Sturgeon Fishing With Yves - Willy Grieve
My Sturgeon Fishing Trip Up The Fraser River
It was a dark and stormy night…. No, it was a cloudy late fall day. Me and 3 close buddies were arriving at the Fraser River, at the boat launch outside Chilliwack. I had been sturgeon fishing a few times before, but my buddies had never been. Previously, my sturgeon fishing adventures had OK success – no monsters, and the guides were so-so. Yves Bisson was recommended to me by a colleague, so I gave him a call. A few days later, here we were, ready to fish for that monster white sturgeon. The guys I was with had no expectations.
Yves and the boat were ready to go when we met him at the boat launch. After introductions and a safety talk, he asked us whether we were looking for lots of smaller sturgeon or go straight after the monsters. Because I was the only one to have fished for sturgeon before, we chose to warm up with quantity over quality.
It was a bit of a boat ride to the spot Yves had picked out for us. Looked like anywhere else on the river, but what do I know. I haven’t fished the Fraser for the last 20 years. So, we anchored near the shoreline and Yves proceeded to bait the hooks. There was nobody else around, just us. 4 fishermen, 4 rods out. The plan was that each of us chose a rod. I was rod #2. I would get first dibs for rod#2. I was excited. I’ve fished all growing up, but living in the Vancouver area, it’s much more difficult to get away from it all. I was ready for today.
As luck would have it, rod #2 was the first to get a bite. As Yves had showed us, we were to set the hook as hard as we could. I did that and started winding in. Well, the result wasn’t so spectacular. The white sturgeon in the Fraser River can grow to be over 100 years old and over 11 feet long. My fish was maybe 18 inches long, and probably about 2 pounds. Needless to say, my fishing buddies were mocking me. Yves is really big into the Sturgeon Conservation Society tagging program, so after checking for the tag, the little guy was released. I managed to get the fish in, measured, scanned, and released before anyone could take a photo. No proof, so I could deny catching a fish that small.
Being November, the weather was a bit iffy. It was cloudy, with a sprinkle here and there. Nothing like the rest of Canada though. It doesn’t freeze often in Vancouver. During the first hour an amazing rainbow appeared – one of the brightest I’ve ever seen. One of my buddies has a photo of it on his wall now. We continued fishing for probably a couple hours in this area. We’ll just say my fish was the smallest of the half dozen or so we caught. Most were around 4 feet. Now a four foot fish is generally a big one, and my buddies were amazed at the strength of these dinosaurs. There were plenty of high fives and congrats as we kept pulling in more fish.
We were now warmed up. We were expert sturgeon fishermen, our confidence was high and were ready to take on the real big ones. Yves pulled anchor and we ventured a good 20 minutes upstream. The fish are a bit more temperamental in November – not quite as active as early fall, so fishing for the big one was a bit slow to start. We took the time to eat some lunch and sing some songs (not really, but we could have I guess). Then the tip of rod #3 started to bob up and down. That’s not when we were supposed to grab the rod. The plan was to wait until the bobbing stopped and there was a larger pull. So that’s when Don grabbed the rod and in one motion yanked back as hard as he could. It didn’t look pretty I’ll have to say, but it worked. Fish on… The difference between a 4 foot and a 6 foot sturgeon is significant. The fish is probably double the weight and really takes all you’ve got to wind it in – especially if you aren’t a seasoned fisherman. Then BANG, a second sturgeon bit – this time on rod # 4 - Cam’s line. A double header!
We watched and filmed Don struggle with the 6 footer for about 10 or 15 minutes before the sturgeon finally gave up and Don won the battle. Yves scanned and measured the sturgeon. It had been caught before, just like all but one of our fish of the day. 178cm length. Not bad for a rookie.
The second sturgeon of our double header was a bit smaller, and a bit shorter fight, but still all the fun. It jumped a couple times and certainly didn’t want to come to the boat. But in the end this giant also lost the battle. Quite the adrenaline rush.
We had about an hour left fishing. It was tired of hearing how I got the smallest sturgeon. I needed a break. That’s when I had my chance. Bob, bob, bob went the rod, then it started pulling. I set the hook and Yves said it was a big one. Then it jumped. Wow, what a beauty. We were hooting & hollering, knowing that if this one came in, it would be the biggest sturgeon of the day. We had my GoPro camera with me, so we were filming. Looking back at the video, this sturgeon took a 45 second run. Then it jumped in the distance – what seemed like a couple hundred yards away. We pulled anchor and followed the fish downstream. After what seemed like an eternity, but was really about 10 minutes, I handed off the rod to Nigel – buddy#3. He took his turn gaining line on the monster sturgeon, then losing it again. Another 10 or 15 mins go by and Nigel hands me back the rod. My arms are aching, my back is sore and I feel like letting go of the rod and giving in to the fish. But we persevered.
It was about a 30 minute fight. Yves piloted to boat to the beach so we could get out and marvel at this 40-50 year old sturgeon. Turns out the fish was 7ft 2 inches and about 200 lbs. We were tired and it was starting to get dark. But what a fish and what a day! I can’t imagine what catching an 8, 9, or 10+ footer would be like. Oh wait, yes I can. I booked another trip with Yves and caught an even bigger sturgeon. But that’s a fish story for another day.