It’s been said that Sturgeon have existed for as long as 135,000,000 years. Yes, thats one hundred and thirty five million years. Here in Minnesota they were at one time very common throughout the state, but the combination of overfishing, habitat loss and pollution over an extended period of time (between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s) slowly decimated the large numbers of Sturgeon that once existed in plenty. Times have changed, and since the passing of the Clean Water Act in the late 1960’s the Sturgeon population is growing and slowly recovering to a point where we are seeing more and more of these gentle giants in our waterways. When thinking about this change for the better, it is important to keep in mind that a large female Lake Sturgeon will take roughly 25 years to mature and then they only spawn every 3 or 4 years. That being said, we still have a long way to go and it is important to handle these fish with proper care to make sure that you are doing your part in protecting this important species.
Not many anglers have the chance to experience Sturgeon fishing, let alone fishing for Sturgeon through the ice. I have been fortunate enough to meet some really great anglers over the past couple of years – each with their own favorite species. In the past couple of months I have got to know Jakob Hals fairly well, and it is he I thank for turning me onto these amazing fish.
Jakob and his friends have been fishing areas of the St. Croix River, and during our last two outings we have noticed an overabundance of Shad. Shad on the surface near open water, dead Shad on the bottom of the river (using a Marcum LX-9 and it’s camera feature), even Shad coming up through the holes in the ice we are fishing. Jake say’s that “right now, with all of the Shad in the system, these Sturgeon are bulking up and never going hungry. I like to give them something else to snack on, like Nightcrawler’s, and it’s working. We have been seeing much higher success rates in the past couple of weeks simply by avoiding using Shad and Minnows on rigs.” The Shad photo is courtesy of Brad Doerr.
If you are considering heading out to chase Sturgeon on ice, it is important to put some thought into the gear you are using. You will want to seek out a heavier action rod with a good backbone. It is also very important to pair the rod with a heavy duty reel that offers more line capacity and a tough drag. I have been using a 44″ Tuned Up Custom Rods LTP and a Shimano Sedona 2500FD. The line you will find on my rod is Suffix 832 Advanced Superline, 20LB test, the same type of line you would use in the summer months for various species.
The tackle setup is a bit more elementary than the actual gear setup mentioned above. We have been running a bobber stop, a large size Ice Buster Bobber, an egg sinker (size varies depending on depth and water current), a VMC Stainless Steel swivel, 12 inch leader (the leader material is the same Suffix 832 20lb test) and a VMC Sport Circle Hook (see photo).
It isn’t uncommon to hear of guys having 20+ fish nights, and while you can connect on fish at anytime, the best fishing for us has been between 3pm and 9pm at night.
If you have been hit with the big fish bug, then consider giving Sturgeon fishing a try. If fishing the St. Croix River you need to be aware of regulations for Sturgeon fishing as they do differ between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Here are a few photo’s from our last two outings.