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Types of Sturgeon in the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods Area

The Rainy River has long been a popular destination for sturgeon fishing. This Minnesota-Canada border waterway connects to the enormous Lake of the Woods to Rainy Lake near International Falls.

What type of sturgeon is most common on the Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River?

The most common type of sturgeon found in the Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River is referred to as the “lake sturgeon” (or “Acipenser fulvescens” if you’re into the scientific naming of species).

Lake sturgeon are native to the Great Lakes region, including Lake of the Woods, as well as various rivers and tributaries connected to these bodies of water. Lake sturgeon are well adapted to the freshwater environments of the upper Midwest’s larger lakes and their surrounding rivers.

These unique, ancient species of fish are known for their large size, longevity, and unique physical characteristics, such as their elongated bodies, bony plates (scutes), and whisker-like barbels near their mouths.

In the Lake of the Woods region and more specifically, the Rainy River, anglers have the opportunity to encounter lake sturgeon during their seasonal migrations, particularly in the spring months when they ascend the river from the lake to spawn. These majestic fish play a significant role in the ecosystem of the region and are a prized catch among anglers seeking an unforgettable fishing experience.

We’re often asked “What is the difference between a ‘sturgeon’ and a ‘lake sturgeon?’”

“Sturgeon” is the broader, more general term used to refer to a family of fish belonging to the order Acipenseriformes. This family includes various species of sturgeon, each with its own distinct characteristics and habitat preferences. Lake sturgeon, on the other hand, is a specific species within the sturgeon family (again, known scientifically as the Acipenser fulvescens). It is native to North America and is commonly found in the Great Lakes region, including Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, as well as in various rivers and tributaries connected to these bodies of water. Lake sturgeon are not commonly found on smaller Minnesota lakes and rivers. While “sturgeon” is a broad term encompassing several species worldwide, “lake sturgeon” specifically refers to the specific Acipenser fulvescens species found primarily in freshwater lakes and rivers of North America. It’s generally what people are referring to when they speak of a sturgeon in the U.S., so the terms are often used interchangeably. In summary, sturgeon is a general term for a family of fish, while lake sturgeon is a specific species within that family more common in the upper midwest, distinguished by its habitat and physical characteristics.

Sturgeon Season Migration

The migratory patterns of sturgeon are closely tied to the changing seasons. During the spring months, sturgeon ascend the Rainy River from Lake of the Woods in search of spawning grounds. As the ice begins to melt and water temperatures rise, these magnificent fish embark on their journey upstream, offering anglers a prime opportunity for an unforgettable fishing experience.

As the winter begins to fade and the waters warm up, we invite you to embark on an unforgettable adventure to the Rainy River and unlock the secrets of sturgeon fishing in northern Minnesota. With its pristine waters and abundant wildlife, this majestic waterway offers a glimpse into the natural wonders of the North. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a novice enthusiast, the allure of sturgeon fishing on the Rainy River is sure to captivate your spirit and leave you longing for more.

If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve covered this information in greater depth in our Rainy River Sturgeon Fishing Guide

Our Rainy River Fishing Resort

River Bend Resort is right on the Rainy River, providing convenient access to all the sturgeon hotspots. We offer cabin rentals with fishing packages from the resort, and options to stay at our hotel in Baudette – The Walleye Inn – with packages for fishing from our resort.


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