Sturgeon, and their paddlefish relatives, have been in existence for around 200 million years. Although prolific in many basins through out the world, the Columbia River holds the most famous population of white sturgeon for sport fishermen. As an euryhaline species these fish are able to survive in both fresh and saltwater. This, coupled with the many fish runs that the Columbia River
has to offer, creates many seasons, opportunities, and even styles of fishing available to anglers and guides.
I guide the most productive stretch of river between the Bonneville Dam and the mouth of the river in Astoria. This approximately 140 mile stretch of river offers everything these fish need to eat and spawn. And as a result, sport fishermen are able to experience year-round sturgeon fishing opportunities.
From January through May sturgeon are found above the estuary line, from Longview to the Bonneville Dam, including the Willamette River in the Portland area. Squid, shrimp, night crawlers, herring, anchovies, and sardines make up the bait options during this time of year. Sturgeon can and do get very particular at times, and many anglers rely on concoctions of baits and scents to create combinations that are even more productive than a single offering alone.
In May, the Columbia River Sturgeon season begins. Some years the ODFW announces a short keeper season in Astoria to kick off the season. Wrangling some big fish and being able to take home your catch makes for a fun day. People flock to from all over the country to take part in sturgeon fishing at the coast.
By June, the Astoria Estuary Sturgeon Fishing season is in full swing. A fabulous catch and release fishery happens when the keeper fishery closes. Massive amounts of bait draw sturgeon from upriver and from clear out in the ocean. This is, in my opinion, some of the best fishing of the year, of any species. Big number days are common and there’s nothing like hooking these fish in average depths of 10-15 feet. These fish average between 90 and 140 pounds, with many tipping the scales at heavier weights. All the fish and none of the competition makes for some pretty crazy fishing. This fishery is good into July and then again in October, as the angling deadline is moved up closer to the Bonneville Dam.
October and November provides anglers with yet another opportunity at sturgeon in the Bonneville Dam area. In October, the deadline is moved up towards the dam and by this time, keepers and Trophy Sturgeon are stacked up chewing on Salmon flesh from the expired Columbia River Fall Salmon.