The Sensation Sturgeon is a fish that is plentiful in the Rainy River, they eat a lot and are can be caught with consistency and the fish can grow in excess of 100 lbs which is fun! When the walleye bite isn’t at its prime, sturgeon fishing is a fun and exciting option.
In years past, the Laurel Indians on both the Canadian and US side of the border used to harvest these huge fish and use them for fuel for the winter. Lake of the Woods has pictures in it’s local Historical Society Museum of stacks and stacks of these Sensational Sturgeon up against a TeePee, ready to use.
This Sensational Sturgeon is a pre-historic fish that only has cartilage and not bones. Sturgeons are long-lived, late-maturing fishes with distinctive characteristics, such as a heterocercal caudal fin similar to those of sharks, and an elongated, spindle-like body that is smooth-skinned, scaleless, and armored with five lateral rows of bony plates called scutes. Several species can grow quite large, typically ranging 7–12 ft (2–3 1⁄2 m) in length.
They navigate their riverine habitats traveling just off the bottom with their barbels dragging along gravel, or murky substrate. Sturgeon are recognizable for their elongated bodies, flattened rostra, distinctive scutes and barbels, and elongated upper tail lobes. The skeletal support for the paired fins of ray-finned fish is inside the body wall, although the ray-like structures in the webbing of the fins can be seen externally.
Many sturgeons leap completely out of the water, usually making a loud splash which can be heard half a mile away on the surface and probably further under water. Why they do this is not known, but suggested functions include group communication to maintain group cohesion, catching airborne prey, courtship display, or to help shed eggs during spawning. Other plausible explanations include escape from predators, shedding parasites, or to gulp or expel air. Another explanation is that it “simply feels good”. There have been some incidents of leaping sturgeon even landing in boats,
Where do I start? One option is to get a guide from a local resort. This is an easy way to use heavy duty sturgeon gear you might not own, be introduced to the right set ups with sturgeon rigs and of course, have the opportunity to fish some of the best sturgeon hot spots on the river.
If you are going to use your own boat and tackle, some ideas. Use strong rods, reels and line for these sensational sturgeon. Muskie gear or your strongest freshwater gear is a good choice. These fish fight hard and on walleye gear, the fight often times can last an hour. Heavier gear will allow you to pull in the fish quicker, which puts less stress on the sturgeon and ultimately is better for releasing.
Basically, a no roll sinker combined with a sturgeon rig will get the job done on the tackle end. A sturgeon rig is an 18″ snell with a 5/0 circle hook loaded with a combo of night crawlers and frozen emerald shiners. Some anglers also like to put rotten chicken or pork down as well. In short anything that emits a strong smell works great. Fish this set up on the bottom much like you would fishing for carp or catfish. Be ready to have the fight of your life trying to land these fish. Some take up to 1 ½ hours to pull the fish in the boat depending on its size.
Where to fish for sturgeon.
Although sturgeon do roam the vast waters of Lake of the Woods and are often caught by unsuspecting walleye anglers, the best stretch of water to fish for sturgeon is at the mouth of the Rainy River called Four Mile Bay all the way up river to the falls near Birchdale. This is about a 40 mile stretch of ideal sturgeon habitat.
Anglers typically choose areas to anchor just upstream from a deep hole in the river. The idea is when the sturgeon decides to eat, it swims upstream from the deep hole to shallower water to feed.
There are two sturgeon seasons on Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River, a catch and release season and a harvest season in which you can keep one fish per calendar year. The harvest season runs from April 24th – May 7th and July 1 – Sept. 30. The catch and release season runs May 8th – May 15th and Oct. 1 – April 23rd. This means from May 16 – June 30, no sturgeon fishing. The rest of the year, you can fish for sturgeon. See MN DNR Fishing Regulations for more info.
Sturgeon skins are used for many different purposes, one being, using it for the covering of canoes and small crafting items. Most anglers who catch sturgeon smoke the fish for eating and it provides a unique taste treat.
Last modified: 07/08/2020