Tackling Sturgeon In Our Bay, Delta And River Systems
Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
Sturgeon are an incredible gamefish. While they won’t win any beauty contests with their beedy eyes and vacuum cleaner mouths, they are the largest, hardest fighting gamefish commonly targeted by northern California anglers.
Add to their size and fighting ability the fact that they arguably provide the best table fare of any fish found in the bay, delta and river system and it becomes clear why anglers hold sturgeon is such high reguard.
Contrary to what you might have heard, sturgeon are not easy to catch. Sure salty old pros like Jim Smith, Barry Canevaro and Rich Tipton can make catching them look easy, but those guys are drawing on decades of on the water experience when they drop the anchor and toss baits out into the water. For the average angler, guys like you and me, consistently hooking sturgeon is a challenge that requires knowledge, proper technique, commitment, patience and a strong will.
The first thing the aspiring sturgeon anglers needs to posses is a basic understanding of the sturgeon lifestyle. There are two types of sturgeon found in northern California, white sturgeon and green sturgeon. White sturgeon greatly out number the greens and attain larger sizes. Three white sturgeon per year, that fall between 46 and 66 inches in length can be harvested by anglers that have a sturgeon punch card. No green sturgeon can be retained reguardless of their size.
Both white and green sturgeon are migratory fish, which means that they can show up almost anywhere in the bay, delta or river system at any time. As basic guideline big numbers of sturgeon reside in north and south San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay during the winter months. In the spring the fish move up through the Sacramento delta on their way to the spawning grounds, roughly in the vicinity of Colusa. After that they trickle downriver with the largest concentrations stacking up in the lower delta and Suisun Bay.
Having said that, there seem to be some resident sturgeon that live in all these areas year around. On the other hand there have been recorded cases of tagged California sturgeon showing up in the Columbian River, indicating that at least some of our sturgeon navigate ocean waters outside the Golden Gate.
So what does this all mean in terms of the angler that wants to locate and hook sturgeon? Well, there are some basic areas to seek out sturgeon seasonally, but the sturgeon angler needs to keep an open mind, since sturgeon have a knack for turning up in places and at times where the traditional playbook indicates they shouldn’t be.
Sturgeon are opportunistic bottom feeders that make their living siphoning up worms, clams, shrimp, roe, dead baitfish and pretty much anything else they come across when they are in a feeding mood.