If at first you don’t succeed try and try again” ,says Angelo, “and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. This episode is about trying to break the ten foot Sturgeon barrier we Pete & I set for ourselves years ago. I’m talking about the biggest freshwater fish in North America, the giant white sturgeon. An armor plated anadromous creature that’s been around for approximately 200 million years”.
“Hooking into these dinosaurs”, says Pete, “is one thing, but landing one??? That’s a whole different kettle of fish. They’re designed to spool you, but if you do manage to subdue a 10 footer, your challenge has just begun friend, you see, they’ve got razor sharp scutes that will slice and dice you in a heartbeat”.
For this episode Ang & Pete are heading to the only place in Canada maybe in the world where you stand a better than average chance to accomplish this feat: the mighty Fraser River in beautiful British Columbia- arguably one of the most awe inspiring places to catch fish on this planet.
They know this is going to be a daunting task after all only a fortunate few souls have ever come face to face with a legitimate 10 footer.
Joining them on this shoot were good friends and avid anglers Roy Armes, CEO of Cooper tires, and Scott Jamieson Director of Product Management. These guys are always up for a fishing challenge especially if there’s a chance of breaking a personal record.
As is customary in the fast paced life of such a high profile executive’s time is always of the essence so to help with the tight schedule the Cooper Challenger 200 would be the transportation of choice for this trip. Who are we to say no? Aside from heading up one of the largest Tire companies in the world Roy is an extremely avid outdoorsman and passionate angler, in fact when he’s not taking care of business in the boardroom you’re likely to find him on the business end of a fishing rod. He’ll be a nice addition to the sturgeon wrangling team.
Scott’s a relative newcomer to big game fishing but has taken to it like honey on dry toast, he could be the difference maker on this trip.
Hunting down a giant white sturgeon can’t be done without experience and expertise so we once again we hooked up with Vic Carrao, sturgeon and river guide extraordinaire and well-known jet boat expert. His plan… run us from Hope to Hell’s Gate – about as far up the Fraser as you can go without staring death straight in the eye, they don’t call it Hell’s gate for nothing. We’re going to try to fight the incredible current and treacherous whirlpools and eddies to get a glimpse of this magnificent natural and man-made structure.
In 1808, Simon Fraser, the first great explorer of British Columbia, called this place “the Gates of Hell” because any attempt to canoe it meant certain death. The towering rock walls on either side plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 35 metres (115 ft) wide.
For centuries the narrow passage has been a popular fishing ground for Aboriginal communities in the area. European settlers also began to congregate there in the summer months to fish because salmon would pause here before making their run through the rapids on their way to their spawning grounds.
And what about the sturgeon? This is an ancient fish. It is classified as a living fossil, and at present, it is considered an endangered species. Here’s a fish that has survived thousands of millennia, only to become nearly extinct within a hundred years because of us !
Thanks to some extremely dedicated conservation groups who have made a very determined effort to monitor and assess the movement and lifecycles of these fish, we can once again angle for White Sturgeon, albeit with some restrictions like catch and release, size and time restrictions, and more importantly tagging whenever and wherever possible with a passive integrated transponder – called a PIT tag. These markers are 10 to 20 mm long and are injected just under the skin on the left side between the insertion of the dorsal fin and the lateral line. They send out a signal of 125 KHz and they’re read with a scanner like a bar code. This tagging program provides the best opportunity to collect data on the movement and migration of these spectacular fish.
Vic has very special gear for sturgeon Fishing: 9 foot rods rated at 130 pounds, level wind reels with a lever drag rated at 28 pounds. 250 pound test braided line with 100 lb test fluorocarbon leaders. Terminal tackle is typically a 10 to 20 ounce weight with a big piece of meat on a hook cast downstream of the anchored boat. The very fast current slowly moves the scent of the bait downstream until a fish picks it up.
Roy Armes deals with fishing in the same manner he does his business. Always one step ahead of the competition… so of course, he’s up first… and it’s a great starter fish. Went somewhere between 5 & 6 feet.
After getting a taste of this spectacular fishing on British Columbia’s Fraser River, we’re heading back upstream to try again. Vic’s expertise in handling the jet boat is the only reason we caught that fish, because the current is crazy and it’s all you can do to keep that fish on the line.
Next it’s Scott’s turn to experience this incredible battle and in no time he’s hooked up. This fight took us two and a half miles downstream… CRAZY!!! With losing so much ground and falling back so much we headed back upstream towards the famous Hell’s Gate. The current of course is getting stronger and stronger the closer we get.
Roy hooks up again, only this time it’s no warm up Sturgeon. This fight took us over an hour, so we had to move quickly. After finally beaching this beast, Vic dies a check on the dorsal fin to see if this monster’s been tagged before. It hadn’t, so we injected a tag in order to accurately track this magnificent creature. Roy’s fish was indeed a trophy at just over 8 ft long and almost 300 lbs, but not what Ang and Pete want; nope… time to get moving as they’re running out of time! The 10 foot dream was starting to fade.
We decided to move the boat back down to a couple of the holes that didn’t produce fish on the way up, We had to give it one last shot.
“There’s no question in my mind” says Angelo “I saw this fish come out of the water, not once but three times, and it’s way bigger than Roy’s 8 footer. We’re finally going to break the 10ft curse. Scott is literally having a vein-popping battle with this fish, hanging on for his fishing life”.
Then suddenly, the fish is gone. The line had broken – 250 lb test – snapped.
“The line must have chaffed on the rocks”, Pete says and Vic concurs.
When fighting a monster such as the one Scott just did, anything and everything as far as negatives can and usually do occur. From line breakage, to fish tangling into logs, to catching an edge of the boat with the leader… with a fish as big as these, you truly are at the fishing gods mercy… and Scott was just handed that unfortunate blow.
“This was the fish for sure”, states Ang emphatically, “all the more reason to make plans for next year and get another shot at the elusive 10 footer”!
GETTIN’ THERE with RAM TRUCKS
To get to today’s unbelievable fishing location, we first boarded the Cooper Tire jet in Toronto and flew to Abbotsford BC. We then drove north on road 11 and then turned east on 7. Next we turned north on Stave Lake Street and finally arrived at our luxurious accommodations Above & Beyond.
To meet Vic and his boat we then traveled east on 7 to the boat launch on the Fraser River in the town of Hope.
From there it was straight up the beautiful Fraser River, through the canyon, all the way to Hell’s Gate.