Anglers who want to catch really big fish this spring should consider going to northern Minnesota’s Rainy River. The Rainy is one of the nation’s premier springtime lake sturgeon fishing destinations. It holds sturgeon that weigh up to 100 pounds or more. Fish in the 20- to 40-pound range are common.
The Rainy is the border between Minnesota and Canada as it flows west for 90 miles from International Falls to Lake of the Woods near Baudette. The Rainy is one of the few places in northern Minnesota where anglers can fish from a boat in late March and early April as lakes are typically covered in ice.
Spring sturgeon fishing is particularly good because the breeding fish that inhabit Lake of the Woods migrate up the Rainy to spawn. The river always holds sturgeon but numbers peak in spring, thereby increasing chances of catching a fish. Fishing pressure near the mouth of the river, an area known as Wheeler’s Point, can be particularly heavy from late March into early May.
Things to Know About Sturgeon Fishing in MN:
- Sturgeon fishing is mostly catch-and-release. Sturgeon can be kept only from April 24 through May 7 during the 2018 spring season. Harvested fish must be between 45 and 50 inches in length or over 75 inches. The purchase of a sturgeon tag is required. The limit is one per person.
- Sturgeon fishing is pretty simple. Basic fishing gear includes a stiff rod (a heavy bass rod, catfish rod or muskellunge rod), bait-casting reel, strong line and large net. Typically, night crawlers, minnows or both are used for bait. These are threaded onto a 5/0 or 6/0 circle hook tied to a leader that passes through a two- to three-ounce no-roll style sinker so the bait stays on the bottom. Leader length should be 12 to 16 inches. Many veteran sturgeon anglers like to position their boat near the upstream end of a hole and fish their bait within the hole. Circle hooks tend to set themselves, so once a bite is detected simply lift the rod, start reeling and hold on.
- It is important to stay on the Minnesota side of the river as sturgeon fishing is closed in Canada.
- There are a number of boat-launching sites between Baudette and International Falls.
The Lake of the Woods Area Tourism Bureau can help you with lodging, dining, fishing guide services and other arrangements.
For further season and license information view the Minnesota fishing regulations