November 16-17, 2005This adventure, as many sturgeon stories on this site, was originally one of my weekly fishing reports for the CaliforniaDelta.org website. It was one of the great delta adventures I enjoyed aboard FishWisher I, above, my original C-Dory. She was the best boat I ever owned, and that includes a number of fine boats I cruised the delta with over the years. This is an old story, but I still enjoy reliving it. Enjoy!
Thanks to the good weather, I’ve been out on the Delta for two overnight adventures the past two weeks and I must report that it just doesn’t get any better than this. Not only is the weather near perfect, the fish are cooperating, too! That’s not to say I’ve been coming home with big sturgeon every trip, but I’ve been having a grand time reeling in some mighty feisty sturgeon.
I’m thinking that my good luck may be due to the finely aged lamprey I‘ve been offering. I’ve fished for four days with the same old lamprey carcass that spent the summer in my wife’s freezer, and I still have plenty left. Some of it was used last season! It’s just amazing how long that stuff lasts.
I began this week’s fishing at Light 25, planning to fish an incoming tide ‘til it slackened, then head down to Suisun Bay for some serious sturgeon fishing. But something funny happened while fishing that ebb tide; I had more sturgeon action in a few hours than I’m used to getting in a week or two! From a bit after noon to about 4:30 I reeled in three sturgeon from 28 inches to 45 inches. The bigger one was an absolute gas to fight to the boat. He ran what seemed like a hundred yards, jumping three times in the process. He went ballistic! I had to measure the rascal several times before I was sure that he was too small to keep. Lordy, I did try to grow an extra inch on him, but just couldn’t quite do it. All three shakers were released to fight another day. But I had a ball reeling ‘em in.
As shadows lengthened and daylight was waning, the flood tide slackened. I weighed anchor and headed down to fish near Decker Island. A long, deep ebb tide was predicted for the night and I wanted to fish it ‘til it bottomed sometime around midnight.
The lights of downriver towns begin to show at dusk while fishing near Decker Island.
The evening was splendid as I fished near the shipping channel off Decker Island. I watched the sun set and the lights of Antioch and Pittsburg gradually brighten against the darkening sky. After cooking up a quick dinner I sat back in the cockpit with the heater on, waiting for that little sturgeon nibble that never came. Even so, to my way of thinking, there just isn’t a better way to while away an evening in this life.
Try as I might, I could not stay awake to fish the end of the tide. About 9:30 or so I gave up. I reeled in, weighed anchor and chugged my tired old bones around to the leeward side of Decker Island for the night.
Well before sunup I was back at Light 25 where all the action had been this trip. I freshened my bait for the new day, tossed it out over the transom and continued to wait for my sturgeon.
After four hours of absolutely no interest in my offering, the reel suddenly began ticking off line in the fashion common to a sturgeon. I was in the cabin momentarily at the time, but rushed to the rod in a flash and set the hook into what I immediately knew was a sturgeon!
This hook up just had to be a keeper! If not because of his substantial feel at the end of the line, then simply because it wouldn’t be fair to catch five shakers in a row! But… when I first saw the little critter, I couldn’t convince myself he was a keeper. Rats.
Eventually I had him to the boat, belly up in submission and completely exhausted. I measured him about five times with my little floating green plastic tape that is marked at 46 inches and is 72 inches long. It’s a difficult task to measure a questionable sturgeon while still in the water. Several times, according to my tape, he measured exactly 46 inches.
I had to make a decision to take him or release him. I administered a proper whack, tied him to a line and bled him. When I brought him aboard, I laid him on the sole and measured him with a real tape measure. He was, in fact, exactly 46 inches and weighed 18 pounds. For me, this was a record sturgeon! He was the smallest sturgeon I’ve ever kept.
Counting last week’s 40 incher and this week’s three shakers, this sturgeon was my fifth catch in two weeks. For me, that’s a lot of sturgeon action. I don’t completely dismiss the catching and releasing of shaker sturgeon. They can weigh as much as 18 pounds and are a lot of fun to reel in because they are often good fighters and sometimes put up extraordinary battles.
I’ll be out early Thanksgiving week to take advantage of this wonderful fishing weather that promises to continue for at least one more week. Maybe I’ll actually make it down to my favorite sturgeon hole on Suisun Bay.
Second Little Keeper In Two Weeks!
November 21-22, 2005
I began Thanksgiving week’s adventure a bit early; hoping to get ahead of what I figured might be a busy fishing time on the delta. I launched at Rio Vista on Monday morning fully intending to head to Suisun Bay this trip – unless I could catch my sturgeon early in the day at Light 25.
I motored downriver and dropped anchor onto the clam bed near Light 25, just a bit below Rio Vista and the Coast Guard Station. After clanking and dragging a bit, the anchor dug into the clams and held. I arrived at slack tide, before an outgoing current developed that would run ‘til mid afternoon.
During the slack tide I dug out my Gibbs Minnow and jigged for stripers for about a half-hour. This jigging stuff is new to me, but it seems to be a fairly productive technique in slack water. I managed to attract a
shaker striper and tossed him back. Sometimes larger stripers will hit, but not this time. Still, having even a shaker take that little jig is pretty entertaining.
As the tide finally began to ebb, I cut a couple of chunks off the old lamprey carcass that I’ve been carving on forever, threaded ’em onto a couple of hooks and tossed ‘em out over the transom. And waited.
Other than a few little striper nips, my stay over the clam bed was pretty unremarkable. When the tide was nearly bottomed out I reeled in and turned the boat toward Suisun Bay and my favorite sturgeon hole near Ryer Island.
After a river cruise of twenty miles or so, I arrived at my destination on Suisun Bay. I freshened my nasty bait by adding a couple of smaller pieces to what was already well soaked and tossed ‘em out again. And again I waited.
As predicted, the weather was absolutely perfect. The air was cold on Suisun but the water was mirror flat, the sun shinned brightly and the winds were calm. In late November you just can’t ask for more.
The sun set shortly after my arrival on Suisun Bay. I fired up the cockpit heater, bundled up real good and prepared to fish the outgoing current ‘til well after midnight. And, for a change, I managed to stay awake most of the time, nodding off occasionally – but with the rod in my hand. I had several nips as the evening wore on, but couldn’t seem to set the hook into anything.
My 22′ C-Dory set up for excellent overnight trips on the Delta.
The cozy interior of the C-Dory; that V-berth was a comfy place to spend the nights on a cool November night on Suisun Bay.
My little corner of Suisun Bay is a lovely and lonely place after nightfall. The lights of Antioch and Pittsburg dot the distant shoreline like a golden bracelet, adding a brilliant sparkle to the blackness of the night. There are no sounds save the train whistles off in the distance and the regular drone of airplanes overhead – even at night. Yes, Suisun is a wonderful anchorage.
Finally, near midnight, the slow, gentle bite of a sturgeon ticked a few inches of line from my reel. Wham! I set the hook at once and knew that I had a sturgeon on! I’ve been on to so many shakers lately that I couldn’t convince myself that I had a keeper, but I had a grand time with whatever it was.
After a very few minutes, a sturgeon of about 40 inches appeared at the boat. Rats. Well, the entertainment value of reeling in a shaker sturgeon is worth something, but not nearly as satisfying as reeling in a big ol’ keeper. I let him go.
I pressed on for another hour or so. Finally, as the outgoing current slowed to a trickle, I reeled in and carted my tired old bones to the V-berth. It was 1:00 a.m. and I was toast. For a guy that usually hits the sack about 9:00, it had been a big day.
I slept like a baby out there in the middle of nowhere and it was daylight by the time I resumed my fishing. An incoming tide was underway and a weak ebb tide was predicted to drop less than two feet later in the morning. I would fish ‘til about noon and hope for a keeper.
A breeze kicked up that morning and the cold air cut like a knife. The boat tended to swing at anchor and fishing was not all that pleasant. I was as bundled up as I could get and still wasn’t comfortable. I’m just not made for winter fishing – and winter isn’t even here yet!
Finally, after staying faithful to the cause for about three hours without so much as a nip, a sturgeon like nibble ticked off a few inches of line. Again I set the hook with a mighty heave! The fish felt a bit heftier than last night’s, but it certainly didn’t seem to be any big bruiser. I fought whatever it was for about ten minutes before it appeared near the boat. And again I had reeled in another sturgeon that was so close to the minimum that I just couldn’t be sure. I tired him completely then measured him a half dozen times with my floating plastic ribbon that is marked at 46 inches and is 72 inches long.
Just as last week, the dang thing measured what seemed to be exactly 46 inches. I whacked him a good one, tied him to a line and bled him. When I brought him aboard he measured exactly… 46 inches! That’s two absolutely minimum sized sturgeon in two weeks and I’ve never caught one that size in the years I’ve been fishing. Regardless, I had two keepers in two weeks. Who’s complaining? Not me! My two day effort had finally paid off!
I stowed the gear, weighed anchor and headed upriver for home, passing many boats at anchor along the way, probably all of them fishing for stripers or sturgeon. It was Tuesday and there were so many fishing boats at anchor one could think it was a weekend. Sure enough, Thanksgiving time makes for a busy week of fishing.
Our splendid Indian summer seems to be over. As I write this week’s report the wind is blowing and the rain is falling. During this winter I’ll be pretty picky about when I head out on sturgeon safaris. I’m too old and too smart to fish the lousy winter conditions that I once ignored. I can no longer resist the comfort of the fireplace and my easy chair during cold weather. But when the weather cooperates, I’ll be heading out for the season’s next sturgeon. I am, after all, way overdue for a knock down street fight with a really big, angry sturgeon!
Over the years I have posted many exciting fishing and boating stories here, but now in my seventies, it was time to sell the boat and find less demanding pastimes. All the fishing stories are still here! I will now post my travels aboard the motorhome and other activities. I hope y'all will still enjoy the fishing and boating adventures and perhaps peek in on my post-boating activities on occasion. Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoy your visit.