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Bait is one of the most important aspects of sturgeon fishing.  The scent produced by your bait is the main link between you and the fish.  Use fresh bait whenever possible.  Frozen bait will catch fish, but use it only when fresh bait isn't available.  Fresh or frozen, never buy smelly bait.

I like to use a combination of several different baits.  My favorite combination is salmon roe, lamprey, and pile worms all on the same hook.  Another good combination is threadfin shad and pile worms.  This combination will catch you both striped bass and sturgeon.

Salmon Roe Jump to the top of this page
Uncured Salmon Roe is my favorite bait for sturgeon fishing in the delta.  I attach my roe using a roe snell knot which is commonly used by salmon and steelhead fisherman.  If you don't use this knot use some magic thread to wrap your roe to the hook.  I like to use 8/O Owner cutting point hooks with roe.
If you get a lot of junk bites, switch to roe balls.  You can put your hook directly through a roe ball - no thread or special knots are needed.  For tips on processing and storing roe for sturgeon fishing click HERE.

Uncured salmon roe and lamprey on a hook
Uncured salmon roe and lamprey on a hook.  The white stuff below the roe is a cotton ball soaked in shrimp oil.

Sardines Jump to the top of this page
Use on slack tides for sturgeon.  Sardines definitely put out more scent than any other bait.  The smell of sardines can stay on your hands for several days, so if you have a significant other I would suggest using gloves unless you want to spend the night on the couch.
There are many different ways to use sardines.   Sardine
The most common method is to fillet the sardine.  I like to use a 4" section of sardine fillet.  The sardines that you can buy at the Asian markets tend to be smaller than the ones available at bait stores.  Both work, but the bait store sardines tend to be fresher because they are flash frozen when harvested.  When buying sardines at bait shops, look for blood in the eyes.  These are fresh sardines that you want to use for bait.

There are lots of different ways to up the sardine onto your hook.  Some people weave the hook through sardine.  Others use the Wright Wrap.  Try different folding methods to see which one is catching fish.

Sardines are very soft and can fall off of the hook easily. When small fish are biting, some people use wrap thread around their sardine fillet to keep it from falling apart.  I like to use Miracle Thread, which is an elastic thread that can be purchased at most tackle shops.  You can also cure your sardines before fishing.

Pro-Cure Brine-and-Bite will toughen up your sardines.  Mix it up and add the whole frozen sardine the night before you fish.  You can also make your own home made brine.

Brine Recipe for Sardines
Take sardines, fillet them and layer them in a plastic container with sea salt and olive oil.  Keep the fillets in the refrigerator overnight.  This will toughen them up quite a bit.  While you are at it, you can add some scent to the mix.

I like to add or inject Pro-Cure Sardine oil to my sardines to give them some long lasting scent.

Shad Jump to the top of this page
Try to buy fresh shad whenever possible.  Avoid shad that are bloody.  When the stomachs are ripped up on fresh shad it means that they have been handled roughly.  After you buy shad, throw them in a small ice chest full of icy water.  Now throw about Ĺ cup of rock salt into the mix.  This will help to toughen up the shad, and will preserve them if you end up freezing them.
Most people butterfly the shad to disperse scent into the water.   Threadfin Shad
This is done by partially filleting one side of the shad.  You leave the fillet attached with enough skin to keep it from separating.  Clean your knife each time you cut shad to remove scales that will tear up your next piece of bait.

The best size shad for sturgeon fishing is about 2" to 3" in length.  Try spraying your shad with some Bang Shad scented spray before casting out.

Pile Worms Jump to the top of this page
Pile worms work well for both striped bass and sturgeon.  If you fish the lower delta a deadly combination is shad and pile worms on the same hook.  You can use a threader to thread the worm onto the hook.  Be careful - these things can bite! Pile Worm

Ghost Shrimp Jump to the top of this page
Use Owner 6/O cutting point hooks with ghost shrimp.  Use miracle thread to wrap your shrimp to the hook.

The stuff in this photo wasn't very fresh!  Get live ghost shrimp if possible.

Ghost Shrimp

Grass Shrimp Jump to the top of this page
Put several grass shrimp on your hook at one time.  Use miracle thread to wrap your shrimp to the hook.  Fresh or live grass shrimp can be expensive. Grass Shrimp

Mud Shrimp Jump to the top of this page
Use Owner 7/O cutting point hooks with mud shrimp.  Use miracle thread to wrap your shrimp to the hook. Blue Mud Shrimp

Herring Jump to the top of this page
Herring are similar to sardines but smaller in size and usually more expensive. Herring

Mackerel Jump to the top of this page
Mackerel are similar to sardines but are tougher.  They will stay on the hook longer but are more expensive than sardines. Mackerel

Anchovies Jump to the top of this page
Anchovies are similar to sardines but are a little bit tougher.  You can butterfly fillet anchovies similar to shad. Anchovy

Lamprey (Eel) Jump to the top of this page
Lamprey is very tough and will stay on the hook when small fish or crabs are biting.  Cut into 4" to 6" strips with scissors, and then cut grooves into the tail end of the strip so it flaps like a pork rind.  Use a double surgeonís loop knot attached to an 8/O Owner cutting point hook.
You can re-use and freeze lamprey many times.  In fact, you can catch multiple fish on the same piece of lamprey because of its long lasting scent. Lamprey (Eel)

Nightcrawlers Jump to the top of this page
There are some people who swear by these.  I've never used them, but I wouldn't count them out either.  I've never met a fish that didn't like to eat nightcrawlers. Nightcrawler

Chapter 9 >