Best Practices When Catching A Sturgeon
We are lucky that the lower & middle Fraser River sturgeon population is healthy enough to allow for a catch & release industry. In many areas, you cannot fish White Sturgeon at all. It is extremely important that proper handling techniques be used to maintain the health of the sturgeon throughout the catch & release process.
An excellent video produced for the Fraser River Sturgeon Society outlines the information below. (See Sturgeon Handling Guidelines)
If you are fishing with a guide, the guide will be well informed of these best practices. It's a good idea to let them do the handling. If you can, choose a guide with a side sling on their boat. This greatly minimizes handling of the sturgeon and facilitates easy tagging for the Fraser River Sturgeon Society.
If you are fishing without a guide, you need to know the information below.
As with many fishing industries, you need to use a single barbless hook. Barbed hooks are NOT allowed. Properly remove the barbs from your hooks if you need to.
Use appropriate fishing gear. A proper rod & reel with approximately 130+ lb test line or stronger will ensure you won't lose or break your equipment. It also minimizes the chance of a sturgeon swimming away with a hook and 100 yards of line in its mouth.
Catching the Fish
The most important part of catching a sturgeon, especially a large one, is to play the fish quickly. If you have a large fish, rotate the rod with your fishing buddies. Share the catching experience. This will ensure there is someone fresh to fight the fish.
Don't ever fish sturgeon from elevated docks unless you are able to walk down to water level to release the fish properly. Lifting a sturgeon vertically from a dock can cause damage, so please make sure before choosing your fishing location that you are able to get to water level for releasing your sturgeon quickly and safely.
If a sturgeon is caught in the side or tail, be extra quick to wind it in.
Their gills cannot function efficiently if not facing the right direction.
If you catch a large sturgeon from a boat, release the anchor. Follow the fish. You'll land it much quicker when you are mobile and it reduces the fish time which is always best for the sturgeon.
Handling Your Sturgeon
Congratulations, you've caught yourself a sturgeon. Now, your guide will ensure you take care of your catch, but if you are on your own, below are some steps to follow:
Remove the hooks quickly & gently.
Smaller Sturgeon Handling - If you want a quick photo, you can do so for fish under 1.5 m (about 4.11ft). cradle the sturgeon with one hand just in front of the tail and another behind the pectoral fins.
Handling of large sturgeon - keep the sturgeon in the water at all times. If you want a photo, do so quickly. Jump into the water near the shore. I'd recommend hip waders. Keep the sturgeon's head in the water at all times.
You can have multiple people hold the fish, but the head should stay low and let the water support the Sturgeons weight.
Releasing Your Sturgeon
Point your fish into the current, holding it near the tail and supporting it as necessary. It should start to swim away. As soon as it is ready, let go and watch it swim away. You are ready for your next one!
Catching the largest fresh water fish in the world is a privilege that we want to continue to have. Safe handling of the White Sturgeon is mandatory to keep this fishery alive and well. Make sure to use appropriate gear, don't over-tire the fish, and release as gently and quickly as possible. Doing an much as you can to properly handle your sturgeon will mean they have the best chance to continue to grow and be as healthy as possible.
Ever seen a 15 ft sturgeon? Who knows, maybe we will again some day.