Lake Sturgeon Handling Practices
Fishing for lake sturgeon has increased in popularity over the last several years. While it is fun to angle for these fish it’s important to keep in mind that they are a species at risk and require proper gear and handling to ensure their survival. When a lake sturgeon is caught it must be immediately released.
Mishandling during catch and release angling is one of the highest risks to sturgeon populations in the North and South Saskatchewan river systems – do your part by following the tips below!
- Use the right tackle and angling gear.
- Angling tackle should be heavy enough to handle these potentially large fish. Light tackle can break off and leave sturgeon with hooks, weights and long lengths of line attached that can trap the fish or prevent feeding. Use heavy rods and reels, spooled with fishing line greater than 30 lb. test.
- DO NOT target sturgeon with pickerel rigs, which are designed for much smaller species.
- Land the fish quickly, and do not play the fish.
- Remove the hook quickly, using long needle-nose pliers. If the fish is hooked deep, near the gills, is bleeding profusely or the hook is too hard to retrieve, cut the leader and release the fish with the hook left in (it will drop out eventually).
- Leave the fish in the water wherever possible.
- A fish suffocates when it's out of water, and is at risk of internal injuries due to its own weight, especially if it is large (greater than 1m in length).
- If you want photographs, leave larger fish in the water and get in the water with them. Have your camera ready and be quick so the fish is only briefly disturbed.
- Ropes, tailers, nooses or any other device are not to be used on any part of any fish to hold or land the fish.
- Do not drag any fish out of the water onto the shore. Sand, rocks, or even grass can remove the fish's protective slime making it susceptible to disease.
- Do not land a large fish at the boat and then tow it by the tail to shore. Towing a fish backwards suffocates the fish and can lessen its chances of survival or even kill it. If you land a large fish at the boat, then release it at the
boat. Smaller fish can be landed on the boat by lifting and cradling it with gloved hands underneath and behind the front fins and just forward of the tail.
- A fish should never be pulled into a boat using a rope or by its gill plates, mouth, tail or pectoral fins. Use as many people to cradle the fish as is necessary to not hurt it.
- If you handle a fish, do so with care.
- Keep your fingers away from the gills and out of the gill plates, and don't squeeze or hug the fish.
- Always hold a sturgeon HORIZONTAL and support with two hands. NEVER hold a sturgeon by hanging them from the tail, gill plate or mouth.
- It is not recommended to weigh a sturgeon. It is stressful for sturgeon to be weighed and they are very often dropped in the process. Use the length/weight calculator below to estimate the weight of the sturgeon that you caught.
Check out this infographic to learn how to handle lake sturgeon like to pro!
Learn more about these unique fish here: https://www.alberta.ca/lake-sturgeon.aspx
Updated: Jan 6, 2022