Yes, regular fluorocarbon line can be used as leader. Fluorocarbon line is obviously intended to be used as your main line, this is why you will notice that it’s very limp compared to fluorocarbon leader material. The resins used to make the leader and the line are often different, so you will see differences in stiffness (leader is stiffer) and abrasion resistance (leader is generally more abrasion resistant).
I don’t know of any “secret” sturgeon bait, but I’m sure there are some guys out there that have some. Guys the secret to catching sturgeon isn’t by having a gimmick like secret bait, it’s by knowing the fundamentals, spending a lot of time on the water, having a variety of baits and keeping the bait fresh.
I will put my smelt, sand shrimp (ghost shrimp, mud shrimp), and anchovies, up against anyone’s “secret bait”.
The best sturgeon bait on the Columbia and Willamette River outside of the estuary (lower 25 miles) is smelt, with sand shrimp coming in second.
In the estuary the best baits are going to be fresh anchovies and sand shrimp. You want to have both with you because in some locations and on certain days the sturgeon show a preference for one over the other.
If trash fish such as sculpins, Pike Minnows, a few crabs, etc were a big problem I would use squid, smelt, or anchovies wrapped with mesh and stretchy string. I don’t like using squid for bait and I also don’t like wrapping my bait with mesh. I prefer to go to a location where there are biting sturgeon and no trash fish, but on rare occasions this isn’t an option.
Keep your bait fresh, don’t try to make your herring, prawns etc last too long. When in doubt change it out! 45 minutes or less is a about right for herring. 45-60 minutes for prawns but you want to inject them with scent half way through.
Use lead for trolling on a short 12″ dropper, and forget about divers.
Use a three hook rig for trolling bait (check your regulations).
Anchor fishing with wobblers; tune your wobblers to get the desired action. Don’t just assume that the action they come out of the package with is the only action they are capable of. Bend them to change the action. Slather lots of scent on them too.
Run line counter reels so you can duplicate success, and so you can add measurable variation to your spread of rods.
Get a really good digital combo gps/fish finder.
Wait for the fish to take it! The rod should be doubled over hard and line coming off the reel before you grab it. Way too many anglers grab the rod too fast and either don’t hook the fish or lose him on the way to the boat.
Stop fighting the fish so hard. Just keep the line tight and let them run against a moderate drag. Pump up and reel down to get him in. When he pulls give to him. Remember … they aren’t always hooked well! When they are well hooked they won’t come off and you don’t need to horse them, when they aren’t well hooked you will appreciate having not pressured them too much.
Longview, Washington is where the Cowlitz River enters the Columbia. Below this confluence is a great location to anchor for fall Chinook salmon. To access this water, a boater can launch from Rainier, Oregon; Gearhart Gardens on the Cowlitz (very shallow water); from the town of Kalama, Washington and run downstream to Longview; or from Willow Grove Boat Launch which is several miles downstream.
Steelhead are also caught in good numbers from within the mouth of the Cowlitz River as well as off of local Columbia River beaches. The beaches at Willow Grove, County Line Park, and Kalama Bar are all productive bank steelhead locations.
Sturgeon can be caught in this area as well.