‘It’s ridiculously huge’: Fraser River fishermen net massive sturgeon

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |


Thu Sep 16, 6:42 AM

By Susan Lazaruk

A group of sports fishermen struggling for an hour and a half to land a Fraser River sturgeon suspected it was big — but they had no idea how big until they got it to shore near Mission.

The five men took turns with the rod and 130-pound test line, spelling each other off every 10 minutes, to eventually wrangle the monster.

It measured out at almost twice the length of two of them, and outweighed three or four of them put together.

“It’s ridiculously huge,” said Warren Calderone, who works in heavy construction and lives in Abbotsford and was treating his Vancouver clients to a day of sturgeon fishing — their first time at the sport.

“The guide figured it was eight to 10 feet [while we were playing it]. He had no idea it was going to be as big as it was.”

It was so large that it took 10 grown men to hold it up for the photo shoot.

“It was so thick around the middle, you couldn’t get your arms around it,” said Calderone.

Officially, it measured 11 feet, three inches, or 3.4 metres — the length of a compact car. And it likely weighed more than 700 pounds, or 320 kilograms, based on its girth.

Calderone, Norm Young, Charles Belanger, Brad Allan — the one who hooked the fish — and guide Tom Pearce shared in the glory of the trophy during the quick catch-and-release, required for the designated “species of concern” caught on the Fraser.

“We let it go after about two minutes,” said Calderone. “And they were always splashing it with water.”

The average sturgeon is two to four feet long, although fishermen regularly catch seven- to eight-footers, according to STS Guide Services owner Vic Carrao.

This latest catch was shy of the all-time record of 11 feet, nine inches, he said.

There have been fewer than 20 sturgeon of 11 feet or more tagged since the tag-and-release program began in 1994, a program that helps monitor the growth and migration of the fish, said Carrao.

“There have been stories of 13- and 14-foot sturgeons, but I’ve never seen [evidence of] one,” he said.

White sturgeon — which can grow to 18 feet, 1,300 pounds and live 150 years — is covered with large bony plates rather than scales. It has a flattened nose, no teeth and four fleshy whisker-like projections used to detect food on river bottoms. Fossil records show they’ve remained unchanged in 175 million years.

“It’s the ugliest fish you’ll ever see,” said Calderone. “They’re just prehistoric.”

Calderone was also struck by how docile the monster was when brought to shore.

“Unlike salmon, they don’t fight themselves to death after they’re caught,” said Carrao. “They just lie there, they don’t stress themselves out. That’s why they’ve lived 200 million years.”

As fat and ugly as the prize was, it won’t stop the lucky fishermen from reliving the glory for years to come.

“We went out for lunch later and it was all we could do to wipe the smiles off our faces,” said Calderone.

slazaruk@theprovince.com

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