Sturgeon fishing has been on my to do list since I arrived in Vancouver and it was easy to convince Alistair, my ever trusty fishing companion, to join. He had been before, but in spring and caught small ones. This time we would be after the daddy sturgeon! (September is peak time, but as I learnt with the Steelhead in August, peak does not mean successful)
The team was completed by our girlfriends, Lauren and Kimia, who were both coming on their first fishing expedition. What a way to start, chasing dinosaurs! Sturgeon were around during the Triassic period, 240m years ago. Most are 5-9ft but the big ones are 10-12ft and the world record is 24ft.
Alistair and I had tried to book a number of times but they all let us down. Finally we managed to book a day with Braeden, through Seth who I fished with in Terrace, always good to have a recommendation. We met Braeden at the Mission boat launch just after 8 and set off on our 6hr day.
We didn’t go far before anchoring amongst some other boats at our first fishing spot. Braeden talked us through the process and technique while he set up the rods. We would fish with 4 rods, all with slightly different bait. Mostly chum salmon, a head or a fillet and one line with salmon roe. Braeden took the bait very seriously, not only did he catch fresh salmon the evening before, he also wore gloves when touching the bait, hooks and weight. Sturgeon are basically blind but have an excellent sense of smell so it attention to detail is required.
There were some little nibbles but nothing big enough to make life exciting. Like most fishing you think there might be something happening but once you’ve actually seen what a take looks like you know when you have a fish.
After an hour of no action we moved on but the second spot didn’t yield anything either. As we progressed up the river the scenery improved and the sun was almost threatening to appear. However, we were now nearly half way through our day and hadn’t even had a nibble. I was getting a little concerned as we moved again that we might draw a blank.
We anchored amongst some trees which could lead to some snagging issues if we hooked one but I am not one to question guides. Not long after we got our first take and Alistair stepped up to battle the fish. We had agreed he would go first as I was more interested in seeing them than the actual fishing. Unfortunately, it managed to escape so we were back to square one.
Next we heard a commotion upriver and two boats were in to fish, one had lifted their anchor and drifted past fighting their fish. Not to be outdone almost instantly one of our rods went and this time I took it.
It set off down river stripping line and all I could do was keep the weight on and let it run while Braeden lifted the anchor and we set off after it. Once we were moving life became easier and it was time to start bringing it back. The process is lift the rod and then reel a few inches in on the way down, the issue is the thing on the other end weighs 100’s of lbs.
Very quickly my arms were exhausted and I had to switch out with Alistair. Lift rod, reel down and repeat, we would get inches and every time it moved it would take feet. I cant remember exactly how many times we switched but finally it emerged on the surface. My first sighting of a dinosaur!!
We then had to tow it to the shore as fish over 5ft you aren’t allowed to bring in to the boat. This was slow and hard work but we were eventually there and could get our photo.
Braeden measured it, 7.5ft, took the photos and it was happily back in to the murky deep. They are pretty lethargic and do everything at a slow pace, however given their size even slow movements are very powerful. Alistair and my arms were burning and Braeden took this opportunity to tell us he has a harness to help fight the fish, but his rule is you only get it once you have fought one without!
We returned to the same spot and didn’t have to wait long until we had another fish on, this was the girls fish. Kimia went first before Lauren took over. Similar to the first fish we drifted down the river while the girls worked it to the surface switching as they got tired.
Of course it was bigger than the boys fish.
Lauren wasn’t too convinced by getting too close as this fish wasn’t quite as docile…
We moved to a third spot off the the quay of a quarry. We were chatting and laughing when all of a sudden one of the rods went crazy. The sturgeon hit it so hard and was off, Braeden had to run across the boat to prevent the rod escaping. It reminded me of a steelhead take, so aggressive! It then came up and jumped in quick succession, very shark like. A true river monster!!
Alistair took the first go and this just involved losing line. Braeden had already told us it was huge and when we snagged the bottom his urgency definitely didn’t calm us down as we were just giving up line. I took over as he took us back upriver to clear the snag. Once the line was clear of the snag I was able to take up the slack but the fish wasn’t moving.
Now in contact with the fish it was time to try and bring it up. I tried to lift the rod but most the time it was just me stationary and the fish stationary and nothing moving. I might as well have been trying to pull up the river bed!
I had to take a break so Alistair took over but with pretty much the same result. After a couple of turns we were broken and Braeden had to take over. He managed to make some progress but was also struggling. Finally its tail/back broke the surface and it was huge!! Now just to get it ashore.
Braeden called a friend to come and help land it as we slowly motored to the sure. I was in charge of the sturgeon and it was fine when he was straight but as soon as he turned it tried to pull me overboard. Again my arms were and legs were shot so I handed over to Alistair to finish it off.
We finally arrived in the shallows and Braeden and I got in to get it set up for the photo. You hold them by their mouths which are soft (no teeth) but also very tough. I took told of it in while Braeden measured it. It started to wriggle and when a sturgeon wriggles it is quite something. I felt like my hand was being crushed in its mouth while also being thrown around but I was not letting go.
It measured in at 119 inches, Braeden was furious as it’s 1 inch short of 10ft!! He couldn’t understand how it wasn’t 10ft! To me on a wriggling fish that’s a rounding error and it was 10ft, estimated at 450-500lbs and probably 45 years old.
Braeden removed the hook so now I was the only thing holding the fish. Again it thrashed and threw me around in the shallows and Braeden bear hugged it to stop the escape attempt. They may not have teeth but their mouths are still strong!
Finally we were all set and what a photo!! A true river monster.
We had a little more time so tried one final spot although Alistair and I weren’t sure we could handle another. Kimia had the cheek to ask if we could catch a small one to complete the set? Braeden thought this was hilarious but took it in good spirit. (most people dream of a 10ft Sturgeon)
We did hook another and Kimia took charge, it was not little, and again broke the surface splashing around. Unfortunately it came off shortly after and that brought an end to an awesome day.
We had done what we came to do and caught a daddy sturgeon. In total we had caught 3 and lost 2 but had landed the monster. Fishing with Braeden was great fun and he had a great sense of humour. He hasn’t loves his fishing and was a great host, an additional bonus for me is he is heavily involved with the sturgeon conservation work on the river which is so important to protect such a special animal.
It’s not the kind of fishing I want to do every day but I will be back one day when my arms, back and legs are a bit stronger!