8/30/2013 12:45:00 PM DJ's outdoor adventures - The fight of a lifetime
The authorís wife with her first sturgeon. Submitted photo.
By DJ Garza
The Columbia Basin offers some amazing fisheries, but none of them are any match for the mighty white sturgeon. Our rivers are home to this prehistoric animal. People from all over the world come to Washington for a chance to hook and battle this great giant that is only available here in our region. There is fossil evidence that white sturgeon have been swimming in the Columbia River for more than 175 million years. Adults can reach up to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 1,800 pounds. They can also live to be more than 100 years old. White sturgeon get their name from the white-colored flesh from their under belly. They have no scales, but do have scutes, which are armor-like plates that run the length of its back and sides. The white sturgeon is mostly made up of cartilage similar to a shark. They have a big mouth that protrudes without any teeth. There are other species of sturgeon, but none are as prized as the white sturgeon. The white sturgeon's diet consists of live fish, dead fish, fresh water clams, shell fish and a variety of aquatic vegetation. Fishing for these amazing creatures should be high on your priority list as they provide one of the greatest fights you will ever have while freshwater fishing. Current sport fishing regulations do have strict guidelines for catching and harvesting these fish. White sturgeon can only be kept if they measure between 43 inches and 54 inches from nose to the tail fork. Single point barbless hooks are the only hooks allowed to catch sturgeon. The typical bait used for sturgeon is shad, smelt, squid or herring. This season, you were only able to harvest two total fish. Catch and release fishing is permitted for most of the year. You need heavy tackle to combat these giants, including a heavy duty rod and reel spooled with 50- to 100-pound test fishing line and six to 16 ounces of weight depending on current and conditions. When fishing for sturgeon, we usually call the sturgeon that fall within the legal parameters "keepers" and any that are too big we call "oversize" or "runners" because the big ones will run 100 to 200 feet at a time as they fight, stripping line from the reel. Runners are targeted exclusively by those sport fishermen looking for a fight of a lifetime. My family and I went out last month and had a great time. We were anchored down and enjoying the summer day within an hour from home. We made sandwiches and packed snacks and drinks. Picnicking on the boat is one of our favorite things to do while fishing. We were able to hook and land two keepers this day. This was my wife's first sturgeon ever and she was unfamiliar with how powerful they are. The fish made two or three runs that surprised her, but she quickly braced her feet and reeled down hard on the fish. She fought this fish like a pro with a cute little nervous laugh the whole time. After about 25 minutes, the mighty beast finally tired out and rose to the surface nearing the boat. The kids were in awe. "That looks like a dinosaur!" Lacey said. "It looks like a shark!" Alex said. After measuring the fish, we brought it aboard, took pictures and got it on ice. My wife's adrenalin was through the roof, her hands were shaking uncontrollably and she kept saying, "I can't believe I just caught that, I can't believe I just caught that!" The kids had a newfound respect for their mom. After all, she just reeled in a fish that was bigger than they were. I was able to catch a keeper about an hour later and we were done for the day. We headed home triumphantly. I can't stress enough, people come from all over the world for this experience and we are blessed to have it in our backyard. If you have never gone before, I encourage you to find someone who can help you hook into one. Your efforts will certainly be rewarded.