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Willamette Sturgeon

November 6th, 2009 · 2 Comments


_MG_7443I love fishing for sturgeon. They’re big, prehistoric creature with a pension for burning out drag washers. The winter season just started last month and things have been slow. I’ve fished a number of good holes lately with little success other than a few undersized shakers here and there.

That all changed yesterday.

With an impending low weather system moving in, I figured the bite would be on. That same weather report had me second guessing whether or not I wanted to take the big Ocean Kayak Trident 15. I don’t have a problem with the rain; I’m waterproof in my Kokatat gear. I am, however, leery about 20mph winds keeping me beached.

I slept in a bit yesterday morning and woke to see things completely opposite of forecast. The air was calm, the sun was peeking out from time to time, and the ground was dry. A quick check on coastal conditions said the same. Game On! I had at least a couple hours of kayak fishing time! I grabbed bait out of the freezer and headed to Elk Rock Island on the Willamette River. I chose this location because the sturgeon hole is up river, and up wind of the launch. Should the weather not cooperate, the river and the wind would help get me back to the launch, unlike some other options.

There were a few power boat anchored up all over the area. I didn’t see any action as I headed directly to where I wanted to be. I dropped anchor, tied up my line, then noticed that I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be. Drifting back on anchor, I miss calculated where I was going to be. Oh well, this line’s tied up and ready. I’ll give it a half hour or so before I pulled anchor and paddled 25yards to where I wanted to be.

That never happened.

Just 15 minutes there was the tell-tale knock of a sturgeon on the bait. I spun back on the seat, grabbed the rod and gave a good hook set. Immediately the Okuma Celilo rod bent down to the water and I knew I had a fish to fight. I freed the anchor and started the fight. It was a good fighter. I was close to getting the fish to the boat when it turned and ran back down. Seventy-five feet back down. The second time I got it back up, the game was over. At about 34″ long, it was a shaker – just 4″ shy of the required length to keep a White Sturgeon. I removed the barbless hook, gave it a pat on the head, and let it back to swim to the depths.

Now THAT was fun! I guess I did pick a good spot to anchor! I paddled back to where the fight started, recleated my anchor, and tied on more bait.

I was sitting side-saddle, watching birds fly around and another fieldtrip wandering around Elk Rock when I felt the knocking on the rod tip again. I looked and, sure enough, there was some action. I grabbed the rod, swung back, and was nearly pulled into the river! Fish On!

I pulled the anchor line off the cleat and got one leg back on the boat somehow. What should have been pointing skyward, my rod tip was nearly in the water. My arm was straining to keep the Okuma rod in my hand, and reeling wasn’t doing much good. I could pump the rod, and pull in about 10 feet of line, only to lose 20 more. I kept the half-side-saddle seating position and kept the rod perpendicular to my kayak. That makes the fish fight the full side-draft of the kayak in the river. Sure enough, after a couple hundred yards of towing, I was able to get some ground.

As the fish got closer to the surface, it turned tail and ran. Line peeled from my Abu Garcia 5500LC reel and I was really starting to wonder how big this fish was. Again we played a seesaw battle back to the surface. This was my first good look at this sturgeon, and it was a dandy. I got a brief side-by-side of the sturgeon near my paddle, and knew it was a keeper. It kicked tail, splashing me defensively, and took another drag burning run to the bottom.

As I braced the rod (my arms thankful for a bit of a break), I looked up. We’re a good ways downstream from where we started, and I couldn’t even see my anchor buoy anymore. I also knew that we were now in shallower water. However, there are some major rock structures. I had to get this done and over.

I dialed in just a touch more drag on the Abu and started the game of heave-ho to bring the fish onboard. I had the advantage this time; bringing in more line than the sturgeon could take back. At the kayak, the fish was tired, but still not completely co-operable. After some fuss, I managed to slip a hand through a gill plate and pull it on board. What a fish!


Once out of the water, sturgeon, fortunately, calm down. Their primitive bodies just are not suited for life with gravity. Rod back in the forward rod holder, I unclipped my paddle and began searching for the spot where I started. Nearly a quarter mile later, I found my anchor buoy and brought it back up. The sturgeon, however, thought he might have some strength to get a little feisty. I quickly took care of that with a 3.5# anchor blow to the head, and my CRKT MUK knife helped get him bled out on the way back to the car.

Now, back at the car I had a new dilemma. I don’t have a cooler that is any more than half the length of this fish. And, because of that, I didn’t even bother to bring either one. This was the first sturgeon I kept this year, out of the 30+ I have landed. What AM I going to do?!? I looked up to remember the mini-mart across the street. I layed the sturgeon across all my gear already loaded up in the trunk and drove over. $4 later I had a box of super-cheap kitchen liners and a bag of ice. Need I mention that kitchen liners are only 24×30? Or that sturgeon have a ton of sharp scutes? Or how about these bags are so crappy they *might* be able to carry a loaf of bread?


Three bags, on the verge of catastrophic failure, and a bag of ice was good enough. Again, I didn’t have too far to go. And it worked out, at least, after I washed the blood off the car. The rest they say, is history….


Tags: Fishing Report

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rob // Nov 12, 2009 at 2:50 am

    A cup of tea, a cornish pasty and a cracking fishing report……. what more can a guy want?

    Great read and some top fishing, I’m not jealous in the slightest!!!!!!!!

  • 2 Jan VC // Nov 13, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Nice Ike!

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