Anglers looking to catch really big fish this spring should consider heading to the Rainy River in northern Minnesota. The Rainy is one of the top spring fishing destinations for sea sturgeon. It holds sturgeon that weigh up to 100 pounds or more. Fish in the 20 to 40 pound range are common.
The Rainy is the border between Minnesota and Canada as it flows 90 miles west of International Falls to the Lake of the Woods near Baudette. The Rainy is one of the few places in northern Minnesota where anglers can fish from a boat in late March and early April, as the lakes are usually covered in ice.
Fishing with spring sturgeons is especially good as the hatching fish that live in the Lake of the Woods migrate up the Rainy to spawn. The river always holds sturgeon, but the number is highest in spring, which increases the chances of catching a fish. Fishing pressures near the estuary, an area known as Wheeler’s Point, can be particularly high from late March to early May.
Interesting facts about sturgeon fishing in MN:
- Sturgeon fishing is mainly done by catching and releasing. During the 2018 spring season, sturgeon can only be kept from April 24th to May 7th. Harvested fish must be between 45 and 50 inches long or over 75 inches long. The purchase of a disturbance label is required. The limit is one per person.
- Sturgeon fishing is pretty easy. Basic fishing equipment includes a stiff rod (a heavy bass rod, catfish rod, or muscle lung rod), a bait throwing reel, strong line, and a large net. Typically night crawlers, minnows, or both are used as bait. These are threaded onto a 5/0 or 6/0 circular hook that’s attached to a leader that runs through a two- to three-ounce no-roll sinker so that the bait stays on the ground. The guide length should be 12 to 16 inches. Many experienced sturgeon anglers like to position their boat near the upstream end of a hole and fish their bait within the hole. Circle hooks tend to set themselves. Once a bite is detected, simply lift the bar, start rolling, and hold on.
- It is important to stay on the Minnesota side of the river as sturgeon fishing is closed in Canada.
- There are a number of boat launch sites between Baudette and International Falls.
The Lake of the Woods Area Tourism Office can assist with lodging, restaurants, fishing guides, and other arrangements.
For more information on season and license, see the Minnesota Fishing Regulations.