Michael Rischer
Big sturgeon take tough tackle and tactics.

The winter kayak fishery in the Pacific Northwest usually switches from salmon, bass, walleye, rockfish and dungeness crab from summer into winter steelhead and white sturgeon. Not only are these winter fish fun to catch, they love tp put on a show. Sturgeon are in my top two of funnest fish to catch.  These massive fish will sometimes fight for 30 to 40 minutes before you can get them to your kayak. They also love to get airborne flying out of the water two to three feet. Its quite feeling to fight a 200-pound fish that loves to due aerials.

From SOT Fishing kayaks we usually will sit on anchor waiting for the bite. Once we hook into a fish we unhook from anchor and let the sleigh ride begin. Due to the colder water temps of the PNW we always use immersion wear like drysuits. Stohlquist has a number great breathable drysuit options that don’t break the bank and cost a lot less then you would think.

A great day of kayak fishing for these feisty beast’s would produce around three to four fish to the kayak in about one-hours time. You’ll be sore at the end of these days, especially towards the end of winter. These river monsters are big and require a lot of food. They can’t resist a small squid with a dab of Pro Cure scent. Fish on! These fish can smell the bait for miles down river and won’t be long until your fighting a big fish.

My best catch ever was a seven-foot monster in the Willamette river near my home in SE Portland, Oregon. I ended up fighting this fish for over 40 minutes. At one point I looked down at my GPS/sonar to see us traveling 3.5 mph upriver.

The most productive bait to use in the Pacific Northwest year round is squid. Sturgeon love squid and will sometimes travel miles upriver to eat. Squid is usually fished best when bait is tied on so bait looks to be heading up river. I just use a half hitch around the top head of squid an inch or two above the hook so the legs dangle down over 6/0 hook.  As always a small squirt of Pro Cure’s Bloody Tuna scent and you’re in business. I usually hold bottom with between four to 12 oz pyramid weights attached to the mainline on a slider.

My favorite rod setup for sturgeon would be the Daiwa eight foot Proteus rod with Daiwa Sealine reel wrapped with 80-pound Samurai Braid. An amazing kayak anglers setup with strong drag, some backbone and a soft tip.

Winter water temperatures can dip into the 30’s so I outfit the crew in Stohlquist’s

Shift drysuit with built in hood. I demand each angler wear a Stohlquist Fisherman tight PFD to stay above water if the fish pulls him in. A Hobie rod leash secures tackle to the kayak and Hobie H-Crate keeps everything in place.

During winter, food is scarce and huge sturgeon are hungry. These super-detrital feeders can smell a chunk of fish from miles away.

Rischer uses a small whole squid on a 7/0 Gamakatsu barbless hook. He ties the tip of the squid’s mantle above the hook with a half hitch so the hook hangs even with tentacles. The hook is tied onto four feet of 72 pound Dacron leader using an egg loop. At the other in attached using a 150 pound barrel swivel. From the swivel slide a six- to 12-ounce pyramid sinker over 80-pound Daiwa Samurai braided mainline.

A Lowrance Elite 5 Chirp fishfinder/GPS combo allows me to see the deep holes where sturgeon live.

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“Thank God my dad wasn’t a podiatrist,” jokes Ric about following in the footsteps of a famous outdoor writer. After graduating from Radford University and serving two years in Russia with the Peace Corps, Ric returned to Virginia Beach and started writing for The Fisherman magazine, where his dad was editor. When the kayak fishing scene exploded, Ric was among the first to get onboard. His 2007 book, The Complete Kayak Fisherman is one of the first tomes to introduce anglers to paddle fishing and hundreds of articles and seminars have brought countless anglers into the fold. When he’s not chasing every fish that swims, Ric teaches English at a school for at-risk teens.


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