spot which had a bit of protection from the wind but allowed me to cast out into the main river current. This is the spot I had in mind when I made the decision to fish the river in the wind. The bite I had at that location over the next couple of hours was as good of a bite as I have ever experienced. I landed 20 sturgeon in a little over two hours. The bite was fast enough that I could not get the lid off my thermos in that time period. I can't even imagine how many sturgeon were in the area.

The bites were incredibly aggressive. It is like the fish were scooping up the bait on the dead run. Not the normal nibbling that you usually have with sturgeon. The size of the fish was also fantastic. About every 3rd fish was in the normal keeper slot (if retention were allowed) and the shakers that I was catching were just short. I only caught one small shaker out of the 20.

The weather during this time was a crazy mix of rain and sun and rain and wind and gusts - never a dull moment.

One nice fish after another:

Basically it was:

I was actually starting to feel worn out when the bite started slowing as the outgoing ended and the incoming started. The bite slow down to catching a fish every 15-20 minutes. Also in the reduced current the fish started biting daintily. I could have moved and looked for a better bite, but to be honest I was actually happy to have the slower bite for a while. I kept plugging away throughout the early afternoon picking up another 8 fish over the next 3.5 hours. At that point I decided to take a shore break. After stretching my legs for a bit I headed back out on the water knowing that the outgoing was supposed to start back up around 3. I decided to switch from my heavy sturgeon rod to my salmon rod due to the lighter biting of the fish and since I had not hooked an oversized.

I stopped and fished a couple of spots in the harbor without success before I decided to go back to my hot spot from the morning. The bite started slow, but then picked back up to a fast pace after a bit. My main problem was that I was running out of bait and to compound the low bait problem was the fact that some bait stealers had moved in with the sturgeon. You can feel the difference in their bite and they often chew the flesh off the bone of the bait. Not sure what they were but I would guess pikieminnows, sculpin or bullhead.

So I would cast out and if I felt a bait stealer type bite I would reel in and move my cast a bit. After a few casts I would feel the familiar sturgeon bite and fish out the cast. It was a bit more work and slowed the catch rate compared to the morning but when I did cast away from the bait stealers a sturgeon would bite almost instantly. Around 4 or so I was down to my last bait when a tremendous squall came through. I am not sure what the wind velocity was on the river, but on a scale of one to ten it was not good :)

It was so windy, wet and rough (big whitecaps, horizontal rain) that I could not even tell if I was getting bit. Since I was down to my last precious bait I racked my rod, hunkered down and road out the storm. After what seemed like a long time but was in reality only ten or 15 minutes the storm eased up and I went back to fishing. However, it seemed that the sturgeon had moved out and I all I could find were the little bait stealer type bites. Again and again I quickly reeled after feeling the jerky pecking of the bait stealers.

Eventually, I decided that my bait was so tattered that I could probably only get one more cast out of it. I re-wrapped the remaining shreds of my bait with stretchy thread and made one last cast. This time instead of casting straight out into the current I angled my cast almost straight downstream and chucked the bait as far as I could. I hunched over my rod, still shivering a bit from the squall, watching the tip of the rod like a hawk. All of a sudden I saw that familiar tap, tap that immediately switched to a steady pull. I tightened up on the fish and it was like hooking into a truck. I knew I had hooked the best fish of the day by far.

The fish pulled me upstream, downstream, spun me in circles:


I lamented my decision to have switched to the lighter rod. I pulled with everything I had but all I could do is to increase the bend in the rod. There was no moving that fish, it moved when it felt like it and I was just along for the ride. As I was wondering if I was ever going to land this fish it suddenly picked up speed, peeling line and the angle of the line became shallower and shallower as that fish rocketed to the surface. I would have to say that was the most impressive sturgeon jump I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. That huge fish leaped way out of the water and made a twisting jump. I think it must have been watching some sturgeon videos or something. I was in awe as the fish hit the water and dove down, jerking my kayak forward and making my reel scream. I really wished I had the go pro with me.

After that leap the fight went back to the typical sturgeon slugfest, after 25 minutes I was finally able to get that big fish to the surface and quickly measure and unhook it. As best I could measure it was 79" long and super fat. That was one powerful, healthy fish.

I did not get much of a picture other than this one:


I tried to take a second picture after I unhooked it but that fish had other plans. As soon as I got the hook out it twisted violently and smacked my kayak with its tail knocking me pretty violently as it decided it had enough of my company. My arms were shaking as I racked my rod and headed back to the ramp. I could not believe that I had caught that monster on the tiny shredded remains of a normal bait.

Dang, that was one of my best days on the water ever!
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Thanks folks! I have to say that day felt particularly good since I had not been out on the water in about a month.

Hey Gulfstream, I was in about 50' of water. I marked a lot of fish in waters 35' and deeper.


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Nice Sturgeon! The area looks familiar!
Hey, would you happen to have any information your willing to share as far as Sturgeon fishing further up the Willamette around Harrisburg?


wow what a great day you have and from a small boat too wow that so great I am heading to the spot tomorrow was already going there so I am not copying you lol nice pic too and great story

team ninja
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