Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Where to Find and Catch These Iconic Fish Through the Ice

Three years ago, success when Sturgeon fishing Michigan seemed to be nothing more than luck – growing up in the Middle of Michigan, it was a rare creature that you’d hear of people catching once or maybe twice per year.  It wasn’t until I moved to Northern Michigan and explored some of our smaller lakes, that I realized there were plenty of opportunities to target these fish.

One of the most unique initiatives that I learned about when I moved was Michigan’s effort to stock Lake Sturgeon into some of our lakes and rivers.  This stocking is very unique to Michigan because they realize the value of sport fishing for sturgeon, but also the cultural importance of these fish, which are on the endangered species list.  There are a few lakes throughout the state of Michigan which are part of these stocking efforts, including Black, Burt and Mullet Lakes in Cheboygan County, and Otsego Lake in Gaylord.

Sturgeon Fishing MichiganMichigan Sturgeon Fishing Regulations

Sport fishing for these freshwater dinosaurs does come with some regulations. The state of Michigan requires anglers targeting Lake Sturgeon to have a special Lake Sturgeon permit.  Anglers are allowed to keep one fish per season, over 50 inches. This incentivizes anglers to practice catch and release, while still offering the chance at catching a fish of a lifetime.

Another very unique opportunity in Michigan to celebrate the Lake Sturgeon is a one-day spearing season on Black Lake.  On February 2, 2019, Black Lake will be hosting their annual Sturgeon spearing season. The unique aspect of this festival is that once the 6th Sturgeon is speared, the season closes.  In 2018, the season lasted a total of 66 minutes – the largest Sturgeon of the day weighing over 79 pounds!

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These efforts, from the Sturgeon stocking to fishing and spearing regulations are critical for the promotion of conservation of these amazing fish.

Where to Target When Lake Sturgeon Fishing Michigan

The most obvious place to start when looking at where to start fishing for Lake Sturgeon is to look at the Michigan stocking efforts – Burt and Mullet Lakes, Black Lake, as well as Otsego Lake offer great opportunities to target these fish.  These lakes are now regularly stocked with Sturgeon and have populations that can offer you a real shot at catching one of these dinosaurs.

Once you’re on the lake of your choice, I like to locate “Fish Highways.”  A “fish highway,” is a high percentage area that fish will use to travel around the lake – what I look for are steep breaks where shallow water drops quickly into the main lake or river channel.  These areas of the lake offer fish easy opportunities to move from shallow to deep water depending on water conditions, but also ambush points where they don’t have to move very far to find food/baitfish.  Identified on the map below are some areas that I target along major “fish highways.”

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Main Lake Points

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Shallow Water near River Inlets

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Steep Drops near Main Lake Flats

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Gear for Targeting Lake Sturgeon

Heavy rods, 10-pound test Monofilament line, and heavy gauge hooks are the standard in Lake Sturgeon fishing.  My preferred setup is to use a 40-inch Heavy – Moderate Fast Rod. There are a couple companies that build custom rods of this length and action, but for most purposes, any 36” to 42” Medium-Heavy or Heavy power rod will work.  You want something that has enough backbone where you can fight the fish effectively, but not so stiff that you end up pulling or bending out your hooks.

The hooks that I rely on for this technique are 1/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hooks.  A circle hook helps the fish set itself when it starts to swim away with your bait, so you don’t have to set the hook hard.  You also want to fish with a relatively light drag and play the fish – typically on a circle hook, the fish is pinned well and playing them on light drag will ensure you are able to get the fish through the ice.

As far as a reel goes, I prefer a 2000 or 2500 size reel.  This is the standard size reel from most manufacturers that most of us know and love.  I pull mine off of my open water spinning rods, put it on my ice rod with some 10-pound test monofilament line and am ready to go!  The monofilament is important in ice fishing because it won’t absorb water so it won’t freeze up like braid or become brittle like fluorocarbon in the cold weather.

Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Using Bait to Trigger Strikes 

When jigging for Lake Sturgeon, the scent is important as it is in most ice fishing situations.  I prefer to chum the area with bait – dropping a few handfuls of smelt or dead minnows down the hole help to draw in fish to the area both through smell and feeding opportunities.  Lake Sturgeon, while thought of as bottom feeders are actually aggressive predators that feed on baitfish.

I then set up two rods with the 1/0 Circle hooks to a nose hooked live Blue Minnow.  I like to nose hook the Blue Minnow because it will still be relatively lively and have a more natural action up off the bottom of the lake, making it an easy target for the fish of a lifetime!

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Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Practice Conservation

While Lake Sturgeon fishing can result in one of the coolest fish catches of your life, I encourage you to remember that these are special creatures.  Practicing conservation and following catch and release practices allows for these fish to be around for many years to come. I recommend bringing a tape measure and a good camera get records of your fish in the case you’d like to get a replica mount!  Unless you plan to harvest the fish for your freezer, I recommend releasing it for someone else to experience as well.

Be safe on the water, and I hope that this advice helps you land the fish of a lifetime!

Columbia River Fishing With Addicted Fishing’s Nick Perry

If you’re looking for non-stop action, heading out on the Columbia River fishing should definitely be in your plans for 2019.

From the plethora of big fish, to the great scenery, you’ve got to give it a try.

About Columbia River Fishing

The Columbia River is the largest river that flows into the Pacific Ocean from North America. It covers seven states and one Canadian province. It courses through four mountain ranges.

Sadly, though, the river isn’t what it once used to be. Dam and reservoir operations have fundamentally changed the river’s natural flows. Spring run-off is captured behind dams, thereby reducing flows and hampering the migration of young salmon headed out to sea, exposing them to predators in a series of slow-moving reservoirs. Reduced flows have also harmed the health of the Columbia River estuary by shrinking the size of the river’s freshwater plume – an area that hosts a variety of fish and bird species and accommodates the salmon’s gradual adjustment to living in saltwater. Dams have also blocked salmon from thousands of miles in the upper Columbia River system, including tributaries such as the Spokane and Kettle rivers in Washington and numerous rivers in British Columbia.

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This year, the seasons have been closed since September, but have reopened again, January first.

Though that’s true, this river still boasts large numbers of beautiful trophy fish and plenty of on-your-feet angling adventures.

There are all sorts of different species to be had, and fish aplenty for both beginners and pros, alike.

Columbia River Fishing for Salmon

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This river is well-known for the salmon runs. Yes, that “s” is correct. We meant multiple. You have your choice: spring salmon, summer salmon, and the big run of fall salmon. Without question, the salmon are the biggest angling attraction on the river, as there are – count ‘em – five runs of salmon: three runs of Chinook, one of Sockeye, and one of Coho/Silver Salmon.

The Spring Chinook season typically starts in March, ending in April on the lower river, and in May on the upper.

If you’re lucky enough to make it there, you’re in for some of the best tasting and hardest fighting salmon in the world.

Summer Chinook is usually a smaller run than its spring cousin, but the size of the fish makes up for it. They’ll give you two good weeks of excellent fishing at the end of June.  

Fall season starts early, in August when hundreds of thousands of Fall Chinook enter the river from the Pacific at Astoria and Ilwaco to migrate inland. The popular Buoy 10 fishery can actually get quite crowded this time of year. The season runs the month of August in conjunction with the Coho Salmon.

Columbia River Fishing for Steelhead

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This season starts in early June and you can follow the fish all the way to Idaho in August. Almost every tributary on the river gets some action with summer steelhead. A few highlights to try are the Cowlitz River, Deschutes River, Willamette River Drainage, John Day, Snake, and Upper Columbia Rivers.

Early in the season you’ll catch a lot of other species alongside the steelhead, but if you wait until July, you’ll be reeling in mostly steelhead with some Chinook and Sockeye mixed in, but who’s complaining?

If you travel to the Columbia River Gorge, you’ll have the option of fishing from either a boat or off the bank.

Known as “plunking,” the approach requires a heavy casting rod and reel, a rod holder, small assortment of bait and lures, some 6 to 12-ounce pyramid sinkers, and a signal bell for strikes. If you really want to get serious about it, you can employ the use of a plunking rig to maximize your chances of success. Steelhead here run shallow, making them much easier to catch than Chinook.

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Let’s Not Forget About the Sturgeon When Columbia River Fishing . . . .

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You can find some of the best sturgeon fishing here compared to anywhere on the West Coast. In recent years, take-home numbers have been regulated and relegated to an annual season sometime in January, but catch-and-release is always an option. And who would decline when White Sturgeon are known to be spotted at longer than Shaquille O’Neal, up to 12 feet in length! The average weight of these guys is between 50 to 100 pounds, though they’ve been caught weighing in at over 450 pounds.

Last year, Washington opened up a season down in Astoria for sturgeon for the first time since the closure. Anglers were incredibly excited for the season, and it’s expected to happen again in 2019. The 2018 season ran Monday, Wednesday, and Saturdays: May 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30 and June 2nd and 4th. On those dates, any White Sturgeon from 44-50 inches could be kept, one fish per day, two annually. This season was due to the increased legal-size population that has increased dramatically in the past years.

To say the Columbia is the best place to find sizable Sturgeon is an understatement!

Tidal Draw

With such close proximity to the ocean, the lower Columbia is tidally influenced, and so are the fish, so you’ll want to check your reports before heading out. Typically, the best salmon and steelhead fishing is on the outgoing tide, and during tidal changes. That’s not to say you won’t catch fish on the incoming tide, too.  

For sturgeon, look for deeper water when the tide is out.

When it’s in, look in small beds of four to six feet deep. Starting along ledges, small channels, sand flats, and other rocky points can get the action going.

Almost any time of the year, there’s great fishing to be had along the Columbia River. If you’re looking for a confrontation with some fiercely large fish, it’s time for a vacation.