Have you ever dreamed of catching a fish bigger than yourself, weighing 300 pounds or more? Have you ever wanted to test your strength and endurance fighting a great Leviathan as it rips a couple hundred yards of line off your reel before jumping into the air like a crazed, out-of-control rodeo bull? And would you like to do it for as little as $150 per day—boat, guide and fishing gear included?
If you answered yes to all these questions, it’s time you head to the Columbia River Gorge, 30 miles upriver from Portland, Oregon. There, you’ll find white sturgeon, North America’s largest fish, just a few miles below Bonneville Dam.
These prehistoric monsters once grew to 23 in length and weighed in excess of 2,000 pounds. There are old photographs to prove it, but sadly they were fished out years ago. Today, 8- and 10-foot sturgeon are relatively common, and occasionally 12 footers are reported. The biggest fish run between 350 and 500 pounds, a few even larger. And get this… these giants jump! They jump like rainbow trout and large mouth bass and are sometimes called the poor man’s marlin. I’m not kidding! You have to see and experience it to believe it. They will wear you down to your knees with hours of tug-of-war. This is not fishing for the weak of heart, back or arms. It’s the real deal—knockdown, drag-out fish fighting.
Sturgeon fishing on the Columbia starts to heat up in mid-May and continues through much of the summer and fall. The best time to go is when shad, a favorite food of the sturgeon, are running from May through early July. The sturgeon come in three sizes: shakers (little ones under 42 inches), keepers (42 to 60 inches) and oversized or peelers (referring to their line peeling abilities), which can grow to 12 feet or more. The big ones must be released to spawn and replenish the fishery.
If you would like to try this unique and challenging form of fishing, just go to the Internet and type in the words Columbia River and sturgeon. You’ll find more information than you can absorb about how, when, where and who to do it with. Then be sure to tune in to Life in the Open on Versus Network next fall and watch as I battle some of these giants in what I can only describe as the best, most exciting, accessible and affordable big game fishing in the world!