But Fraser river Sturgeon are available year round because they winter over in the river, or at least the majority of them. “But isn’t it too cold to fish for them?” many will ask. I would say that if you can’t stand anything to do with non tropical weather then maybe it’s not for you but for most who live in the area it’s not such a big deal to do the ‘Outdoors’ thing in Vancouver in the non summer months. We are lucky that way(thank you Pacific Ocean). As for the Sturgeon they do eat year round and they kind of need to. The food availability is a bit more scarce in the winter but they still need to eat and like to eat, especially a carefully chosen bait that we know they can’t resist. So let’s get to our story here, a somewhat excellent day of fishing on the Fraser river on February 19th, 2014 near Mission, BC, Canada.
Brent, a Catfish guide from Missouri, USA called me up and asked me “what are the chances of me getting a 100 lb or bigger Sturgeon?” I told him the average size is from 50 – 200 lbs so the odds are fairly good, but I did remind him that fishing is fishing, guaranteeing fish of a certain size is impossible and could make any guide look bad at the end of the day but thankfully it is the Fraser and it does produce big fish. So he decided to book a charter for Feb 19th and give it a go. His biggest freshwater fish had been about a 90 lb Blue Catfish and he showed me the picture to prove it. Impressive I thought!
So we met at 8 am at the Mission, British Columbia boat ramp, launched the 21 ft CustomWeld jet boat and headed to one of my favorite big fish spots about 10 miles down river. It was a very nice morning, no wind and scattered clouds with some sun which made it a perfect day for fishing. Even if it had been blustery we did have the comfort of a fully enclosed cab area that seats 5 people comfortably, and the heater was on full blast and I had a hot coffee on the go. Life is good!
After I got my spot, which is a rather large deep hole I scouted out the bottom of the river with my sounder and once spotting a few fish I dropped the anchor down and set up the boat in the very slow current, so slow the incoming tide forced the bow of the boat to face downstream. Two rods were put out, 1 for each licensed angler aboard and we sat back and waited for a sign of a hungry fish. Not much happened for the first 45 minutes mostly because we were waiting for the tide effect to be in our favor. I moved down river about 50 yards and set up again. By now the current speed was starting to look good and the boat bow was now facing upstream and within 5 minutes one of the rods started signalling that a fish was gently taking the bait. I waited for the right moment and set the hook hard and fast! It felt as if I had snagged the bottom of the river but it was a fish, I always know. I quickly passed the rod to Brent and he started fighting what was a rather large fish. I knew it was over 100 lbs by the way it commanded line from the reel and just kept going. After a 100 yd run or more the fish stopped and the battle became one of pumping the fish back towards the boat. I reminded him to keep good bend in the rod as we use single barbless hooks by law. I think it was all new to him and that huge fish shook the hook after 5 minutes. He said that he learned his lesson and will do better if we get another one. I knew we would hook another one but how big is always the mystery.
About 10 minutes later we hooked another one but this time it was to the side of the boat in under 5 minutes, a clear sign of a fish under 100 lbs. This Sturgeon was a juvenile of 4 feet in length and about 35-40 lbs. It made for a nice picture and was quickly released. Our Fraser river Sturgeon fishery is 100% catch and release ensuring that there will be trophy fish for the next angler and next generation. These majestic fish do not grow fast and do not reproduce for the first 15-20 years of their lives. White Sturgeon can grow very old, in fact up to 150 years and possibly 200 and reach weights over 1,500 lbs. There are still some fish that are in this weight class but once hooked it is very very difficult to land them let alone find the energy to last the 6+ hours required to win that battle.
The rods go out again, freshly baited and ready for action. While we are waiting a few Sturgeon were seen rolling at the surface which is a clear sign they are active and a hookup is very likely any minute. Sure enough the outside rod signals another fish is slowly taking the bait. You have to wait for the right motion before setting the hook on a slow motion bite and I did. Hook sets must be fast and hard! “There it is” I yelled and quickly passed the rod over to an eager angler. As before I knew the fish was quite big because it feels like you hooked the earth’s crust! Within seconds of passing the rod there is line screaming off the reel at quite the pace. We probably lost half of the line on the spool that holds 350 yds of 150 lb Power Pro braided line. Sturgeon will go for long runs but as with most fish they too will stop and change their game plan. We ended up following this fish down river then back up river over and over again. We even had it near the back of the boat at the surface which is usually the signal to take it to the nearest beach for careful handling and photo’s, but it decided to go full out for another 10 minutes.
Finally the fish came to the surface again as we were just 20 yards from a nice beach and I nosed the boat up to shore, killed the motor and jumped out to start the shore procedure. It’s not easy wrestling with a giant Sturgeon all by yourself. I had the head under control with my hand in its mouth, Brent assisted by grabbing the wrist of the tail while wearing some thick protective gloves and we were able to take control of the massive fish in the ice cold waters. I quickly jumped back and took a bunch of pictures and then we took a measurement of the Sturgeon. The length was 103 inches, or 8ft – 7″. This translates into 350 lbs on the official White Sturgeon weight chart. Brent was ecstatic! We both were actually. He more than tripled his quest of a 100 lb Fraser Sturgeon within 3 hours of our start time. Since he achieved his dream wish and had been doing battle for over an hour he decided to call it a early day and revel in the glory, and to rest his aching arms and hands. That is not the first time that has happened!
Give us a call anytime and we'll be more than happy to help you live the dream here on the mighty Fraser river!