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 for sportfishermen. 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 these fish as a food source, creates many seasons, opportunities and even styles of fishing available to anglers and guides.
I guide the most productive stretch of river between Bonneville Dam and the mouth. This approximately 140 mile stretch of river offers these fish everything they need to eat and spawn. And as a result, sport fishermen are able to experience year around sturgeon fishing opportunities.
From January through May sturgeon are found above the estuary line from Longview to 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, although sturgeon can and do get very particular at times. Many anglers rely on concoctions of baits and scents to create baits that are even more productive than a single offering alone.
In May, the Columbia River Trophy Sturgeon season begins. This is a catch and release fishery, but one that people flock to from all over the country. These fish average between 90 and 140 pounds, with many available that are much larger. This fishery is good into July and then again in October as the angling deadline is moved up closer to Bonneville Dam.
By June, the Astoria Estuary Sturgeon Fishing season in the estuary is in full swing. Massive amounts of bait draw sturgeon from upriver to clear out in the ocean. This is, in my opinion, some of the best fishing of the year, any species. Big number days are common and there’s nothing like hooking these fish in average depths of 10-15 feet. Also, a fabulous catch and release fishery happens when the keeper fishery closes. All the fish and none of the competition makes for some pretty crazy fishing.
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.