Northern California Sturgeon Fishing
It was mid-morning and we’d been fishing for three hours. Each of us had felt several hits and my fishing partner Jim Bowen had a keeper in the Vicki Ann’s Livewell. Despite a good tussle, I’d already released a shaker. I was waiting for a sturgeon’s primitive instinct to scoop up my bait.
Just then, I saw my friend Jim yank hard and watched his pole bow to just about the snapping point. “Fish on!” he hollered. I turned my head and green-eyed jealousy was just building when I suddenly felt the soft double pickup signature of a sturgeon strike. Setting the hook hard, the rod immediately plummeted like it was headed for the center of the earth. A peeler I thought. My hands throttled the pole instinctively. “Fish!” I managed to call, but I was drowned out.
“Fish on!” the pirate, Ken Hoffman, shouted. With a tripple on his hands, the pirate showed his skill and experience as a sturgeon fishing guide. Like a well oiled machine, Ken gunned the engine to quickly pop the anchor while his mate Dallas was stowing the anchor within seconds. Handing his pole to Dallas, the pirate concentrated on piloting the boat to give us a thrilling fight.
The dinosaur at the end of my line was staying low and using his vast bulk like a drag chute in the fast river to get away from me. I waited for the reel to stop screaming then set my feet and started the pull and crank that defined my fight.
My arms were bursting and I was losing the feeling in my right hand when the diamondback behemoth appeared 10 feet aft.
I heaved the pole in the air pumping with my numb hand and reeling like a madman. At last, the pirate shoved the net into the water and hoisted the lunker on board. Minutes later 2 more sturgeon were boated, a keeper and a shaker we let loose.
– Ted Johnson
Sacramento River Sturgeon Fishing
The Sacramento River has 3 sturgeon size classes; Shakers, Keepers and Peelers.
A Shaker is any sturgeon under 46″ in length, and must be released unharmed when caught. It is called a shaker because the fish will vigorously shake the rod when it is on the line. The faster the vibration on the rod, the smaller the sturgeon.
A Keeper is a sturgeon between 46″ and 66″ in length. These size limits are temporary as Fish and Game further analyses the fishery. This fish may be retained when caught. The Keeper is easily distinguished because it shakes the rod somewhat slowly and will run hard taking line off the reel at least for a few seconds.
If you fish for the White Sturgeon long enough, you will encounter the Peeler. This is a fish that will spool the reel and cannot be stopped. You either cut the line, or pursue the fish. Peelers are not for the fainthearted. All oversize sturgeon must be released unharmed when boated. It must be boated quickly or the sturgeon may die from exaustion.
Sacramento River Sturgeon Fishing Guide
The Sacramento River watershed’s constantly changing water levels peak and recede in annual cycles. This flux is both natural and man-made. Knowledge and experience of these rhythms can mean the difference between a productive sturgeon fishing trip and a waste of valuable fishing time. Having someone who can pinpoint the best time and place to fish is what makes guided sturgeon fishing so productive.
The River Pirate’s Pro-guide, Ken Hoffman, has over 30 years’ experience sturgeon fishing in the Sacramento River. Ken knows the river thoroughly and will enjoy showing you the best sturgeon fishing Northern California has to offer.