Ryan Shinabargar’s Big Rainy River Sturgeon


Ryan Thomas Shinabargar was among the many Rainy River anglers to catch a big sturgeon this season while fishing for walleyes. Here’s the tale he graciously submitted:

We started fishing at 10 a.m. out of Birchdale Landing. We were trolling for ‘eyes and had already boated a half dozen walleyes ranging from 10” to 21” by 11:30, which is when the circus started.

I was dragging a 1/4-ounce long shank jig sweetened with a shiner. The sturgeon bite felt just like a walleye. I set the hook and instantly I knew it was big. But the fish was swimming towards the boat, so at first I thought it was that 32-inch wall hanger walleye we were targeting that morning.

But then we saw the bubbles surface.

“Get ready,” I said, looking at my fishing partner Travis Ross. “We are in for a fight.”

Right after tha,t the drag on my Pflueger started screaming, and the 10-pound FireLine zipped off my spinning reel. Travis got on the trolling motor controls to help direct the boat towards the fish to avoid the fish spooling me. We had the sturgeon surface three times but as soon as it saw the boat it bolted back down, almost snapping the Fenwick spinning rod each time I had to adjust the drag to save the rod from snapping. Adding to the excitement was the fact we were in the thick of the all the boats—probably 25 boats within 100 yards in either direction.

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Sturgeon-first decision

The Dino dragged us around that stretch of river as we weaved in and out of boats. At the 30-minute mark of the fight we had a moral discussion of whether or not to cut the line. As sportsmen, we understand a long fight is tough on the fish. We decided  that if we didn’t boat the sturgeon within 10 minutes we would cut the line and fight the fight another day with muskie gear.

So I got more aggressive with my drag and 5 minutes later it finally surfaced next to the boat. Travis was ready. He reached into the 36 degree water with both arms, bear-hugging the fish and lifting it into the boat. He was soaked, head to toe. At the same time the anglers in the 25 boats around us started cheering–loud hooting and hollering! We felt like celebrities for a brief moment.

Every spring we make multiple trips up to the Rainy. Walleyes are our targets  in the morning and we switch over to dinos in the afternoon. This fish, at 64 inches long, is my personal best. To catch it on a walleye rod was that much more exciting. It was such a rush!


More Rainy River sturgeon: https://midwestoutdoors.com/fishing/prehistoric-monsters-sturgeon-rainy-river/

Info about Rainy River and Lake of the Woods lodging: https://lakeofthewoodsmn.com/