3 Facts about Sturgeon Fishing on the Columbia River

By Andy Whitcomb

Mar 19, 2024

The Columbia River offers the year-round opportunity to catch a potential river monster: the white sturgeon. But before you journey to the Pacific Northwest, here are a few facts to consider about this amazing fish and this special body of water.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the “Columbia River and its tributaries form the dominant water system in the Pacific Northwest.” This is a great 1270-mile river that originates from a lake in British Columbia, Canada. Most of the river’s fishing focus is on the tremendous salmon and steelhead opportunities but white sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River is also a major attraction.

1. Location


When planning your Columbia River sturgeon fishing, the first thing you need to know is that the river borders both Washington and Oregon. Because of this you will need to check Columbia River fishing regulations for both states. In the river’s shared water stretches, a fishing license from either state will do, but access points and regulations may vary with regard to the best places to catch sturgeon on the Columbia River.

2. Giant


A common question is, “what gear do I need to catch sturgeon?” In a nutshell: heavy gear. The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America. It is a dinosaur-esque fish that may achieve 6-12 feet in length. That may be longer than your kayak. Because of this, you may want to consider a Columbia River sturgeon fishing guide. Contact them ahead of time to verify, but a sturgeon fishing guide service probably will have all the appropriate gear, which will include heavy weights required for the current and depth, stiff rods, and line that may be 50-80 pound test. They also should know where exactly to start casting, the hot current sturgeon fishing bait, and the best time of the year to catch sturgeon on the Columbia, or perhaps more importantly, where and when the Columbia River sturgeon fishing season is completely closed.

3. Protected


Although sturgeon can reach impressive sizes, they are slow to mature; it may take a sturgeon 20 years to reach spawning age. This is one of the reasons most sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River is catch and release only. Careful review of regulations may reveal a small window of allowable harvest dates but even then, there is a strict slot length of 43 to 54 inches, with a daily limit of ONE and an annual limit of TWO. Then there is the chance of catching the even more protected green sturgeon, which must always be released immediately. Columbia River sturgeon fishing (catch and release) is allowed all year in most areas and fortunately, these amazing bottom-dwelling fish have a high survivability when released carefully. In fact, Columbia River fishing reports may include photos of anglers holding “small” sturgeon but a sturgeon with a length of 55 inches or more is not even allowed to be lifted from the water. If you catch one of these unbelievable fish, be prepared to go swimming with it to get that photo of a lifetime.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.