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Sturgeon fishing in British Columbia,Canada 

Article written by Kevin Estrada - guide and owner of Sturgeonslayers. Visit Kevin's web site for more information:  http://sturgeonslayers.com/

This article is copyrighted

Reeling in the Big one - Using proper gear

It was a cool rainy September day on the Fraser River in Beautiful British Columbia. Sturgeon Slayers venture out in hopes of landing a couple rookies their first prehistoric fish, known as The White Sturgeon. As the rain came down clients are comfortable in the heated part of the 22' foot Jet Boat. Guide and Owner Kevin Estrada uses various baits to see what the flavor of the day is. An hour and a half into the trip, we have the first Sturgeon to the boat. A beautiful 2 foot juvenile, essential for this fishery to thrive. As this is a catch and release fishery, we are very careful in the handling of these and all our species of fish. Our tagging program in BC is also a driving force in keeping our fishery for Sturgeon open. Our freshwater fishery in brings in 500 Million dollars and the Salt water over 700 Million per year to the province of British Columbia.

We do some quick recording of data, take a picture and release the Sturgeon back into the depths of the Mighty Fraser. This river stretches over1300 kilometers from the Rocky Mountains flowing down before flowing into the Strait Of Georgia in Vancouver. It is the Largest undammed river in North America .

Lines are back into the water and they wait.  Before long a tap on line one. The rod is quickly snatched up, and the guide sets the hook. As most guides can tell you, they usually have an idea of the size of fish within the first minutes it's hooked. Kevin was unclear for first several minutes, as the fish made a little run and then didn't move at all. Our two clients fishing that day had no idea what they were in for.  As the owner of Sturgeon Slayers watches the two men struggle with the shear power of the fish, like so many before them have done. The rod was passed back and forth until after about 30 min, Kevin steps in to get another feel for the fish.

Kevin grabs the rod and uses his perfected technique to see what this fish really has. HE IS NOT MOVING. This is BIG. He laughs to himself and wonders how this is going to work. He brings the fish up ever so slowly about 3-5 feet and then feels two big head shakes and the Sturgeon is back down to the bottom. They are in about 25-30 feet of water in a section of the river that is mostly calm. These conditions play to the Sturgeon's advantage. When fishing in moving water and fighting a big fish like this, they would normally pick up anchor and stay on top of the fish for the duration of the fight. However in this case, under these water conditions, the fish is given the opportunity to use little energy as possible and sit at the bottom.

After a few hours go by, The BBQ is fired up and some gourmet hot meals are made for the clients; as everyone takes turns on this massive Sturgeon. Three months previous a local fisheries biologist had recorded a sturgeon with a length of over 14 feet in the electronic fish counter. This was seen less than a mile down river, could this be the same one? If so,this would be a world record.

Six and a half hours into this fight the guys are trying everything to move this fish; but are only left scratching their heads. Within this time the men are able to gain on the fish. At one point they have it within inches of the surface, but with a couple heads shakes, back down to the bottom where this gigantic pig of a fish will not move. The sun is disappearing over the mountains and with a 40 min boat ride back to the truck, they need to put some serious pressure on this fish or they will have to cut the line.

Although getting clients into fish and taking nice pictures play a key role, safety is above all the most important part of guiding. Accidents do happen on the river but maintaining protocol and always being aware of the situation, drastically minimizes these incidents. Although this was a fish of a lifetime, it is not worth risking lives.

Guide Kevin Estrada decides to make the call to grind it out with everything they have got. Keeping in mind these are three very fit men in their mid 20's, reeling this fish in together. Bringing up the rod together, and reeling back down to the water. The tension and power of this fish is incredible. This is like nothing our Guide has felt or even heard of before. This fish is making a 500 lbs Sturgeon feel like nothing. When fighting big fish like this, within the 2-3 hour mark is when they usually tire out enough for us to bring them in for data and pictures.



As the men continue to give it everything they got, every fisherman and guides worse nightmare happens.......The line breaks and he's gone back down to rest in the sand bottom of the Fraser. The most deflating day of Kevin's 20 plus years of fishing. He knew that one of two things was going to happen in this situation and warned the clients this was one of them. 

They fought a fish that was well over 1000 pounds most likely in the 13-15 foot range, clearly a world record. British Columbia has seen its share of big Sturgeon over the past years. Every year several 10 foot plus fish are brought in and just about every second year something around 11 feet. Talking with a fellow guide in the area who has years of experience with this section of river, agreed that this would be the biggest fish caught and recorded in the Fraser River. Most fisherman always talk about the fish they catch and how proud there are, there are very few, especially guiding companies that will share with the public stories of the fish that get away. It is all too common, especially when dealing with fish of this size. it truly is an amazing experience to have held the rod that was attached to that giant.  As the Owner/Guide said afterwards,

" It is a good sign for our fisheries that we have fish on this size. It lends credit to our catch and release program and ensures great fishing for years to come. Obviously disappointing for us not to have got this one in, but the saying, " The big one that got away." It's true is many cases because there still is fish out there very big. One day some lucky person will catch one of these giants on a bad day, and we will see a picture of a 15 foot sturgeon. This I promise you."

With this all said. It is important to give yourself the best chance to reel the big fish in. We have worked RA BEATTIE (www.fishwithra.com) from Beattie Outdoors Productions to bring some short clips on what we use and what to look for when fishing for one of the world largest fish.

As in our video you will see we try and use the best of the best available when guiding clients who are paying good money to go out with us. Although you can catch fish most types of rods and reels, the true test comes not minutes into these big fish, but hours. How do the drags hold up? Does the line wear out the guides? Do the swivels bend or snap? Does the reel seats hold up under the constant pressure? Their are many questions to be answer and most of them come with experience of being on the river day after day.

For our reels we use Shimano Torsa 30. These are not cheap, but have held the test of time. With an exceptional drag system and big easy to reel knob. I can't imagine using anything else. It is important to note that services  for all reels is  really  important to the overall lifespan of these reels. When guiding we are constantly wiping down the reels and keeping them clean. When using bait different types of bait, sometimes the reels can become sticky thus decreasing performance.

Staying with the Shimano family we use Technium rods. We have not had one break in the 5 years of using these rods. I will mention on the 2 plus hour fights we do notice a little bit of fraying within the guides, which will be noticeable if your hands start turning black. We have also had once instance where the reels seat broke which made bringing the fish interesting. It is worth looking into getting the roller guides and reinforcing the reels seats.

Lines and leaders again are a preference. We use braided 130 pound test main line made by Stren and 96 pound test leader. It has been known to use less on both, one theory being that it gives more. Basically more bounce in the line. This is another preference that is up to the angler. Some clients have asked me why I don't use a higher braider leader as well. My reasoning and it's a big one. Protection of the Sturgeon. While fighting a Sturgeon it's not uncommon for them to get tangled up in the line. If this occurs the braided line will cut and leave scars on the fish. Remember this is a prehistoric fish that we are extremely careful in the fishing and handling.

Hooks can become an expensive product when fishing. We use Gamakatsu for their maintained sharpness and strength. Obviously it is important to check the sharpness each time your line goes in.

Other parts of the rig for Sturgeon are beads and swivels. Swivels are made by Kodiak and the beads can be anything the separates the swivels. We use large beads and are shown on our video.

Each video we have done on gear and bait is an individual one. Gear,Beads,Line and Knots,Bait,Rigging up the bait, and Tapps. Which is what we are looking for when fishing for Sturgeon. Along with these informational videos. We have posted 2 Sturgeon videos and 1 Trout video. These are all teaser videos to a full length dvd coming out.

Questions and comments can be sent to kevin@sturgeonslayers.com please visit our site for all info on trips http://sturgeonslayers.com/
Videos can be viewed on our website under VIDEOS
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