Facts about Columbia River Sturgeon Fishing

By Andy Whitcomb

May 02, 2022

The Columbia River is a great opportunity to catch a sturgeon. Heading there soon? Here is some information to get you started.

The Columbia River originates in Canada but eventually becomes most of the border between Oregon and Washington. Primarily noted for its salmon and steelhead, the Columbia River also is a great opportunity for sturgeon fishing. While researching Columbia River sturgeon fishing tips, I have gathered some information to help you connect with these unique fish.

1. Size

So, how big are sturgeon? Some Columbia River sturgeon fishing guides estimate the average size of 4 feet for white sturgeon. However, really big sturgeon may be possible because they can reach 11-12 feet. Imagine trying to land a fish the size of your kayak. To help protect these massive fish, Washington regulations specify that fish greater than a 55” fork length are not to be removed even partially from the water.

2. Where

If you have fished for catfish in large rivers, you probably have a good starting point regarding where to catch sturgeon. The top sturgeon fishing locations on the Columbia River are large, deeper holes and eddies. However, if you are new to the area or have limited time, hiring a fishing guide can be a good way to learn additional location aspects.

3. When

When is the sturgeon season on the Columbia River? January 1, but fishing for sturgeon with intent to harvest only lasts until set management quotas are met. To help keep track of these numbers, catch record cards are required in Washington. Further, Columbia River sturgeon fishing is not allowed at night.

4. How

An important aspect of how to catch sturgeon on the Columbia River is that “no more than one single point barbless hook may be used,” according to the Oregon regulations. It is important to have enough weight to allow bait to hold near the bottom in current for this bottom feeding giant. What do you use to catch sturgeon? Night crawlers are common but other bait such as shrimp or squid, or fish such as herrings or sardines can be effective.

5. Limits

Populations of these unusual fish are threatened in many areas. They are relatively slow growing and do not reach maturity until at least 11 years, and even then may only spawn every 2-8 years. Keep these factors in mind, when checking what is the limit for sturgeon. Sturgeon fishing limits are carefully monitored and mainly catch-and-release. However in Oregon above Bonneville Dam, only 2 can be kept annually, until quotas are reached. Near the mouth of the Columbia River, there also is a chance of hooking a green sturgeon but this rare fish is to be released immediately.

As always, before attempting Columbia River sturgeon fishing, make sure you have your license and check the current regulations for any recent changes and additional requirements. For example, anyone catch-and-release fishing for sturgeon in Oregon will also need an additional Columbia River Basin Endorsement.

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.