White sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) are the largest freshwater fish in North America. Historically, sturgeon up to 1,500 pounds were caught by anglers. They can live to be over 100 years old! They reside in the Snake, lower Salmon, and Kootenai Rivers of Idaho. They are creatures of large rivers and are uniquely adapted for life on the bottom. Torpedo-shaped bodies help them swim effortlessly in brisk river currents, and their small eyes are adapted for the dark, deep pools where they live. Sensitive whiskers help them identify food items in the dark water, and their suction-tube mouths easily vacuum up whatever food they come across. These fish grew to enormous sizes feeding on the abundant runs of salmon, steelhead, pacific lamprey, and freshwater mussels..
From the the early 1900s through the 1970s, the construction of dams on the Snake River isolated sturgeon populations and eliminated or greatly reduced important food sources such as lamprey, salmon and steelhead. This, combined with poorly regulated harvest, had so severely reduced sturgeon numbers in much of the Snake River that in 1970, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game adopted catch and release only regulations for sturgeon.
The healthiest populations of white sturgeon remaining in Idaho are found in the free-flowing stretch of the Snake River between the Bliss Dam and the upper end of C.J. Strike Reservoir in southern Idaho, and in the free-flowing Snake River from Lewiston upstream to Hell's Canyon Dam. Smaller numbers of sturgeon are also found in the Snake River below American Falls and C.J. Strike dams.
Angling for these giant fish has become very popular. As the number of anglers increases, so does the importance for each of us to minimize our impact to both the fish and to their environment. This includes using the right gear, rigging it properly, and leaving the river as well off as we found it. More importantly, we need to make sure we treat hooked fish properly to ensure their survival. Cut bait, squid, herring and shrimp are all popular baits, and are usually fished on the bottom of deep holes. Barbless hooks with a sliding sinker rig must be used. For low impact sturgeon fishing rules and tips, check out the link below.
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