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Sturgeon Fishing Guide: The Best Bait to Use

Sturgeon fishing brings dinner and a show to the angler’s life. These prehistoric fish are bottom feeders that live for 50-60 years as a male and up to 150 years as a female. 

sturgeon jumping out of the water

In that length of time, it’s not unusual for them to grow up to 18 feet, depending on the species. 

Finding the right bait for your fishing adventures is one of the finer points of fishing for these big guys. 

The best bait for sturgeon will largely be determined by where you’re fishing and what species you’re hoping to hook. 

Nightcrawlers

The wriggly fisherman’s friend is a favorite for many types of fish. The Nightcrawler is a good start for shovel nose and lake sturgeon, but you may get bites from other fish before you can land your big catch. 

nightcrawler worms in dirt

Nightcrawlers can be collected from your lawn or garden after the rain or driven from the ground using electrical pulses at night. 

You can also purchase nightcrawlers from garden supply stores or outdoor suppliers, but make sure to get the right hooks for them too!

It’s best to fish with these fresh and alive, as the movement is part of what attracts fish to the bait. 

Freshwater Clam

If freshwater clams occur naturally in the area you’re fishing for sturgeon, you’re likely to find they work well as bait. 

a closeup of a lot of freshwater clams

The harvested clams should be kept fresh and alive, as the movement and scent are part of the attraction. 

You may find that you’ll attract more than just sturgeon to your fishing grounds with this bait choice. You can harvest freshwater clams as you fish or purchase from local bait and tackle shops. 

Crawfish

Crawfish are hard to purchase in advance, but they prove to be one of the most effective baits for catfish and sturgeon, no matter the location or species you’re looking to hook. 

person holding live crawfish

You’ll need to attach the live crawdad through the tail so it is secured and releases its scent to attract the fish. 

You can catch them live in the river where you’re fishing or find them at a local bait and tackle shop. You can also increase the chances of landing your prize by adding additional scents, like Sturgeon Frenzy, to the live crawdad. 

Gizzard Shad

Gizzard Shad is a herring-type fish that is common for sturgeon and catfish. You can catch this herring in most lakes, oxbows, and sloughs with low grades, avoiding fast-moving and high-grade mountain streams. 

school of gizzard shad

They are best used live but can be purchased from bait shops frozen and cut. Ensure that the location you’re fishing in allows this type of live bait, as some regions consider these fish to be an invasive species.  

Lamprey

Lamprey eels are incredibly smelly, and that aromatic feature carries well to attract sturgeon to your hook. You can catch lamprey in some regions, but more often, you’re better off purchasing harvested lamprey from a local bait shop. 

lamprey swimming

You can cut and rig a chunk of lamprey on your hook and secure it with zip ties or a couple of surgeon knots above the hook. 

These are best used freshly thawed, so keep them sealed and ready to rig until you’re on the shore or deck you plan to fish from. 

Salmon Eggs

Salmon roe, or eggs, come from catching a salmon hen before her spawning and releasing the eggs into the rivers. 

closeup of slamon eggs

When you catch your female salmon, you’ll need to cure the eggs in a “flavor” that the sturgeon will be attracted to. 

For some locations, raw, uncured salmon roe is the best flavor. In other sites, you may have more luck with marinating the roe in a sturgeon spray.

You can also purchase prepared salmon eggs from most bait shops. 

Smelt

These small fish make fantastic bait for most sturgeon species. It is easy to find in bait shops or catch in most lakes and rivers in the northern hemisphere. 

smelt fish for bait

Rigging this bait option can be intimidating but is simple once you get the hang of it. Some anglers choose to bait their hook with smelt and then inject other bait options inside. 

To rig a smelt for your sturgeon trip, hook through the head, and tie a few half hitches to line up the body. This will stabilize the smelt and keep it on the line for longer. 

Your smelt can be dead or alive. If you purchase your frozen bait, make sure to thaw it before use. 

Final Thoughts

Your choice for bait will depend significantly on your fishing location and the species of sturgeon that live there. 

It won’t matter which kind of bait you choose if your gear can’t handle the fight. Make sure to use high-quality equipment so your bait doesn’t go to waste.

Sturgeons are a favorite for sport fishing because they create a memorable fight and carry significant bragging rights, so go out and catch a big one! But you may not want to eat it!

Rocco Smith

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