Fishing for Sturgeon in Alberta

The lake sturgeon in Alberta is a unique species consisting of only two populations — one in the South Saskatchewan River system and one in the North Saskatchewan River system. The population in the South Saskatchewan system is relatively stable.

Sturgeon are somewhat primitive fish. They are found mainly in fresh water and are considered the largest game fish anywhere in North America.

Sturgeon can grow to be upwards of six feet very easily

You will find sturgeon ranging in size from just a few inches, to over fifteen feet long.

Sturgeon have a skeleton that is made of cartilage rather than bone and a skin that is rough as sandpaper, much like a shark does.
It has no teeth, using four barbells and an expandable mount to find its food.
A sturgeons body is lined with five rows of scales that are tough and hard, called scutes. They are shaped like diamonds, cover them from head to tail and are hard enough to discourage the predatory fish from eating the smaller juveniles.

Sturgeon in Canada are classed in three ways.
They are known as Shakers, Keepers and Peelers.

One fisherman says that the rules governing Sturgeon ” change but as of this writing they are as follows: A shaker is any fish under 42″ in length, and must be released unharmed when caught. It is called a shaker because the fish will vigorously shake the fishers rod when it is on the line. The faster the vibration on the rod, the smaller the fish.

A Keeper is a fish between 42″ and 60″ in length. This fish may be retained when caught and currently a fisher may keep one a day and up to 10 a year. It is always a matter of speculation on the boat when a fish is hooked as to its size. The Keeper is easily distinguished because it shakes the rod somewhat slowly and it will run hard to pull line off of the reel at least for a few seconds. If you have some control and the fish occasionally takes line and you can’t stop him, usually it’s a keeper.

This brings us to the last class, the Peeler. This fish is unmistakable, if seldom seen. If you fish for the White Sturgeon for very long you will encounter a fish that will peel line off the reel and cannot be stopped. You have two choices; snap the line, or pursue the fish and bring him to the boat.”

Such a feat requires heavy tackle and an anchor setup that is made for quick release.
Three pound lead weights, 10/0 hooks and whole shad for bait are the likely scenario.

A fish this size could strip a reel of line in less than a minute in a fast current and as such, a peeler is certainly not for the faint of heart.

I’ve never seen one caught, but would absolutely love to.
You will note I said I’d like to see it, not attempt it.
All oversize sturgeon must be released unharmed when boated.
The battle can last an hour or more! The fish must not be pulled out of the water as internal organ damage may occur, killing the fish.

“Almost without exception a hooked Peeler will jump at least once, thrilling all who see it. This fish is a monster and is also known as the ‘Poor man’s Marlin’.”

If you are someone who loves a fight, I can almost guarantee that one of these guys will give you what you’re looking for and then some.

To fish Alberta for Sturgeon, pay a visit to the Alberta Fish and Wildlife pages for current rules and licenses.

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