Rainy River sturgeon harvest season opens July 1

(Photo courtesy Lake of the Woods Tourism)

It’s a North America-wide championship, but in name mostly.

Yes, the North American Sturgeon Championship draws contestants from both the U.S. and Canadian side of the Rainy River – the site of the annual event, just outside the cozy little town of Birchdale. But, for the most part, the August event is a quaint gathering, typically drawing a few dozen mostly casual participants, including kids and families.

Not a lot of pressure all the way around.

That’s usually not the case when it comes to lake sturgeon fishing on the river. At ice-out each spring, anglers flock to the river during the catch-and-release season that this year ran through April 23. A harvest season followed April 24-May 7 (anglers are allowed to harvest one sturgeon of 45 to 50 inches or over 75 inches per calendar year), followed by another catch-and-release season May 8-15 before sturgeon fishing closed entirely from May 16-June 30.

After that layoff, sturgeon fishing reopens with a harvest season Saturday, July 1 on the river. So, like in springtime, and after the recent closure, the sturgeon-fishing pressure should be intense, right?

Hard to say. For the most part, particularly with the two most recent sturgeon “seasons” of 2017, walleye fishing wasn’t an option in the area (that season opened May 13). Now, fishing for walleyes and saugers is in full swing, with reports of good action.

Still, while sturgeon get much of the attention in the spring, summer is a good time to catch the large, prehistoric fish, too, according to Lake of the Woods Tourism. In a recent news release, it said the best stretch of water to fish for sturgeon – now and in general – is from Four Mile Bay, where the river flows into Lake of the Woods, all the way upriver to the falls near Birchdale – about a 40-mile stretch of ideal sturgeon habitat.

When this harvest season ends, another catch-and-release season runs Oct. 1 to April 23 of next year.

For more on fishing lake sturgeon, click here.

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