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Going Gonzo for Monster Sturgeon


Going Gonzo for Monster Sturgeon


Bob holds his 51 inch lake sturgeon caught on the Rainy River.
Photo submitted by Ginny Riege

By Bob & Ginny Riege

Now that the “fishing opener” has officially begun it is time for us to tell you about another opener that you could also enjoy in Minnesota; lake sturgeon fishing on Rainy River. It is probably some of the best fishing that you will experience. Lake sturgeon season starts on April 24 – May 7 & July 1 – September 30.
You must acquire a sturgeon tag and you can harvest one per license year (Fish must be 45-50 inches, inclusive, or over 75 inches.) Immediately upon reducing a fish to possession, you must validate and attach your sturgeon tag. Sturgeon harvested must be registered within 48 hours.
If you would rather catch and release there is also a season that begins May 8 –May 15, and on October 1 – April 23rd. Rainy River also has a walleye season that is open from March 1st to April 14th . You can keep 2 walleyes under 19.5 inches, everything else must be released. The walleye season will be the subject of some upcoming articles and you will also want to experience this fine fishing as well.
Lake sturgeon fishing is something that we have never experienced, so this past April we contacted Jenna Walton at Lake of the Woods Tourism P.O. Box 518, 930 W. Main, Baudette, MN 56623. (218)-634-1174 or (800)-382-3474. jenna@lakeofthewoodsmn.com. We told Jenna that we wanted to come and fish the last day of walleye season and ½ day of fishing for sturgeon. We asked her to recommend a place to stay, as it is a time when many resorts are closed for maintenance. We chose to stay at Sportsman’s Lodge. We had a cabin to ourselves and we enjoyed the early summer type weather in the middle of April. We also asked Jenna about a local guide by the name of Gonzo.
Gonzo (a.k.a. Tom Stay) operates a great guide service out of his home right in Baudette. We discovered that it is very important to select a guide for lake sturgeon fishing. Not only do the guides know where the fish might be located and the holes they are hiding in, but also it is important not to fish in Canadian waters. You might ask why? The international boundary of America and Canada might be located in the middle of the Rainy River, but sometimes it is not. Canada protects lake sturgeon and they cannot be harvested or targeted for catch and release.
If you stray into Canadian water, you can be fined, or ticketed for fishing in Canada. Therefore, if you want to try this lake sturgeon fishing you should contact Gonzo at 112 5th Ave S.E, Baudette, MN 56623, 218-634-2781 or Tom@GonzosGuideService.com. Cell 218-244-2299.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: “The lake sturgeon is Minnesota's biggest fish. It can weigh more than an adult human. General description: The torpedo-shaped lake sturgeon lacks scales. It is covered instead with plates, called scutes. Its nose is flattened and slightly upturned, with four barbels underneath.”
The presentation for fishing lake sturgeon is simple. You will usually anchor in a sport or a hole and attach a 3-ounce weight to your line to hold the bait on the bottom. A few nightcrawlers on a hook and a stout musky rod with a large bait caster is all that is needed. One area that you should not skimp on is the weight of your line. Your line should be 17# or above because many of these fish are very heavy and they are accomplished fighters.
In the short period of time that we fished for lake sturgeon we caught and released 8 fish. My largest fish was 51 inches long and it took about 20 minutes to land the behemoth. My fish was actually tagged and we found out that you can give the tag number to the DNR and find out a little history about the fish.
Tom Heinrich, Large Lake Specialist for Minnesota DNR in Baudette sent us a letter and to summarize the content of the letter here is what we found out. My fish was tagged on April 25, 2004 in Four Mile Bay. (Not far from Sportsman’s Lodge) at that time it was 37.6 inches in length.
It was again caught on May 1, 2004 in Four Mile Bay and it was 38.0 inches in length. I caught the fish on April 15, 2010 on the Rainy River and it was 51 inches in length. Also we received a length-girth-weight relationship chart according to that my fish weighed about 36 lbs and was approximately 25 years old.
The letter went on to explain: “As of the date of this letter, we have tagged 5,547 lake sturgeon, 2,663 longer than 45 inch minimum size limit, at the time they were tagged. The longest sturgeon we have tagged was 71.3 inches long, but weight was not recorded for this fish. This fish was tagged on Rainy River, near the mouth of Littlefork River, in 2004. The heaviest sturgeon we have tagged weighed was 77.9 pounds but only 65.7 inches long. This fish came from the Littlefork River in 2000.
The largest sturgeon we have sampled was caught off of Pine Island in September of 2007. This fish was 73 inches long and estimated to weigh 120 pounds. Unfortunately we were not set up to tag this fish, so it was released without a tag.
We have found that in the Lake of the Woods- Rainy River system, male lake sturgeon begin to reproduce when they reach 17 years of age, while female sturgeon do not mature until they are about 26 years old. After maturing, males spawn only every to two three years while females spawn every four to nine years.”
Therefore, if you want to catch the largest fish in Minnesota and you want to fish another “opening day.” We suggest that you go Gonzo for Lake Sturgeon. For more information about lodging, guides and lake sturgeon fishing contact Jenna Walton at Lake of the Woods Tourism. We are planning for next year because we are Gonzo about this new experience.

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