Keystone Kops and Sturgeon…
March 27, 2002
This time of the year many fishermen are trolling or baitfishing for stripers. Even so, I always choose the sturgeon when they’re around, so I set off on another two day Delta sturgeon safari. Having caught just one keeper this year so far, and that with my fishing buddy Rich “FishTracker” along, I invited him along for another day of fishing.
We launched at Rio Vista and were fishing my favored sturgeon spot off Decker Island by 8:30 a.m. We found the outgoing current to be well underway there, and tossed out our fresh, large grass shrimp to entice a hungry sturgeon. Rich had a 17″ striper on almost at once, and dutifully tossed him back. Over the course of the few hours we fished off Decker Island, Rich caught and released several stripers, including a couple of 18 inchers. A nearby boat caught and netted what looked to be about a seven pounder during this time, as well. The stripers were, to me, more of a nuisance. To Rich, they were entertaining even though he was fishing for sturgeon.
I had given up using the twitchy bait in favor of the same old eel I’ve been carving on for weeks. The stripers seemed to leave it alone, and last week’s forty inch sturgeon was caught on the stuff. That experience had given me confidence in it, and I was fishing only with eel. Lamprey eel is now seemingly impossible to find in the bait stores anywhere, even out of state. I’ve got to find some soon, I’ve carved nearly the last of the eel carcass that I have.
Shortly after noon, the outgoing current slackened and the wind seemed to worsen. Once again the fishing became something less than enjoyable due to the wind and waves. Rich and I agreed that it was time to move on, so I weighed anchor and we eventually wound up fishing the area near lite 25. This area is known more for shelter from the wind than as a hot sturgeon spot, at least in my book. I tossed out the big“underwater parachute”, known as a drogue, to better hold the boat in the current against the wind. We were by then fishing an incoming current.
Soon enough, my reel clicked off about a foot of line very slowly. This same click-click-click would be what sturgeon fishermen refer to as a “take down” when the rod sits on a balance beam. The rod was in my hand, however, so I thumbed the spool tightly and set the hook with a mighty heave! And I set it again, and again and again. This one would not come loose as last week’s did! If it was a poor hookup I’d rather pop it loose while setting it deep rather than lose it later. And the fight was on!
Rich pulled in the drogue as my sturgeon ran upriver, away from the boat, and breached about forty yards away! Now, I love to see a sturgeon airborne, but as ol’ Rich says, nothing good can happen when they jump. Fortunately, mine stayed hooked and I began the very exciting chore of reeling in my fish. I knew he was a keeper by his power and the size I saw when he breached. I don’t know how long it took to get him to the boat for the first time, but probably a good ten minutes. He had a couple more good runs in him, and I was careful to properly tire him out before bringing him to the boat, nearly belly up and in submission. Rich netted him and he was ours!
Rich handed me the fish knocker and I whacked him a good one — at least I intended to. The knocker bounced out of my hand as I landed a good whack and landed in the water. I couldn’t reach it and it began floating away on the current. Now, this was not just any old knocker. It was the same one I’ve been using for years and to me it had great sentimental value. What a crazy time to get sentimental! As Rich held the still wiggly sturgeon in the net outside the boat, I fired up the boat and weighed anchor to retrieve my prized knocker. Oops! The engine was in the raised position and running! Dang! I shut the engine off and lowered it, meanwhile we were simply drifting with the current! Finally, I got my wits about me and we were underway, Rich leaning over the boat holding the big, netted fish and me in hot pursuit of my knocker! After a couple of passes Rich scooped the knocker out of the water, still hanging onto the net! I administered another whack to the big sturgeon, then motored back to the spot where we hooked this fish.
Finally, the Keystone Kops knocker rescue was over and the fish was weighed and measured. He was 57 inches and 44 pounds, an excellent keeper sturgeon! At last, my second keeper this year! Maybe the slump was over.
As I stated earlier this year, I am keeping track of the hours invested per sturgeon caught this year. This sturgeon required 42 hours of fishing over three trips. Well, four trips if I count the 3 hour aborted try awhile back. This year’s first sturgeon required 63 hours of fishing.
Rich continued to fish for sturgeon on the same spot for several more hours. I, of course, was fishing just for stripers since I had my limit of sturgeon. I caught none. The current was again on the outgo as Rich reeled in another sturgeon, this one not a keeper. We estimated him to be about 36 inches as he was released at the boat. Rich also caught a couple of other shaker sturgeon during this day’s efforts, both smaller than this one and all released. Some days you just can’t seem to hook the keepers.
As afternoon turned to evening the wind worsened and we decided we’d had enough. I probably would have dropped Rich off at the dock and kept fishing, but I had my limit of one sturgeon already in the box. I just wanted to take my sturgeon home. The Keystone Kops knocker incident notwithstanding, a day of fishing with an old buddy just doesn’t get any better than we’d just had. If only one of us was destined to catch a keeper sturgeon, the right one got it! Yep, I’d put in the hours and I figured that I had it coming. We had a wonderful time fishing together, as usual, and as usual we did pretty well.