Three Sturgeon in Two Days!
After launching into the Sacramento River at Rio Vista, I headed down river the four or five miles to Decker Island and dropped anchor near the shipping channel. Over the years, I’ve caught a lot of sturgeon there, and maybe I could entice another. By 0930 I had tossed out my usual eel steaks, and sat back to await the soft bite of a mighty sturgeon.
I was fishing a huge outgoing tide that would drop over five feet. The current was swift and the water was full of grass, leaves and other debris. Within half an hour, I would accumulate so much debris on the leader that it tended to float the sinker off the bottom. I removed grass every half hour – sometimes more often – this entire trip.
About 1215, as I stood in the cockpit awaiting some sturgeon action, a nasty furbag surfaced right at my boat, checking to see if I had any fish on a stringer in the water. He blew loudly through his nose as he exhaled, and shattered my sense of calm. What the… ?! As soon as I realized the situation I cursed him and he submerged. The nasty critters shouldn’t be upriver so far, and they’re artificially over-populated, thanks to foolish federal protection. They have no fear of humans and are therefore dangerous to us. They sink boats and docks, kill an inordinate amount of fish, and are a terrible nuisance. Moments after he submerged, he surfaced again at the same exact location, and again startled me. That time I grabbed my fish knocker and tapped the gunwale of the boat, apparently scaring him away. I didn’t see him again.
Around 1500, with a weak incoming current underway, the little fella pictured above began messing with my bait. After of couple of failed hook-sets, I finally caught the little guy, and he was soon at the boat in submission. I estimated him at a bit over two feet long, much to small to keep. I released him and he swam slowly away, completely exhausted after a short fight. Sturgeon were in the area, and that was good to know!
This small boat was fishing near the barge dock at Decker Island as the barge arrived. The tow captain had to toot him out of the way, and come to a stop as the little boat raised anchor and moved out of the area. It’s not cool to fish near commercial operations.
The afternoon wore on, finally warm and calm, and I enjoyed the long overdue day of fishing. I couldn’t entice any more sturgeon to take my offerings, but I still had another day to fish. Around 2030 I reeled in, stowed the fishing gear, and decided I’d spend the night right there off Decker Island in the middle of the river. But I soon changed my mind…
I’ve spent many nights on the river, some of them right over my honey hole off Decker Island. But it’s not a good idea when lots of debris is moving downriver due to huge water releases upriver. Just as I was about to crawl into my V-berth for the night… WHUMP! Something big hit the boat!
I looked out over the gunwale to see two logs set hard against my chain anchor rode. I grabbed my boat hook and climbed forward to the bow to remove them. They were huge – probably 10 feet long. One was Y shaped, with my chain at the crotch of the Y. It would not budge. I managed to move the second log away, and it floated downriver. But the other wouldn’t move. Finally, after about ten minutes, I managed to un-snag it from my chain, and push it away. As soon as I returned to the cockpit, I saw another log, about 40 feet long, float by about 20 yards away. That was enough excitement for me – I weighed anchor and motored to the backside of Decker Island, just a few feet from Decker. It was calm and somewhat protected, so I dropped anchor for the night. And for two hours every sound reminded me of the logs whacking into my boat. I finally fell to sleep and slept well ’til morning.
Day Two: I would meet my friend Willie at Rio Vista. We agreed we’d meet a the marina at 0700, then drive into town for a big breakfast at Raul’s Striper Cafe. And we did. By 0800 we boarded the boat and headed downriver.
As we left the marina, this little swallow landed on the bow rail. I announced to Willie that this was a lucky omen!
We motored into a breezy and choppy river. I chose to anchor just a bit downriver from the marina at Light 25, which is a bit more protected from the wind than the open river near Decker Island. We gave it a try at Light 25, but it was deeper there at 35 feet, and the debris that collected on our leaders was just intolerable.
This is about a 20 minute collection of debris. We were constantly cleaning our leaders of grass, leaves, etc.
Finally, we reeled in at Light 25 on the Sacramento River and headed up the “Old Sac” portion of the river, up beyond Isleton, about a 15 minute cruise. We found shallower water, about 15 feet instead of 35 feet, and began fishing again.
Almost at once, I had a sturgeon pulling line off the reel! I set the hook and the battle was on. Willie grabbed the camera and we managed to catch enough of the fight- ’til the big fish simply came unbuttoned and swam away. Oh, well – that’s what can happen with these big fish. He would certainly have been a keeper.
Here’s a short, lousy (as usual) video of the one that got away: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah1kjUK-Kc4
A couple of hours later, another sturgeon took my offering of eel steak. The reel clicked off a few inches of line, and I set the hook with a big heave – and the fight was on again!