Sturgeon Appearance, Life Cycle, and Fishing Tactics

The number of sturgeons had decreased in the water bodies 200 years ago. Continuous harvesting and habitat loss were the key reasons behind it. They even vanished from numerous native waters. Luckily, people restored the remaining ones, stopped fishing for a long time, and invested more in the cultivation. Nowadays, these fish are abundant in their native habitats and commercial fisheries. Catching a sturgeon can be difficult without knowing basic details. We are partitioning these topics individually so that you can find and read quickly.


Getting familiar with their appearance is the first thing an angler should do. The North American fishermen usually spot 9 recognized varieties. Although the species differ from each other, they have a few things in common. Almost all of them have a large and elongated structure. They can be as long as 6 meters, but the majority grows up to 1 to 3 meters. Small fish can reach adulthood within four years and they take at least six years to be sexually active.

If you look closely, you can easily see the bony plates in their head as well as body instead of scales. This feature will help you to distinguish between a sturgeon and its look-alike paddlefish. The latter has clean skin along with some patches of scales. Greenish-grey is the most common coloring of the sturgeon. The tail fin consists of double asymmetrical lobes; the lower part is shorter compared to the upper one. They don’t include teeth and vertebral centra.

Four barbels are part of the wide mouths, which helps to consume worms, flies, insects, small fish, and many more. Other mention-worthy properties of the head are fleshy lips and extended snouts. Unlike sharks, sturgeon’s bodies contain swim bladders. Another interesting fact is how the kidney works. It evacuated all dirt outside the fish’s body. No wonder the fillets taste so good and barely have an unpleasant smell.

Life Cycle

The sturgeon mainly lives in the major lake and river systems. Besides, they migrate into calm tributaries or small water bodies to lay eggs. The male sexual maturity requires six to twenty years to develop. Contrarily, a female generally becomes mature around 16 to 32 years of age. The spawning cycle also varies based on gender. A male keep contributing once every two to six years, where a female waits up to 9 long years.

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The most suitable weather conditions typically take place in April, May, and June. Clean sections, high-velocity currents, perfect water warmth, and plenty of available food supplies play major roles in the spawning days. In every season, a mother crosses with multiple fathers and lays millions of eggs. These eggs stick to rocks and gravel bars. Hatching occurs in spring, and they convert into larvae. Being an early-stage juvenile is the next phase. When they get slightly bigger, they shift to shallow areas from the river mouths. The juveniles’ growth rate relies on a few parameters such as food quantity, environment changes, temperature, and so on.

They feed on aquatic arthropods, mollusks, earthworms, leeches, crayfish, hydras, jellyfishes, etc. White varieties grow up as excellent predators and hunt down other small fish to eat. A few species skip feeding while being in freshwater. As we mentioned earlier, they have to wait several years to be an adult. Fifty-five years is the average lifespan of the male lake specimens, but females can survive up to 150 years.

Where to Find the Sturgeon

Both saltwater and freshwater ecosystems are the habitat of the sturgeon. In most cases, they choose brackish water as their primary shelter. Large water systems like the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes are two top picks of professionals for freshwater species. As maximum species are bottom-feeders, anglers find them on or close to the bottom.

They usually roam around 5 to 9 meters in depth when the tides come. Target the deeper layers once the wave is gone. Focus on the deep polls, positioned in water bends and the middle of the water channels. Taking a closer look at river estuaries will hardly let you down if you want to get a big catch. Ledges, underwater covers, and rocky points are their favorite place to live too. However, they shift to upstream for spawning.

Humps and deep poles of brackish water are the most rewarding places to find the sturgeon after migration. Also, these fish tend to move from the holes to shallow locations in search of food. The shallow-water fish hunters should not neglect these opportunities. They can easily trick the hungry sturgeon using the right baits. Moreover, don’t miss any freshwater-saltwater joins in spring and fall.

Tackle Combinations

A sturgeon may weigh up to 125 kg. The white ones can become even heavier. Hence, don’t underestimate their strength. Using the wrong tackle will not only break your gears but also can lead to physical injuries. A simple mistake, and they can drag you into the water. Let’s see which type of kits will give you the best outcome:

  • Rod: Choose a study rod, which can overcome the fish weight and sensitivity problems. Long surf poles paired with high-capacity spinning reels can be a decent choice for catching a sturgeon from the river bank. Its length should be anywhere between 6 to 11 feet. Prioritize heavy-power casting models. If you have a tight budget, feel free to go for a seven to eight-feet long fiberglass rod. They are cheaper yet more robust than their graphite counterparts.
  • Reel: You can either pick a bait caster or a spinning reel based on your preference. It doesn’t matter a lot as long as you can handle them well. When it comes to the spinning reels, buy the bigger units. It should have a large handle and tons of spool capacity as well. Avoid models, which fail to hold 120 yards of 65 to 80 pounds braid. Investing in such a model is nothing but a waste of bucks. Above all, make sure that your reel is working well with the rod.
  • Line: Braided lines have been one of the effective selections to handle heavy fish. 65 to 80 pounds brained lines are our most favorites. After each catch, trim off the damaged portion from the mainline. Remember, braids are non-stretchy so that the sturgeon can sense the tension easily. That’s why a few people like to use 30 pounds test monofilament lines because of the stretchy texture. Since these fish have poor eyesight, you don’t have to worry about the color of your line. Still, get the transparent lines if possible.
  • Bait: Bait selection is an essential task for a successful sturgeon fishing Many like to use rotten chicken flesh as sturgeon bait, but it is not efficient at all. Salmon eggs, stomachs, gills, small fish like pikeminnow, lamprey eel, smelts, crawfish are some decent options. Squid pieces, earthworms, small shrimps, freshwater clams can draw their attention too. Adding flavors and scents attracts the Deepwater fish quickly. For fragrances, using shrimp, shad, or sardine oils is the best idea. Examine the fish behaviors according to the weather, water temperature, and fisheries. If there is a food shortage, the fish will take any random bait without being choosy. A great way to find the best lures is by checking the records of your fishing spots.
  • Hook: These fish are impossible to capture without a heavy-duty circular hook. You can use a big 8/0 to 10/0 conventional offset or baitholder hook to secure your baits. Plus, the fish cannot escape easily from the hook’s bends. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t have big hooks and lures. Experts can fetch the giant sturgeon by using small hooks and basic baits too. But the success rate of the large hooks is comparatively higher.
  • Others: Apart from the mentioned gears, you can bring a fishing map, underwater camera, large fishing net, and fish tracking devices. Carry spare rods, reels, lines, and measurement tools. Bring extra sets of clothes, gloves, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses for your protection. Use pliers to retrieve the sturgeon safely.

Best Sturgeon Fishing Time

Just like the other fish groups, sturgeon bite more often in specific seasons. Therefore, you should be aware of the two timings- the catch-and-release phase and the harvest phase. The ideal harvest period usually starts from late April to the first week of May and July to September. The third week of May to June is the worst time. Peak feeding occurs as soon as the water warmth increases above 50o Fahrenheit. And it drops significantly when the temperature crosses 65o or goes below 40o Fahrenheit.

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However, the juvenile can take the bait any time, regardless of the climate. In Minnesota, the fish activities get way low in June. The temperature rises too much, and it becomes uncomfortable for the sturgeon. They remain the same until the environment begins to cool down. Fishing in winter can be great. When the spring arrives, they lose appetite and migrate into shallow regions to spawn.

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