Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering my best live bait options for Sturgeon this year. Now I have to admit to being a traditional bait user for most of my fishing life as I like to find a good spot and then see what I can attract. Of course there is maybe not the excitement of attracting and working a fish as there is with lures, however it can be just as much fun for sure.
There are however other aspects to it such as matching the bait to the location and presenting it in a manner that will make it attractive to the fish as well. The thing then is that there are so many different factors to consider that it can all get a bit confusing after a while. So let’s check it all out …
What is Livebait?
For the purposes of this post I am going to give the name live bait to anything that is, or has at some point been alive (often referred to as ‘natural bait’). This means that it can actually be alive (often kept in an aerated cooler for example), fresh but dead or even frozen. This is opposed to lures, which are artificial creations designed to mimic live bait.
As with any species you are chasing, the type you choose will vary based on local conditions however when it comes to using live bait for Sturgeon, I would stick to the following two rules:
- Use bait that is alive if possible – Sturgeon love live bait – preferably that which is still alive. However, as we will discuss below, anything that is dead and starting to smell a little will work a treat too.
- Go to a local bait shop – In most cases, they will sell bait that is good for local conditions. If in doubt, ask the shop keeper or a local.
Examples of commonly used live bait for Sturgeon includes:
Sturgeon will also eat nightcrawlers, snails and if you can get it, they absolutely love Salmon Roe as well. However, the options above are generally easier to acquire and hook as opposed to anything else. Oh, and you can not go astray with some extra smelly sturgeon oil added to the mix as well.
- You can match exactly to what fish eat naturally
- Generally easy to use
- Often cheaper than lures
- Most fish will take a bait
- You can cast and let the bait sit in the water (i.e. no need to cast and retrieve)
- Bait is great for kids (meaning they can at least catch something)
- It is smelly and gets all over your clothes, tackle box and everything else take with you
- Will deteriorate in the sun
- Fish tend to swallow the hook more with bait (making catch and release more difficult)
- You can lose a lot more to smaller or vermin species
- Bait can come off hook easier in faster moving water
- You need to make more tools with you such as a knife and cutting board
My recommended livebait options for Sturgeon
Let’s have a look at the main 5 options I have listed above in more detail:
Ok, so for this first option here I am not actually looking at a specific live bait option rather the presentation of your bait in general. This is due to the fact that when it comes to live bait and Sturgeon, it is definitely a case of the stinkier the better. Live baitfish will work here due to their slimy coats that emit an odor that Sturgeon enjoy.
However, if your bait is not alive, you can make it more Sturgeon proof by:
- Thawing it for an extra day than you might do otherwise
- Collecting dead fish from the water way you are fishing in (with local permit requirements of course)
- Using soft options such as pilchards or minnows
- Covering fish fillets in Sturgeon Oil
- Using the carcass as well
One trick we often use in the ocean also is to use a knife to cut a slit into the stomach so that the oils and odors from its gut are released as the fish hits a water.
The next on this list is Crawfish. These are popular due to the fact that they form a massive part of the natural diet of Sturgeon in a good number of locations in both fresh and salt water. The advantage here is that crawfish tend to live naturally on the bottom as well making them a great option for bottom feeders.
Crawfish work best when they are used live meaning an aerator box or cooler is probably necessary here as well.
And while we are on the crustacean train, our next option here is the good old shrimp (we call them prawns down here) which are actually a good go to live bait for any number of salt water species, including sturgeon. Shrimp are plentiful in most waterways and grow from small to large meaning they can form a stable part of the die of fish as they grow.
In most cases however, unless you know how to net them you will be using shrimp that has been frozen so as above, you will need to make sure they are well and truly thawed and smelly before you put them on your hook.
As the name suggests, American Shad is another species native to North America. These are ocean based however as the waters warm inland, they return to freshwater rivers to breed making them a perfect match the the spawning habits of Sturgeon as well.
This occurs in a south to north pattern along the east coast of the U.S. commencing in Georgia in January, the waters tributary to Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds in march, the Potomac in April and northern streams from Delaware to Canada in May and June – when you can use them for Sturgeon.
As with Yellow Perch (which Sturgeon will also take), full-grown Shad are a good catching and table fish in their own right however as they school as juveniles, they make good live bait in the months covering Spring and Summer as above.
And finally, the last on this list is Lamprey. These are a long, slender worm or eel looking creatures (they are neither) with a funnel like toothed mouth. They are popular due to the fact that they also form a massive part of the natural diet of Sturgeon in a good number of locations in both salt and fresh water.
As with shrimp above, Lamprey are most commonly sourced frozen from bait shops so again, make sure they are completely thawed for use when chasing Sturgeon.
What should you be looking for?
As you look to source and use your own livebait, below are some things that you may want to consider when using bait for Sturgeon:
Where the fish are – We have touched on this above however the type of bait you choose can depend on where you are trying to catch your fish. For example if you are working in shallower waters, then crayfish would work well. Keep in mind here that unlike lures, you are generally not casting and retrieving a bait so you will need to match your bait to the species that are found in that area.
Weight requirements – Bait weight, usually determined by the size or amount of bait you use, is important for a number of reasons including:
- Heavier baits can be cast a little further – this may include rigging with a sinker.
- Heavier baits will anchor and drag on the bottom more effectively (which is good if you are in a kayak or on a boat).
- Lighter weights are easier to jig and ‘flick’ around.
- Lighter baits will float better than their heavier counterparts – which is where insects can work.
Again, do your research into the environment that you are fishing in. If you are working in shallower waters, then a light weighted bait will work very well. Heaver options may be needed in deeper areas however they will ‘catch’ on the bottom a lot more often and fall off if you are drifting.
Rod specifications – The next consideration (and a very important one) is to ensure that any bait size you use fits within the specification details of your fishing rod. In some cases, rod specs include a tackle weight which is the highest designated weight that the rod can handle.
In most cases, however, you are going to be looking at this from the power rating of the rod. This is effectively a measure of how ‘bendy’ it is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy ones need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:
- Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. Use these for light baits only and to be honest, leave them at home when chasing Sturgeon.
- Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for all-round use with light to medium-weighted baits for smaller sized species.
- Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would probably look for these for Sturgeon fishing.
In general, the main rule of thumb when it comes to using bait is to match your hook to its size. As Sturgeon have mouths on the bottom, I would recommend a large circular hook – much the same as for Halibut.
Stick to a 6/0 to 9/0 hook with a bait size to match with the hook set through the snout (or head of crayfish) on a running sinker or running float rig.
Local knowledge – As mentioned a number of times in this post, when I discuss live bait options for any fishing type, I always say to check with the locals to see what is found in the local system. The idea behind this is that you want to match your bait to what it is that the fish eat naturally.
And there it is – my post covering the best bait for Sturgeon. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time