One Sturgy Too Small, One Big’un Made a Break for It!
April 19 – 20, 2012
Honestly, I’ve been such a wimp this spring. I haven’t been on a sturgeon hunt for a month because it’s either too cold or too wet for this old man. But the weather this week has been perfect; high 70s, even into the 80s for this trip. And the night was very mild. Just what I’ve been waiting for!
I began this week’s adventure by launching at Brannan Island State Park near Rio Vista, Ca. on Thursday morning. I time my launch for mid morning and usually have the ramps all to myself.
The rig at Brannan’s great launch ramps – and I had ’em all to myself!
Fishwisher the boat lookin’ good at the dock – even if I do say so myself!
I motored out onto the Sacramento River which was a bit lumpy and breezy. My favorite honey hole in such conditions is just above Light 25 near Sandy Beach and the Coast Guard station. I cruised the mile or two upriver and dropped anchor.
The wimpy, little 44 incher that gave up all too soon and was released to fight another day.
I fished about three hours, offering my usual eel to any passing sturgeon. Finally, a big ol’ tug boat heading upriver chugged by my anchorage. I prepared for a bite as it went by, having noticed that their big props sometimes stir up the bottom – and the bite! And sure enough, just as he passed, rocking my little boat in its huge wake, something took my bait… tick – tick – tick went the clicker on my reel. I set the hook into something of substance and the fight was on! I should say the skirmish was on – the little sturgeon put up a short, wimpy fight. In a couple of minutes I had a small sturgy belly up at the boat. I measured him with my little plastic gardening tape that is marked at 46 inches, the minimum size, and is 66 inches long, the maximum size. He fell short of the minimum by a couple of inches or so. I popped the hook out of his rubbery mouth and let him go. While he wasn’t a keeper, he was the first sturgeon to the boat this year and I was mighty happy about that!
The big ol’ tug boat that turned on the bite for me. Moments after taking this photo the lil’ sturgy took a bite of my eel.
I continued fishing at Light 25 ’til about 1600 when I reeled in and headed upriver to spend the night on the Old Sac, just below the Isleton Bridge. That area is well protected from the wind and is a safe anchorage.
View of the Isleton area from my overnight anchorage below the Isleton Bridge.
I continued fishing the evening away there on the Old Sac, but it was for naught. Nevertheless, the Cockpit Collins cocktails were cold and refreshing and the Okie music wafted from the cabin; sometimes it’s just fine when the fish ignore my offerings.
I was cruising down the Old Sac to the mouth before sunup. I’d heard from my old river-rat friend, SeaRay Bill, that sturgeon fishing was really good above the Rio Vista Bridge this year. So I dropped anchor below Light 36A and slung some fresher eel out to the river bottom. And waited…
Within an hour I felt a classic sturgeon bite on my line, and as the reel clicked off a few inches, I set the hook into something big! And I set it again… and off he went! Whatever it was, it took my line at will no matter how much I screwed down the drag. I could only wait ’til he quit pulling, then I began pulling up and reeling down, inching him to the boat when he tried to rest. It took about ten minutes before he surfaced near the boat where he realized he was in big trouble. He slapped his big tail against the surface of the water as he tore away in panic, and descended into the depths in a mad dash for freedom!
The big 65 incher that was smarter than me – and made good his escape at the last second!
I could only hold onto the rod as he peeled line off in wild abandon, racing downriver for his freedom. It was a wild run! But in time, as is almost always the case, he tired and tried to rest. When he rested I worked him toward the boat, and eventually he was done. It was just a matter of reeling in a heavy fish that could no longer fight. He came alongside the boat in surrender. I easily measured his still length with my tape at just below the maximum of 66 inches.
I took a couple of photos as he rested, and contemplated the big job of netting him and bringing him aboard. I nearly reached for the pliers to pop him loose, but decided he’d make for a lot of good meat – and a great photo.
I grabbed the net and began pulling him into it with the rod in one hand and the net in the other. Netting a big fish is a big job when alone, and I’ve lost ’em before at this critical moment. Just as he was about half into the net he came alive with a huge shake of his head and… he popped the 80 pound test leader and was gone in an instant! *&%$#!! Rats! One of my two hooks was firmly attached to his leathery mouth and the other got snagged in the net. When he shook his head so violently something had to give, and it was my leader! And so goes sturgeon fishing. A sadder but wiser fisherman am I. It might be time to buy a snare!
I continued fishing a couple more hours, but the debris in the river became intolerable – I’d gone forward to the bow three times to clear small logs from my anchor chain – and I was getting hungry for a real meal after two days on the river. A bit before 1000 I reeled in, raised anchor and headed back to Brannan’s boat ramps.
It had been a grand adventure with two sturgeon to the boat, in spite of losing one I intended to take. And for another month or so my beloved Delta will continue to churn out big ol’ sturgeon for those who have the patience. And I will be back at it soon…
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.