A Shaker Beats A Skunk!

A Story From Another Time, Another Boat

May 13, 1999

The worst day fishing beats… Well, it beats me to pieces in the wind! I cancelled the prior week’s fishing trip due to a combination of high winds and low courage. This week found me waiting ‘til Friday for an acceptable weather forecast for another fishing adventure on the Sacramento River. I left the berth at Stockton’s Smith Canal about 0615 Friday morning for my favorite fishing grounds at Decker Island near Rio Vista. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for a cruise down the San Joaquin River to the Sacramento.

BaylinerTowerParkThe Bayliner I owned in 1999; she was a very comfy fishing platform.

I arrived at the fishin’ hole off Decker Island well before 0800 and set up at once with high expectations for another Sturgeon. It has been a great year for those swimming dinosaurs and I wanted to get my share! There would be three outgoing tides during my stay at Decker those couple of days, and I planned to fish them all.

It would be a rock and roll adventure; the wind was blowing upon my arrival and continued all day, worsening as night fell. I alternated frozen sardines and ghost shrimp. I couldn’t beg, steal or buy a shad. I am told they scatter pretty badly in the wind.

The fishing was good that day, as usual; I just had a hard time catching keepers! I caught three shakers: a couple of fat and sassy catfish and a year old Sturgeon of about 14 inches – and released ’em all. One schoolie striper of about four and a half pounds accepted my sardine, and having swallowed the hook, wound up in the fish box. After dark the wind seemed to blow even harder, so I weighed anchor and moved into calmer waters about 2100.

I spent the nite aboard Midlife Cruises on the leeward side of Decker Island, an area named “Horseshoe Bend” on the map. I was snug and cozy and the water was calm on Horseshoe Bend as the wind swept across the river all night long. Nights like that are why I have a full cabin. Is it unsporting to be comfortable? Would a real man consider hot food, a T.V. and a cozy berth acceptable on a fishing trip? Well, I do! I usually am anchored alone on that sheltered water on Thursday nights, but this trip it was Friday night and I was not alone.  Several other over-nighters were anchored there, too, and I couldn’t blame ’em! I wondered if they were gourmet fishermen, or if they were having two cans of hot creamed corn for dinner, as I did.

Saturday morning found me back at the same old fishin’ hole at anchor, still trying for a mighty sturgeon. The wind was still blowing, and showed no sign of letting up. The few boats I saw out there that Saturday morning must have been the result of the weather forecast for more wind. Very few anglers were taking on the river that day. I sealed in the fishing cockpit with my “delta canvas” except for the one small open panel. I was completely out of the cool, brisk wind and I wondered if I would bother to be there at all otherwise. The few boats around me must have belonged to truly dedicated fishermen as they were all bravely sitting out in the wind.

1999 -approx-winter BaylinerFishing from the enclosed cockpit of my Bayliner, out of the wind and cold.

No, I don’t believe I’d bother to fish in such weather without the built in comforts of my boat’s canvas and cabin.

Saturday’s fishing started out with a pretty good hit by an otherwise diminutive catfish. I began the day’s fishing by offering only sardines on the last outgoing tide of my trip. The few ghost shrimp I had left would be used later as the tide continued. The sardines attracted one 17” striper which I sent on his way.

As the morning wore on there was no relief from the incessant wind, if anything it got stronger.  I was using the last few ghost shrimp, and there wasn’t much activity.

Finally, at 1030, about out of bait, I got that short, quick “bzzt” I had been waiting for. In a flash I heaved the rod skyward and finally I was hooked into something worthy of my two day effort! It was definitely a sturgeon, and I reeled him in pretty quickly – sometimes they don’t fight too hard until they see the boat. About 25 feet from the boat he breached slightly, adding great excitement to this otherwise tough fishing trip! He quickly decided something was very wrong, and headed for deeper water in a hurry. I gave him line, but made him work for every inch. Before long, he was in submission, belly up near the swim step, and I easily scooped him into my net.

He was not much of a fighter for his size, and he seemed a little small, I thought. I eyeballed his length against the marks on my swim step and measured him at about 43 inches or so. It took me several minutes to retrieve my hook and leader, and I grudgingly let him go. I really didn’t mind; I’ve had a great sturgeon year, and probably will catch a few more. That little sturgeon was the highlight of the trip, and I was very grateful for the excitement.

To paraphrase an old saying, ‘Tis better to have caught and tossed, than never to have caught at all!”



About FishWisher

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.
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