Tuesday, July 8, 2008

to catch a dinosaur...

That's what my morning excursion was all about...catching a 'dinosaur' in the Fraser River. It was also a little bit of Christmas-in-July! Since there's not much my dad really needs at this stage of his life, we have to get a little creative with his gifts. Our gift to him last year was a sturgeon fishing expedition on the might Fraser...and since this is sturgeon fishing season, he finally got to 'unwrap' his gift!
I'm not much into fishing...and had no intentions of joining the excursion...but it was pointed out that someone needed to be on hand to photograph the big haul. Besides that...if people are flying in from around the world to fish at my back door...I really should check it out.

We met our guide bright and early this morning at Island 22...and off we went. He knew exactly where to find the holes where the sturgeon would be feeding...and we parked next to a hole with a depth of sixty feet. There are places where the water is eighty feet deep...and this is a river!

Bill (our guide) had a wonderful supply of yummy sturgeon treats along...and tried a variety of appetizers.

I found out there's not a whole lot left to guesswork in this modern age of fishing. I just kept an eye on the GPS sounder...and it showed us exactly what the fish were doing doing below. The salmon were swimming in the top fifteen feet...and all those fish you see crawling along the bottom of the screen are sturgeon. The ones that are solid green were the large ones...the smaller ones showed up as dotted lines only.

While I was busy watching the GPS, dad's line came alive...and we had some action!

It was time to do battle with a white sturgeon...and dad was given a belt with a pole-holder to rest his rod against as he struggled with his fish.

Within five minutes, he had his trophy safely on board. The fishing had been slow these past few days...so we know this one was truly a gift for dad! His 86th birthday is just around the corner...and I think a framed copy of this photo would make a perfect birthday present.

Since sturgeon are a protected species...they are all tagged and then released back into the river. Our guide had a scanner and quickly checked to see if the fish was already tagged, and it turned out he had made this mistake once before...he had an embedded micro-chip. We copied down his tag number...along with the size, length and time of catch. Not bad...dad caught a 107 cm sturgeon (almost four feet)...and at two centimeters per year, we calculated the fish to be over fifty years old.

Sturgeon are a bottom feeder, and their mouths are not visible from the top side. I was keeping my distance (this guy was alive, after all)...but Bill showed us the gaping hole of a mouth.

The Pacific coast's white sturgeon is North America's largest freshwater fish. They are a pre-historic creature...river monsters...virtually unchanged since the beginning of time.

The Fraser River is the last remaining river in the world to have a healthy wild population of white sturgeon. Once almost extinct...the catch-and-release program has allowed the sturgeon stock to recover...and there are now more than 65,000 healthy tagged fish in the Lower Fraser. Fishermen come from around the world to try their luck at landing a sturgeon.

This is a fish that can reach lengths of over 20-feet and can weigh as much as 1000 pounds . . . yikes!!! Most of the sturgeon in the Fraser River that are caught by sport anglers tend to be in the 3 to 7-foot range weighing between 50 and 200 pounds. Our knowledgeable guide, has caught sturgeon up to twelve feet long...and has seen boats pulled far up the river by fish too large to land. There is currently a twenty-three foot sturgeon at the taxidermist's being readied for display in the B.C. Museum.

So there you have it...a lesson about the dinosaurs in my back yard.

Once our sturgeon was safely back in the muddy waters of the Fraser...we pulled anchor and went for a scenic ride up the river. The river is still running very high...and the water was cloudy...but as we entered the channel into the Harrison River you could see where the clear glacial waters met those of the mighty Fraser.

The Fraser River has been a working river throughout history...and still is. We saw log booms being towed downstream.

Soon it was time to call it a day...and we were on our way back to Island 22. We couldn't have chosen a better day! The sun was shining...and it was a pleasant 25 degrees out. The river was deceptively calm (apparently the currents run deep!)...and we sat in our easy chairs and enjoyed the scenery and the fish stories. Our guide knew about so much more than just fishing...and I learned a whole lot about the history of area. His great-grandparents were pioneers and the elementary school I attended was named after his family. By the time we parted ways...we had established that we were almost related. Well that's a little far-fetched...but why was my grandmother at his wedding?

It was time to bid farewell to Bill of Wild Bill's Fishing Charters...thanks for a wonderful and informative adventure on our river!


  1. Thanks, Jude! We non-fisherfolk sure have a lot to learn! About all I knew about sturgeon before this was the name. Aren't there sturgeon in the Vedder River as well? Let's see - if you went to an elementary school named after his family, is his family name "Little Mountain"? "East Chilliwack"? And did your grandma go to his wedding? Hmmm... I think I smell some Mennonite cooking.

  2. oh wow, what an adventure indeed. My brother went and did this recently and caught a huge whopper. . .I'll have to check to see how big his was. Anyways, I'm so glad for you that your dad was able to catch a sturgeon for his birthday present and that you were able to document it all.

  3. You have the best adventures! Your dad looks great. He must be in wonderful shape. You are so blessed to have him. I think that is so fun that you got to go fishing with him. Here we are smothering down here and you had temperatures that were so cool. I wish I could beam on up!

  4. wow what a whopper of a fish. that would have given a good fish fry indeed....how nice for your dad to still enjoy fishing

  5. What a great way to spend a day with your Dad, he will cherish this as will you! And how wonderful you still can have these adventures with your Dad.

  6. Hey...that was a great trip I got to take with you this evening...After a long day at the office it was just the 'ticket'. Wonderful...and your dad looks to be in great shape. Happy 86th. My Dad just turned 89 but I doubt he could haul a fish in like that. I am glad that you had a fun time together

  7. Sounds like great adventure. What a great way to honor your Father.
    It's hard to find that perfect gift, but spending time together is the best.

  8. What a fish! The last time we were in Canada my husband went with aguide on the Skeena river, had a wonderful day, but didnt catch anything...certainly not a dinosaur like that. They did frighten a black bear though!

  9. Wow, that is some big fish. I hope your father has a wonderful birthday this year and many more healthy and happy years.

    You did a great job on your photography duties.

  10. Congrats to your dad on a fabulous catch! This was a very interesting post oddly enough...I'm no lover of fish or fishing, but found all your information very educational.

    Are you home yet or still on a vacation?


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