Preparation / Directions:
Preparation: If you've got the whole fish, hang it up by the tail, dress it, remove the spines with a cleaver, put a bucket under the head and let it bleed for 2-3 days. Remove the head, take the fish to the cutting table, carefully cut a ring around the smallest circumference (just before the tail) and break the tail loose. Pull on the tail, the spinal cord will emerge, keep pulling until it comes all the way out - this tubular membrane is very elastic and may require two or three pulls to get it. After it's out, pinch the cord between your thumb and index finger at the tail and squeeze forward to remove the clear marble-like nodules inside - they will pop out the open end. Cut the tail off, take the cord and hang it over a rafter in your garage or in the smokehouse to dry. When it's wet it will be about 6-8', dry about 4-5' and they make the best boot laces you can get.
Filet the fish, trim the belly up to the rib cartilage and trim all of the cartilage away - leaving one long clean filet (sturgeon have no bones, only the rib cartilage and spinal cartilage). Cut the filet into pieces that can be handled. I use a wooden apple or peach box and cut the pieces about as long as the boxes. Lay the fish in the box or tray and salt it by hand, using enough salt to cover the entire surface. It should resemble something like new fallen snow - over the thickest part of the filet the salt will be white, on the thinner areas near the edges and towards the tail where less salt is used, the covering will be more clear or translucent. Let sit in a cool place overnight (on average about 12-16 hours for 2" thick filet). The fish will slowly draw salt and the salt will draw some moisture from the fish. Wash the remaining salt off with cold water and firmly squeegee the surface moisture with your hand. With a sharp knife, cut across the filet making 2" wide pieces and lay them skin down on the smoke rack, making sure that the pieces don't touch each other.
The smokehouse should be warm (80-90F) with good smoke when the racks are loaded. Leave the doors cracked open for about 2-3 hours or until the surface is shiny and dry to the touch. Close the door/s and slowly bring the temp up to about 120-130F and keep it there for about 6-8 hours. Bring the temp up slowly for the last time until it reaches 150F and hold for 2-3 hours. Remove the racks, let it cool to room temp. and peel the skin off. If your like me, I'm munchin' down while it's still hot in the smokehouse. The smoking takes a full day - if you start at 7-8 in the morn you should have a pretty good snack just about bedtime. It will keep for quite a while in the fridge - couple of weeks- you could also freeze or can. I also use this method for smoked salmon and smoked tuna. Alder (IMHO) is best for fish, but cherry and other fruitwood work