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Fraser River Monsters - British Columbia Sturgeon Fishing

Fraser River British Columbia Sturgeon fishing

The very first time I saw a Fraser river Sturgeon was back in the early 90's. I was salmon fishing up near Hope and as I walked away from the river with my limit of Sockeye I turned to marvel at its beauty. Then something exploded out of the river, something monstrous! It was bigger than a dolphin, and more like a small whale perhaps topping 10 feet long! It had jumped completely out of the water and way out in the main current, the fast current. It was the boss. Despite the wind howling and the leaves in the trees singing wildly I still heard the beast smacking the surface some 100 meters away. I marveled the fish and the moment for several years. Even today, some 25 years later I still envision it quite well.

Back then very few guides offered Sturgeon trips. Today that is not the case. Now there are several guide outfits like ours who cater to pursuing the 'dinosaur' of the Fraser River. The mighty White Sturgeon. This will be our 13th season guiding for Sturgeon. Don't worry, for those Triskaidekaphobians we'll call it our 14th season. We've seen thousands of them at the end of the lines. We've also seen at least half of those jump right out of the water, immediately followed by expletives and dropping jaws. And certainly followed by burning arms, sweaty brows and later by big smiles!

Fraser River Sturgeon Glamour Shot

It's very clear that over the years I have noticed peoples awe of this beautiful creature. It's been on the planet long before the dinosaurs, dating back at least 175 million years. Now that's what I call perfection in evolution. They got it right eons ago and have survived despite incredible forces that wiped out the giant lizards. Despite some anglers calling these fish “ugly” many people have a deep respect and admiration for them. You can see it in their eyes as they pose for that classic shore photo.

About Fraser White Sturgeon
Fraser River Sturgeon are specifically 'White Sturgeon'. They are native to the Pacific Northwest coast and inhabit just a few major river systems from northern California to southern Alaska. They are also anadromous which means they live in both fresh and salt water and spawning in fresh water only. With all the food available in the ocean why not? The Fraser river Sturgeon fishery is 100% catch & release now for over 20 years. This was in response to declining numbers realized in the early 90's. It's been a complete success story. Today we now have a very healthy population of White Sturgeon numbering over 60,000 fish in the 3 – 8 foot range in a 100 km stretch of river. All the data on Fraser River Sturgeon has been collected by guides in a very successful tagging program. Because Sturgeon are very specific to where they hold in the river it's easy for us to find them. This is mostly due to knowledge gained over the years and a good sounder! The 2 rivers with the highest concentrations of White Sturgeon are the Fraser and secondly the Columbia. The Fraser is undammed and thus has way more habitat.

White Sturgeon are known for their ability to get "monster" big. Average catches range from 4 feet to 8 feet (40 - 300lbs) but we get many fish in the 8-10 foot range (300 - 500lb) each year. Maximum size potential is up to 18 feet and near 2,000 lbs. Nobody has landed a Sturgeon over 16 feet in about 100 years but we do believe there's a few out there. Every year we hook into something so big that it easily controls the game. Staying on the bottom and slowly meandering as it wishes upstream, downstream, back up again, holding in one spot and then eventually wearing out the anglers. Have you got the stamina to compete against the leviathan?

The Mighty Sturgeon takes the bait

Over the past seasons we've heard from many anglers that believe fighting a Sturgeon is boring and uneventful. Like pulling up an old tire! Nothing is farther from the truth. Fraser River White Sturgeon are extremely active fighters. They have earned a justifiable nickname as 'Fraser river Marlin'.

A typical scenario plays out like this: 
We're anchored up sitting upstream of holding fish. Baits are sitting on the bottom secured by heavy sinkers attached to a sliding snap swivel. This allows the fish to bite without feeling the dragging of weight. Very important so we don't spook the fish. Once a fish moves onto the bait we'll see action on the rod tip. Fish will bite in many styles ranging from very soft all the way to watching the rod tip bury into the river and line screaming off the big game reel in seconds flat. Either way once the battle is on its very common for that big fish to launch like a missile within 30 seconds of hookup. This is the best part! It's an incredible sight every time. Then the fish will often choose to go for an unstoppable long run, sometimes exceeding 300 meters! This happens a lot on fish over 7 feet. Before getting spooled the captain needs to either pull anchor very fast or release from the anchor and catch up to the beast either drifting downriver with the current or adding a bit of reverse power from the Hamilton jet pump. Tactics and a bit of luck will spell the fate here. Big Sturgeon know where underwater stumps are and they will try to wrap around them. A skillful captain will recognize when this happens and can undo the damage and unsnag the situation. Make no mistake about it, we've lost many fish over 10 feet long. It's part of the game.

A river monster sized sturgeon jumping

Landing a big Sturgeon on the shore isn't that tough. We know where the shorelines are friendly for this and have pre calculated the possible spots even before we drop anchor. We always land big Sturgeon downstream of where they are hooked. As the battle progresses the fish slowly gets tired and we can time it so that we land that fish on the shore just when it's played out. The fish will be somewhat cooperative for the photo session. Handling these prehistoric marvels with care is paramount to their survival. All anglers must adhere to this practice and there is specific regulations that lay out the safe guidelines. We're very proud that over the years we have not seen one fatality on our boats.

If you want to give Sturgeon fishing a go we recommend booking with us anytime from June to November (peak season). Although it's available year round. One of the bonuses of booking from mid-August to mid-November is the great Salmon fishing that can be included. This is the Sturgeon buffet time! Perhaps this is why we believe this is the best all-around river fishing experience! Just ask many of the anglers that travel here from Europe to fish 5 – 10 days at a time!

Brian Mack

Owner and Head Guide
Silversides Fishing Adventures
Vancouver, BC
[email protected]


1916-02-10 17:45:56


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