I'm Alex, and I'm here to provide you with a comprehensive guide to sturgeon fishing in the San Francisco Bay Area for the year 2024. As the owner of Sweeney Sports in Napa and the brains behind Catchhappy.co, a platform where you can find fishing education, gear kits, and top fishing guides, I've accumulated a bit of knowledge that I'm eager to share.
These ain't fish like the rest. Sturgeon swam when dinosaurs waddled, watched empires rise and fall like the tide. They're ghosts from the deep, armored in bony plates, silent as shadows. A hundred years they can live, a hundred pounds they can grow, muscles like steel wire under leather. Respect you gotta have for a creature like that, a thrill too, of course. But it's more than just the fight, more than the bragging rights.
Sturgeon fishing is a handshake with history, a whispered promise to the future. It's the river running cold and clear, the ghosts swimming strong, and the line humming between us, a thin thread binding man and monster, present and past, life and legacy.
The prime season for sturgeon fishing typically spans from January to the end of March. During this period, white sturgeon make their way into the San Francisco Bay, estuary, San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, Napa River, and Suisun Bay for feeding, spawning, and sometimes wintering in the rivers.
Understanding the Sturgeon:
White sturgeon, ranging from 10 to 80 pounds, have a unique feeding habit. Unlike predatory fish, they have a sucker mouth at the bottom, favoring shrimp, crustaceans, and fish eggs. Expect catches between 15 and 40 pounds, though outliers like my 60-pounder do happen.
Sturgeon are similar to scavengers and the fishing approach differs from typical lures or casting methods. It's about bait fishing – cast your setup, secure it in a rod holder, and patiently await the bite.
Tips for Success:
Sturgeon fishing demands time and patience. On average, if you do everything right, expect around three bites and one fish per five trips. The tranquility of this fishing style appeals to those who relish nature's company during calm winter mornings and evenings.
Stay updated on regulations; use single, barbless hooks, and make sure your hook is at least 18 inches away from your weight unless the weight is under 1/2 ounce. Harvesting is limited to sturgeon within 42 to 48 inches at the fork, with strict rules for larger specimens. Additionally, only one keeper sturgeon per year is allowed starting in 2024. Catch and release is open, but you need to have both your CA fishing license and Sturgeon Report card on your person when you fish.
Your success hinges on appropriate gear. While a high-end setup like Phoenix 808 paired with an Avet reel is excellent, budget options like Daiwa or Okuma rods paired with Avenger series reels can be effective for under $150. Opt for 40-80 pounds braid for your mainline. Swing by Sweeney's Sports in Napa, and we'll get you outfitted on any budget.
Maximize your chances with proper baiting. Thread multiple shrimp onto the hook, use magic thread to secure them, and add a pile worm for extra attraction. Employ bait buttons to keep everything in place and don't forget the scent for that added allure. Watch the video for detailed instructions.
Understanding sturgeon bites is crucial. The subtle rod tip movement signifies a bite. Rather than yanking, start reeling to secure a solid hook.
Bank Fishing Tactics:
For bank fishing, legal spots along the Napa River and, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are abundant. Be patient, change bait every 45-60 minutes, and enjoy the tranquility while waiting for that elusive bite.
Boat Fishing Strategy:
Boat fishing involves cruising the river to find sturgeon-holding spots, using sonar to identify their presence, and anchoring up when you find them. If bites are scarce, be ready to move to a new location after 40 minutes to an hour and a half.
Consider hiring a guide for your first time or visit Catchhappy.co. for expert assistance. While sturgeon fishing demands time, the experience is immensely rewarding. Swing by Sweeney Sports in Napa for all your sturgeon fishing needs. Tight lines, and happy fishing!