The biggest fish story you’ll ever hear, and it’s true
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“Got one,” yelled Wayne as Gary and I continued to bait and set up the other two rods. Sure enough, Wayne was into a White sturgeon; although a small one. After a 10 minute fight followed by pictures, the 40-inch juvenile, 10 years old and weighing about 30 pounds was released.
Gary, being the only one of us the three “old coots” who had the talent and ability to cast the 12-foot rods loaded with “sturgeon candy” and a six ounce weight, cast out the second rod. Throwing out the whole mess on 50-pound line and getting it out more than 130 feet without creating a backlash, takes talent – real talent and a lot of experience.
As the bait settled on the bottom, another prehistoric fish was on. This one broke loose; not because it was big but because it was small.
The Snake River between Twin Falls and Mountain Home is running about eight feet higher than when we normally fish it, covering all the rocks we normally sit on. Fighting a bottom hugging fish through the rocks was the challenge. The weight would get caught in the rocks and the small sturgeon would be too small to pull the weights out of the rocks and we would have to break the line. The rig is designed when the fish is broken off, it swims free with only the hook with a short leader attached to it.
I was able to land a small 36 incher and we lost four others – all small in the first hour of fishing. We had seen several large sturgeon jump, so we knew larger ones were there. We decided to change up the bait combination.
On two of the rods, we put on a four inch sucker minnow along with a large nightcrawler. It did not take long until the two rods started bending over with “big fish bites.” I quickly reeled in the fishless rod while Gary and Wayne started their battles with Wayne’s fish coming unbuttoned while Gary’s jumped and wallowed on the surface. It was big.
After 40 minutes of battle, including getting hung up in the rocks three times, the seven-foot behemoth was in the shallow water. Rolling sturgeon on their back “puts them to sleep” and they do not struggle allowing measurements and pictures to be taken.
The estimated 40 year old, 180 pound fish appeared to have survived several wars with scars on its head and body including a healed up hole in its belly. Its girth led me to believe it was a female filled with eggs to support a new generation.
Each one of us eventually landed a big fish over five feet long as we released seven of the 16 we hooked to make it a wonderful long day. Eight hours of driving and nine hours of fishing made the three of us a happy, tired threesome who will do it again.
“Hopefully you won’t have to drive so far to enjoy the big sturgeon,” Dan Garren, Idaho’s Upper Snake River regional fisheries manager, told me on Thursday. “We are hearing reports of six foot sturgeon being caught near Idaho Falls to American Falls now. But you know how some fishermen are; some people’s inches are smaller than others.”
Garren said some of the sturgeon planted near Idaho Falls are wearing radios with a few of them between 40 to 60 inches long when planted a few years ago.
“We know that we have fish (sturgeon) near the power plant north of Idaho Falls, John’s Hole, and Gem Lake,” said Garren. “I know of one fisherman that caught three in one day and to be successful you just have to have the right fish on the right day and be fishing with the right bait. Two years ago, people started sturgeon fishing seriously from Idaho Falls to the American Falls dam.”
Hopefully the sturgeon population will continue to grow around Idaho Falls, but in the meantime, we three old men, will keep trying to find one older than we are and we will have to tag-team it.