Oregon Sturgeon Fishing: A Prehistoric Adventure

Scott Baker

Like sharks, sturgeon haven’t changed much from their ancestors appearing in the fossil records 175 million years ago. Historically, they’re capable of topping 20 feet with weights exceeding 1,000 pounds. Living to well over 100 years, they don’t mature until they’re 25 years old. These ancient monsters inhabit the Pacific Northwest’s freshwater streams and estuaries, spawning once every two to eight years.

Fishing for sturgeon on Oregon’s Columbia River is a truly unique experience. Combining a prehistoric fish, thousands of miles of waterways, and stunning scenery, how could it not lead to the adventure of a lifetime? Members of the RR Fishing Club grabbed rods and reels, ready to do battle that would go down in the history books!

Along with guides, we headed out in search of the bottom-feeding sturgeon. Being subtle biters, we used light-tipped rods so we could feel that initial chomp—and see it, too. Attracted to scent rather than appearance or movement, their main preference for prey is, the smellier, the better. To lure ‘em in, we set our hooks with stinky salmon and mullet live bait.

With the bait resting on the bottom and rods in their holders, we patiently watched. Finally, it was the moment we’d been waiting for! The rod tip fluttered, then a quivering pull. Gently lifting the rod, we reeled in a bit of slack, felt the fish thumping the line, a harder tug, then we set the hook. The rod bent to the water, and the line peeled off the reel.

From here, it was all about tiring the fish out. With our drag set as tight as possible, the fish made several deep runs, slowly came up, then dove again. We sweated out a 40-minute fight when its dusky form eventually appeared in the water. As it got closer, it just got bigger and bigger.

Bringing it close to our boat, there was no mistaking a sturgeon. It was large, in charge, and truly primitive-looking. Large bony plates ran up and down its back, barbels sat along the long, flat snout, the tail deeply-forked, and its skin rough and scale-less. This dinosaur measured 10.5 feet long and weighed 518 pounds. Yep, this was going to be a really good fish tale!

Over the next couple of days, we caught another 14 white sturgeon measuring over five feet each. It pleased us to think these real-life river monsters hoovered the trashy bottoms of urban rivers, tearing up gill nets, stripping tackle from fishermen, leaping above beautiful wild rivers, and surviving.

Our Oregon sturgeon fishing adventure was a thing of magic. Sturgeon are pretty rare, giving them a mythical reputation throughout North America. It also adds to their desirability as an angling target! After all, who wouldn’t want the brag-worthy achievement of battling and conquering such a majestic species?