Columbia River Sturgeon

The mouth of the mighty Columbia between Oregon and Washington hosts a fascinating fishery

May 14, 2012
An assignment to put together a feature for Sport Fishing magazine led our intrepid editor in chief, Doug Olander, to the mouth of the mighty Columbia River that separates Oregon from Washington. There, he found a truly fascinating fishery for a fascinating species, the sturgeon. Doug Olander
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Penn’s New Fathom with 50-pound Fireline proved ideal for sturgeon fishing in the yawning mouth of the Columbia River. Traditionally, most sturgeon anglers here use levelwinds. Doug Olander
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Familiar scene on the Columbia: Open aluminum skiffs with several anglers, each watch a baited rod for the telltale twitch of a sturgeon – which could be 30 pounds or 300.
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One of several baits-of-choice for sturgeon here, two sand shrimp are fished on a Dacron leader (with sturgeon, forget the fluorocarbon: it’s the sense of touch – vs. sight – that’s paramount, and the softer, less unnatural feel of Dacron wins out). Doug Olander
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Sturgeon often carry the fight to the surface – which in the amazingly shallow waters anglers fish for them isn’t so far from the bottom. They may jump when hooked, and over two days, we saw scores of them free-jumping like so many sailfish. Doug Olander
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Steady pressure, counsels Jim Martin, Oregon native, retired chief of fisheries for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pure Fishing’s conservation director and sturgeon-fishing enthusiast. Angler Paul Sherman of Anacortes, Washington, is hooked up with his first big sturgeon. Doug Olander
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Big sturgeon have a tendency to roll in the line, sometimes making a legitimately hooked fish seem to be tail-wrapped. Doug Olander
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While the legal upper slot limit of 54 inches might seem generous, in two mornings, we released quite a few sturgeon well in excess of that length. Doug Olander
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While the legal upper slot limit of 54 inches might seem generous, in two mornings, we released quite a few sturgeon well in excess of that length. Doug Olander
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Sturgeon, like salmon, are netted – not gaffed. Big nets are the rule. Doug Olander
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Quite a few larger charter boats from Astoria/Hammond, Oregon, and Ilwaco, Washington, as well as small smaller open guide boats get paying passengers out to the sturgeon grounds. Doug Olander
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Quick photo and a quick release for a respectable sturgeon. The angler: Hunter Cole with Pure Fishing. The skipper (foreground) is Capt. Bob Rees ( Jim Martin says too few anglers take advantage of a fantastic catch-and-release fishery for sturgeon in the spring and early fall. Doug Olander
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Hunter Cole holds a sturgeon for a pre-release photos. Sturgeon, a species remaining relatively unchanged in eons, are tough customers: It’s rare to see them not swim away very strongly after release. Doug Olander
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Although this boat-side fish isn’t quite airborne, jumping sturgeon catch plenty of air at times, even jumping into boats as tarpon are wont to do. Doug Olander

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