Species of the Week: Shovelnose Sturgeon!

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
Corey's picture
Species of the Week: Shovelnose Sturgeon!
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item even"> <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item even"> <h3> Welcome to the fourth installment of Species of the Week!</h3> <p>This (weekly or biweekly) system allows the community to add more comprehensive information to the species pages.&nbsp; Everyone should post their best information, tactics, and descriptive information for the species.&nbsp; Pictures of average-sized, juvenile, and jumbo specimens are all required.&nbsp; Each species should have at least one habitat photo (This means getting creative)!&nbsp;</p> <h3> This week&#39;s species is the Shovelnose Sturgeon, <em><i><em><i>Scaphirhynchus platorhynchus</i></em></i></em><em> </em></h3> <h3> <em>Click <a href="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/species/137"><strong>HERE</strong></a> for the current Shovelnose Sturgeon page.</em></h3> <p><img alt="" src="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/sites/default/files/shovelnose_sturgeon_closeup.jpg" /></p> <p>Please share your experiences with this species below!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have very little info on the Species Page for this one, so there&#39;s a LOT of room for improvement on this one!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Eli's picture
My only comment on this

My only comment on this species is that it's near the top of my to-do list. Unfortunately, they're not found anywhere around me, but a 16-hour drive should do the trick.




Muskymags's picture
Ol' Hackleback

I have an area on a large old muddy river with snags as big as a building and the Shovelnose roam in droans.

We like to camp out on remote sandbars and usually do well on the Shovelnose during the day and Catfish action at night.

A standard bottom rig with a crawler seems to work best.  They can litterally be anywhere in the system, but seem to focus on drop offs, current breaks, and snags. 

Shovelnose are some of the coolest looking fish that swim and for what they lack in fighting power, they more than make up for in appearance.




Deftik's picture
Wow muskymags thats looks

Wow muskymags thats looks like a sweet way to spend the weekend, wish we had stuff like that in PA!

roughfish29's picture

I'm no expert by any means on the Shovelnose, but I began figuring them out last summer and fall. What I've found to be the most important factor in Spadefacing is sand. I haven't caught them anywhere where there isn't a decent sandbar. They really seem to key in on current too. Also, timing can be really important. I had a night last september where I didn't catch anything sturgeon-wise until about 8:00 PM, and by 8:15 I had caught and released 3 shovels, and that was it for the night. Although other times they'll bite throughout the night.

All my Shovelnose fishing is done at night. I like to fish for them by spreading out two or three lines accross a sandbar, depending on if two lines are legal, of course (this usually means fishing with a buddy in MN). This way, you can cover a bunch of different depths, currents etc. and after a while you can key in on where the Shovelers are hanging out that particular night.

As for rigging, I use a pretty typical bottom rig. With a pretty heavy weight too, seeing as Shovelers like to hang in current. I've never been able to get away with anything short of a 1oz pyramid, I'll typically use a 3oz and even that tends to drift quite a bit on some nights. Then just a swivel or split shot, followed by a 8ish inch leader, and your hook. I like a size 4 circle hook gobbed up with a whole crawler.


Here are some photos:


Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
Bring Gloves

They are the sharpest fish I have ever handled. If you don't have gloves they will probably draw blood. 

I think Avid got a picture of the shovelnose barbels underwater. The barbels are actually feathered/ fringed, but out of the water the fringes clump together. Hopefully he finds the photo, it gives a hole new appreciation for their abbility to feed by taste. 


TonyS's picture
I think Avid's barbel pic is

I think Avid's barbel pic is better but I attached mine just in case he doesn't find his.


Shovelnose don't fight well for their size but on light or ultralight tackle, with 6lb mono and a 1oz pyramid they do alright.  Nice jumps and on light tackle I've had them pull drag decently a few times too - mind you these are bigger Shovelnose in the 25-30"+ class.   Light tackle is ideal for seeing the light bite, assuming you can get away with small sinkers - focus on current breaks behind sand bars, it doesn't always produce but usually and you can use lighter tackle.  


Failing that tie on a 4-6oz pyramid and fish right in the main channel.  With so much weight the take and fight will be greatly reduced.  In fact, Many times I never saw the take, I just reeled in my line and a fish was there.  Because of that circle hooks are fantastic.  The fish will hook themselves very firmly in the lips.  One of my best bite watching tips is to watch and listen to the water.  Many times I've seen/heard the Shovelnose jump before I noticed that it was hooked.  Stange that they can jump with all that weight on the line and rod barely moves.  I imagine braided line would help a ton, like it has for Burbot, I'll try this year and see if my success at seeing bites goes up.


Some pics of (one of) the coolest looking fish on the planet (barbels, 2nd down):


Gunnar's picture
Is there any reason not to

Is there any reason not to rig in a manner that lets the sinker slide freely on the line, which is what I usally do with pyramids and slinkies? Seems like that would help with the bite detection. The one shovelnose I've hooked (I'm pretty sure that's what it was, but it got off) took a worm on a circle hook below one or two fairly heavy sinkers. Every tiny tap was noticeable to the eye and made the bell jingle, whether it was little fish that couldn't get the hook in their mouths or the shovelnose I missed or the  silver redhorse and smallmouths  I caught. I actually think I'd have been better off if I hadn't noticed the shovelnose's bite so soon, as it might have been hooked better if it had done it itself so I couldn't act too quickly and screw it up.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Corey's picture
Shovelnose on a freeline

It's always bugged me that you never get to appreciate the fight of the shovelnose because of the weights you usually must use.  You can get around this by anchoring in current and fishing directly downstream in shallow water with a modest weight.  I've done this on the Minnesota River and they can really give you a battle when you hook them directly downstream with very little weight on the line.  One thing I've always wanted to try is to fish them with a downrigger release, so you can hook them with a heavy weight on the line, but once they hit you get to fight them on light tackle with a free line. 

TonyS's picture
A downrigger would be awesome

A downrigger would be awesome, if the release tension could set low enough.



@Gunner - I run my pyramids sliding freely on the line, you still have all that weight dampening the bite some and the situations I'm talking about are fishing long casts from shore - lots of stretch in the line (if using mono) to dampen everything.  Fishing close with small sinkers is much better

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
I have found them to hang in

I have found them to hang in the swirls and eddys around sandy points, which is great for using lighter set-ups for them.  I usually get away with a 3/4 oz bell sinker.  I have caught them from as little as 1 to 2 feet of water, usually during high water periods and always on the sand.  They fight a bit better with some hard digging and some rather commical attempts at leaping and tailwalking.  In my spots on the Minnesota River, they share territory with SM Buffalo, Channel Catfish, Common Carp and Silver Chubs.  These same areas will be teeming with Shortnose Gar and Flathead Catfish after dark.  I also suspect the Blue Sucker uses the areas too.  But we all know they are a fish that just doesn't bite....


Few Pics.

A good one from the Chippewa River, a great place to catch one of these:

And one from the Minnesota River.  This species bites great day or night:

Only other thing I got is this barbel shot of a Pallid for comparison to a Shovelnose.  The Shovelnose will go straight across while the Pallids will be in almost a half moon.  And the two outer barbels on a Pallid will be quite a bit longer than the two on the inside:












Dan's picture

A biologist in Arkansas sent out these links to these videos of shovelnose, channel cats, flatheads, and buffalo in the Arkansas River.  Very cool to see muddy river fish like these in clear water.




TonyS's picture
Cool vids!  Those are some

Cool vids!  Those are some big, tight schools of Buffs and Channels!


Those Shovels look cool swimming the odd thing was that it looked like they were using their Pectoral Fins to push themselves across the sand, I didn't expect that...

Cast_and_Blast's picture


The next pic might be a good identifying pic next to Doc's Pallid pic.



BemidJim's picture
This is probably not a

This is probably not a species I will pursue, BUT I do love the pictures.  I can't believe how narrow they are between the anal and caudal fins!  They look almost fragile there.  Nice catches, all.

Conecuh's picture
As far as range, it doesn't

As far as range, it doesn't actually live in the Mobile basin (as seen on the current range map). A close relative, the Alabama Sturgeon does. Unfortunately, it's critically endangered.

Wikipedia has the tragic tale:


perkinsdonald's picture
I catch a number of these on

I catch a number of these on the Wisconsin River they are pretty common there.  They do love the sand!!! This first pic is by Gotham WI.

  I fish for "whatever bites"  an egg sinker that slides freely does work well for these and alot of river fish.

 True the sand sturgeon (as grandma used to call em) dont fight well with alot of weight so I try to use just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom. Regardless of what im fishing for If a split shot will keep the bait down its more than enough. Its interesting to hold a sturgeon feels like sandpaper with sharp spikes!

you definetely do not want to rub these the wrong way! My son with one or two.

The shovel nose sturgeon tastes great! It has a shrimp like texture n taste when done right. With its exoskeleton there is no bones just guts and a long cord of cartilage. A real gem to clean:-) NOT

Vittles! I have not caught these on anything other than a hook, worm, and weight. They do like to spin and get fouled up in the line when being reeled in. Perhaps its because of the shape of their head.





The gods do not subtract the alotted span in men's lives the hours spent in fishing.