Sturgeons are truly unique creatures believed to be on Earth in their present form for the last 200 million years during the end of the Triassic period, ranking them among the most ancient animals to inhabit Earth.
There are 25 different species of sturgeons around the globe from China to Russia, Europe to North America. North America is home to the white sturgeon species, which also happens to be the only sturgeon species listed LC (least concern), whereas all other species are either listed as critically endangered, endangered, threatened or vulnerable.
The white sturgeon is North America’s largest freshwater fish. It can reach an age of over 150 years and reach a length of 6.1 metres (20 feet). The largest sturgeon ever caught on record weighed 498.9 kg (1,100 pounds) and measured 3.76 metres (12 feet, four inches).
An important reason why the white sturgeon is doing so well here in British Columbia is because sturgeon fishing is big business. Annually, thousands of anglers from around the world and across Canada come to British Columbia to pursue this prehistoric river monster.
Anglers going for a sturgeon must use barbless hooks that do not harm the animal and it must be released again. Sturgeon anglers also must obtain a special sturgeon conservation licence, which costs $8 per day for British Columbians and $15 per day for all non-residents. The money from this fee goes, in its entirety, to sturgeon conservation.
It was last year when a friend asked me if I had ever gone sturgeon fishing. To his utter surprise, I answered no, which led him to wonder how that could be, as thousands of anglers pay top dollar to travel to B.C. to fish sturgeon and I practically live in the middle of the action.
That got me thinking that, as an angler and a hunter, I probably owed it to myself to at least try sturgeon fishing once in my lifetime and began to give some serious consideration and planning to catching a B.C. river monster. It just so happened that I knew somebody to ask for advice on sturgeon fishing and he was most helpful and even offered to assist me on the trip.
Originally, I set the sturgeon fishing date to coincide with the annual sturgeon fishing derby held in Lillooet, but a change in my work schedule nullified that idea, which turned out to be a very good thing. I rescheduled the fishing trip for the last weekend of August; that way I could share this unique experience with my wife and my brother, who was visiting us from Switzerland.
On Sunday, Aug. 31, we met my sturgeon expert friend and followed him to his secret sturgeon fishing place. The weather was mixed with light rain and sun periods, just perfect for some good fishing, although at times heavy winds made it difficult to cast far enough out into the deep water of the mighty Fraser River, where big sturgeons swim.
After several hours of watching for the tell-tale twitch on the rod tip it finally happened: Fish on! My sturgeon expert friend Clay hooked the fish and asked who wanted to reel the beast in. We quickly decided that this honour should belong to the guest and so my brother had the task of getting the sturgeon on land and have the pictures taken. It was not a big fish by any means — maybe four feet at most — but it was the first B.C. river monster that I had ever seen close up and touched with my own hands.
I am thankful for everything Clay did in assisting us on the trip with his advice and tips. It was for sure one of the best outdoor experiences I have had in many years, and best of all, I was able to share it with my wife Heidi and my brother Roland — and it doesn’t get any better than that.