Sturgeon have been roaming the waters of the SF Bay and Delta for thousands of years and are highly sought after for their behemoth size and elusiveness. Sturgeon are high on the bucket list for most anglers, but most people don’t understand how much time and patience goes into targeting these fish. You can go many trips without catching a single fish and often times people give up too soon. Luckily, I can set you in the right direction for your next trip!
These are my sturgeon fishing tips straight out of (successful) personal experience.
Effectively Targeting Sturgeon
I have been targeting these fish for many years, but I didn’t hook my first legal-sized sturgeon until 2011. Since then, I have learned that it is not a waiting game but rather a timing strategy. Sturgeon are a migratory species depend heavily on tidal situations to both feed and travel.
The fact that the South Bay still sustains a healthy ecosystem for estuary fish is often overlooked due to the recent urban sprawl. From Redwood City to across the Newark/Fremont area, I have been successfully learning how to read water conditions for the most optimal fishing.
During the cold winter months, these prehistoric bottom feeders migrate from the Delta and deeper Bay into the Southern region of the Bay to feed in the sloughs. Two crucial factors that draw sturgeon here during the season are the herring spawn and heavy rains. As schools of sturgeon migrate into the sloughs, leopard sharks and bat rays move out to avoid the mix of fresh and saltwater.
Sturgeon move in to feed on herring, herring roe, ghost shrimp, mudsuckers, grass shrimp, clams, and even the mud! Well, not really – the mud they’re “eating” is actually composed of small organisms but mud simply ends up in the mix. I once brought home a few specimens only to find their guts full of this stinky mud.
Once again, sturgeon always relate to the tide! The most active feeding time is 1 1/2 hours before and after the full high tide. My best trip resulted in 5 legal-sized sturgeon caught in this crucial tide window.
Sturgeon Fishing Locations
You’ll have to do quite a bit of recon work if you are fishing from the bank. Google Maps will be your best friend for locating trails and accessible roads for the sloughs. If you have the privilege of fishing off a boat, you can launch out of the Redwood City Marina and target sturgeon out of the deeper creek channels of the Bay. Another great option is to launch out of the Alviso Marina and fish any of the local sloughs. Be very careful not to get stuck in the mud during a tide change! Looks can be deceiving when passing through shallow areas with low water clarity – what may look accessible may simply be a huge boat trap!
I would highly recommend decent electronics to help you navigate through creek channels as well as mark fish in deeper waters near the Dumbarton Bridge.
The Sturgeon Setup
The proper sturgeon setup will depend on a few factors. Fishing from a pier, boat, or shore all require different equipment, so here’s the breakdown.
Any 10-11’ Med-Heavy Surf Spinning Rod
- Penn Prevail 10’ Surf Spinning
- Daiwa Sealine 10’ Surf Spinning
- Daiwa Emcast 10’ Surf Spinning
A 6000-8000 Size Baitrunner Spinning Reel
- Shimano Baitrunner 8000OC
- Shimano Baitrunner 8000D (Only difference being the upgraded handle)
- Daiwa Emcast 5000A (5000 is their largest size)
Rod & Reel Setup for Boat Fishing
- An 8′ Glass/Graphite composite rod
- Phenix 808 Abyss Series
- A Conventional Reel with a Bait Clicker
- Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Pro Black
- Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C-7000
It is essential to have a rod balancer so you can detect the bite. Without it you’re relying on the fish to hook itself. The reason for a rod balancing system is that sturgeon often suck on the bait instead of fully inhaling it, making the bite extremely subtle. There are YouTube videos that show just how light the initial bite can be. The balancer will visually exaggerate the bite and allow the fish to run with your bait undetected.
A sliding sinker rig is the most commonly used for sturgeon. Mine is composed of:
- Plastic Sinker Slide
- 5-8oz Pyramid Weight
- 2/0-6/0 Power Swivel
- 18-24” of 60-80lb Monofilament Leader Line
- ¼-½ egg weight (between hook and swivel)
- 6/0-8/0 Barbless Octopus/Circle hook (Hook has to be barbless!)
White Sturgeon Limits & Regulations
According to the 2016-2017 California DFG Handout
- The daily bag and possession limit is one fish that must be between 40 inches and 60 inches fork length. The annual limit is three (3) sturgeon per person.
- Short or oversized sturgeon must be released unharmed immediately; note that white sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water prior to their immediate release.
- No snare may be used to assist in taking sturgeon. Only one single barbless hook may be used on a line to take sturgeon. The sturgeon must voluntarily take the bait or lure in its mouth. No sturgeon may be taken by trolling, snagging, or by the use of firearms. Sturgeon may not be gaffed, nor shall any person use any type of firearm to assist in landing or killing any sturgeon.”
**Fork Length: The measurement from the tip of the nose of the fish to the fork of the tail.**