Sturgeon Handling Practices

  1. Angling tackle should be heavy enough to handle these potentially large fish.
    • Use heavy rods and reels, packed with at least 30 lb. manufacture rated test line.
    • Play and release fish as quickly as possible. Playing a sturgeon on light tackle may result in the fish's inability to recover from the extended battle.
    • DO NOT target sturgeon with pickerel rigs which are designed for much smaller species.
  2. Remove hooks quickly.
    • Well-embedded hooks can be removed with long needle-nose pliers, or a hook remover. Grab the bend of the hook and twist, and the hook will dislodge. Be quick, but gentle.
    • A fish that is deeply hooked, hooked on or near the gills, or bleeding profusely has a much lower chance of survival once released. You can improve its chances by cutting the leader and releasing the fish with the hook left in. The line will rot and the hook will eventually drop out.
  3. 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.
  4. If you handle a fish, then 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.
    • Take the time to hold the fish in the water to recover. Point the fish upstream into the current while reviving it, and when the fish begins to struggle and swim normally, let it go

Updated: Dec 4, 2014