SturgiEvangelist: The Gateway Tug

The plan was simple.  Take a day off, drive to International Falls, get up at the crack of dawn and catch huge Sturgies until our arms fell off.  I shared a boat with a coworker (lifelong musky fisherman) and some guy he knows (I gather he is primarly a wet-rag dude).  They wanted to see what the Sturgeon stuff was all about.  They had both caught some through the ice on wet-rag gear and neither expected a great fight...  I seem to remember some comment about "crankin' 'em through the guides" on the XXXXXHeavy musky rods and 100lb test braid they were using...


Well, we had hoped to be on the water before 6am.  Due to various circumstances (a late leave time from the TP - an over consumption of barley pops - way too many breaks to pick up beverages, fast food, cigs, and extra bait - and the fact that there were too many captains in the boat...) we didn't actually have lines in the water until 8:30am.  


We proceeded to check out every single landing on the Rainy between the mouth at LOW to the dam at I-Falls.  I learned at lot seeing all that water and talking to the locals chasing the Sturg.  


By almost 4pm we deceided to try one last spot...


There we hooked up.  Many times.  A few 44"ers, a 48"er, a few babies, and a bunch of 50" class fish.  Seems like just over 50" is now the "average" fish on the Rainy.  Of course monster 70"ers are caught a couple times a year and it seems like somebody gets a 60"er almost daily durning the run.  


The simple crawler ball on 3/0 circle with a 3 ounce pyramid was the go-to.  All our fish were caught in 12 FOW on a big tapering shoreline flat.  There were plenty of White Suckers and a few Shorthead Redhorse around as well.  


PIcs of a couple of the 50's and a baby:

Even after the 3 hour drive home they were still talking about how hard the Sturgeon pulled and how they couldn't turn anything that didn't want to be turned.  They'll be back.  Good to see a couple anglers broaden their horizons...  I'll be back too.  I want a 60" -  then I'll want a 65" - and then a 70" - and then...


A couple recommenations for everyone:

  • Do this trip some day. period.
  • Give yourself at least 3 days to do it
  • Listen when people say the Sturg are up/down river - the locals usually know what is going down
  • Bring a whole flippin' flat of Crawlers - lots of White Suckers and Shorthead Redhorse to peck you to death
  • Don't just try the deep holes - our best success was on a flat tapering from 10-12 FOW near a channel pushing 20 feet deep
  • pay attention - they follow tight lines at times, only one side of the boat got bit all afternoon.
  • have a float on the anchor line, best to unhook and chase downstream rather than loose a good spot to a pulled anchor
  • A boat is highly recommended but I did see many great shorefishing spots.  Decent access and resonable to actually fish
  • April through the 2nd weekend in May is the time to do it
  • If you plan to C&R probably best to avoid the harvest season (last week of April and first week of May) and the crowds that go with it - I'd certainly recommend the C&R plan

Species List:


Corey's picture

Great report Tony. 


Bubbajoe's picture

Awesome Tony! Opening the eyes of a dedicated Muskie guy is no small task.

Oh, and that baby sturg is adorable, sharp of course, but still adorable!

TonyS's picture

The Musky Guy actually wasn't that tough to turn over - he grew fishing suckers with his grandpa so he had a starter.  He is still a pretty died in the wool musky hound but today at work is still talking about several days later.  Says he'd go up in the morning if it was just an hour or two closer.  The walleye dude was tougher but he seemed to appriecate catching something that tugged harder than a dead stick...

Deftik's picture

Those are some slobs, could only imagine how fun that was!

Your momma fishes for lifers with Eagle Claws.
Bubbajoe's picture

Your Muskie guy probably just enjoyed, ya know.... catching fish!

Walleye guys are tough, but persistence pays. We've been working on a dedicated walleye guy at work. It's been a long road, but he's coming around.

AvidFly's picture

A walleye guy, a muskie Guy and roughfisher go fishing...Sounds like the making of a good joke!


Sounds like you got some good action even though so much of the day was spent driving around.  I have to start making it a goal to get up there in the spring.  Thanks for sharing!

TonyS's picture

Yeah the action was great once we got baits in good water.  The musky guy was actually getting annoyed with the lack of action for the first half of the day, he has fished the same river for Muskies for probably 15-20 years.  He says he almost never goes more than a few hours without at least seeing fish.  Interestingly it probably took the Walleye guy twice as long to land a fish the same size on the same tackle as either the Musky guy or I - not sure why that might be...

Hengelaar's picture

Those are some dream fish right there.

So amazing.


About how old would a 50-60" Sturgeon from that area be..?

Fishn sure is neat

TonyS's picture

According to the data from Baudette (on the Rainy River) approximate ages (and "average" weights) are:


-50" - 23yo - 29lbs

-55" - 28yo - 39lbs

-60" - 34yo - 53lbs

-65" - 42yo - 68lbs

-70" - 51yo - 89lbs

Jason E.'s picture

Wonder how they would have reacted if they tied into a 200 lb. monster sturgeon?

TonyS's picture

Wonder how they would have reacted if they tied into a 200 lb. monster sturgeon?

If it had been walleye-guy we'd still be there waiting for him to land it... ( I kid)


I'm pretty I would have soiled myself had any of us hooked a 200lber...

Eric Kol's picture

Thanks Tony. For the shore fisherman, are these public access points or through resorts? Was the bite steady throught the day? I know at times on the Croix time seems to matter.

Carpy Diem!

TonyS's picture

There are quite a few public access points that offer Sturg worthy water.  For starters any of the boat launches that I saw would likely produce most of the time. The bite came in waves, no strong correlation to any time of day.


If you (or anybody) wants more shore recommendations I'd gladly share more specific info via PM.  Really a lot of water between I-Falls and LOW.