Fraser River, British Columbia

Location: Fraser River, BC
GPS: N49º 08.763′ W122º 06.671′
Species: Sturgeon

This Hotspot is a Sturgeon hole on the Fraser River in British Columbia. It’s a typical hole where the STS Guiding crew (guidebc.com) anchors up current and then sets roe, lamprey, eels or ooligans on the bottom and waits for one of these giants of the deep.

If you want to catch a truly big fish, this is the place to be!

2 Responses

  1. Hey guys, you hit the nail on the head when you said, “Anchor” up current. This is another river with current that can and will be dangerous. Conditions such as these always require an “Experienced Guide”. Nothing can ruin a trip of a lifetime more, than careless planning. Have fun, but please be “SAFE”.

  2. Whoa! Reaching back into Fish’n’ Canada’s ancient past is not so strange when fishing for that so call prehistoric creature of the Fraser River. So, let us delve into a few historical facts I picked up off the internet…

    Sturgeon is the common name for the 27 species of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae. Their evolution dates back to the Triassic period some 245 to 208 million years ago. Obviously, these fish have a long a storied history in this area.

    Sturgeons are long-lived, late-maturing fishes with distinctive characteristics, such as a heterocercal caudal fin similar to those of sharks, and an elongated, spindle-like body that is smooth-skinned, scaleless, and armored with five lateral rows of bony plates called scutes. Several species can grow quite large, typically ranging 7–12 ft (2–3 1⁄2 m) in length. The largest sturgeon on record was a beluga female captured in the Volga estuary in 1827, weighing 1,571 kg (3,463 lb) and 7.2 m (24 ft) long. Most sturgeons are anadromous bottom-feeders, which migrate upstream to spawn, but spend most of their lives feeding in river deltas and estuaries. Some species inhabit freshwater environments exclusively, while others primarily inhabit marine environments near coastal areas, and are known to venture into open ocean. (Likely the Fraser River species we see here)

    Several species of sturgeon are harvested for their roe, which is processed into the luxury food caviar. This has led to serious over exploitation, which combined with other conservation threats, has brought most of the species to critically endangered status, at the edge of extinction.

    Physical Characteristics :

    Sturgeons retain several primitive characters among the bony fishes. Along with other members of the subclass Chondrostei, they are unique among bony fishes because their skeletons are almost entirely cartilaginous. Notably, however, the cartilagineous skeleton is not a primitive character, but a derived one; sturgeon ancestors had bony skeletons. They also lack vertebral centra, and are partially covered with five lateral rows of scutes rather than scales. They also have four barbels—sensory organs that precede their wide, toothless mouths. They navigate their riverine habitats traveling just off the bottom with their barbels dragging along gravel, or murky substrate. Sturgeon are recognizable for their elongated bodies, flattened rostra, distinctive scutes and barbels, and elongated upper tail lobes. The skeletal support for the paired fins of ray-finned fish is inside the body wall, although the ray-like structures in the webbing of the fins can be seen externally.

    Sturgeons are among the largest fish: some Beluga in the Caspian Sea reportedly attain over 5.5 m (18 ft) and 2000 kg (4400 lb) while for Kaluga in the Amur River, similar lengths and over 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) weights have been reported. They are also among the longest-lived of the fishes, some living well over 100 years and attaining sexual maturity at 20 years or more. The combination of slow growth and reproductive rates and the extremely high value placed on mature, egg-bearing females make sturgeon particularly vulnerable to over fishing.

    Sturgeons are polyploid; some species have four, eight, or 16 sets of chromosomes. Sturgeons are long-lived, late maturing fishes. Their average lifespan is 50 to 60 years, and their first spawn does not occur until they are around 15 to 20 years old. Sturgeons are broadcast spawners, and do not spawn every year because they require specific conditions. Those requirements may or may not be met every year due to varying environmental conditions, such as the proper photoperiod in spring, clear water with shallow rock or gravel substrate, where the eggs can adhere, and proper water temperature and flow for oxygenation of the eggs. A single female may release 100,000 to 3 million eggs, but not all will be fertilized. The fertilized eggs become sticky and adhere to the bottom substrate upon contact. Eight to 15 days are needed for the embryos to mature into larval fish. During that time, they are dependent on their yolk sacs for nourishment. River currents carry the larvae downstream into backwater areas, such as oxbows and sloughs, where the free-swimming fry spend their first year feeding on insect larvae and crustacea. During their first year of growth, they reach 18 to 20 cm (7.1 to 7.9 in) in length and migrate back into the swift-flowing currents in the main stem river.

    Life Cycle :

    Sturgeons are long-lived, late maturing fishes. Their average lifespan is 50 to 60 years, and their first spawn does not occur until they are around 15 to 20 years old. Sturgeons are broadcast spawners, and do not spawn every year because they require specific conditions. Those requirements may or may not be met every year due to varying environmental conditions, such as the proper photoperiod in spring, clear water with shallow rock or gravel substrate, where the eggs can adhere, and proper water temperature and flow for oxygenation of the eggs. A single female may release 100,000 to 3 million eggs, but not all will be fertilized. The fertilized eggs become sticky and adhere to the bottom substrate upon contact. Eight to 15 days are needed for the embryos to mature into larval fish. During that time, they are dependent on their yolk sacs for nourishment. River currents carry the larvae downstream into backwater areas, such as oxbows and sloughs, where the free-swimming fry spend their first year feeding on insect larvae and crustacea. During their first year of growth, they reach 18 to 20 cm (7.1 to 7.9 in) in length and migrate back into the swift-flowing currents in the main stem river.

    Range an Habitat :

    Sturgeon range from subtropical to subarctic waters in North America and Eurasia. In North America, they range along the Atlantic Coast from the Gulf of Mexico to Newfoundland, including the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers, as well as along the West Coast in major rivers from California and Idaho to British Columbia. They occur along the European Atlantic coast, including the Mediterranean basin, especially in the Adriatic Sea and the rivers of North Italy; in the rivers that flow into the Black, Azov, and Caspian Seas (Danube, Dnepr, Volga, Ural and Don); the north-flowing rivers of Russia that feed the Arctic Ocean (Ob, Yenisei, Lena, Kolyma); in the rivers of Central Asia (Amu Darya and Syr Darya) and Lake Baikal. In the Pacific Ocean, they are found in the Amur River along the Russian-Chinese border, on Sakhalin Island, and some rivers in northeast China.

    Throughout this extensive range, almost all species are highly threatened or vulnerable to extinction due to a combination of habitat destruction, over fishing, and pollution. No species is known to naturally occur south of the equator, though attempts at sturgeon aquaculture are being made in Uruguay, South Africa, and other places.

    Behavior :

    Sturgeons are primarily benthic feeders, with a diet of shells, crustaceans, and small fish. Exceptionally, both Huso species, the white sturgeon and the pallid sturgeon feed primarily on other fish as adults. They feed by extending their syphon-like mouths to suck food from the benthos. Having no teeth, they are unable to seize prey, though larger individuals and more predatory species can swallow very large prey items, including whole salmon. Sturgeons feed non-visually. They are believed to use a combination of sensors, including olfactory, tactile, and chemosensory cues detected by the four barbels, and electroreception using their ampullae of Lorenzini.

    The sturgeons’ electroreceptors are located on the head and are sensitive to weak electric fields generated by other animals or geoelectric sources. The electroreceptors are thought to be used in various behaviors such as feeding, mating and migration.[24]

    Many sturgeons leap completely out of the water, usually making a loud splash which can be heard half a mile away on the surface and probably further under water. Why they do this is not known, but suggested functions include group communication to maintain group cohesion, catching airborne prey, courtship display, or to help shed eggs during spawning. Other plausible explanations include escape from predators, shedding parasites, or to gulp or expel air. Another explanation is that it “simply feels good”. There have been some incidents of leaping sturgeon landing in boats, and causing injuries to humans; in 2015, a 5-year-old girl was fatally injured after a sturgeon leapt from the Suwannee River and struck her.

    Conservation :

    Sturgeon have indeed come a long way through the process of evolution. They are long-lived, late maturing fishes with reproductive cycles that include long migrations, and require specific environmental conditions. They are an ancient species that have survived for millions of years but their future is threatened, due in part to their inherent ancestral characteristics and reproductive specificities. The negative impacts of over fishing, poaching, habitat destruction, and the construction of dams that have altered or blocked their annual migration to ancestral spawning grounds have taken a serious toll. Some species of sturgeon are extinct, several are on the verge of extinction, including the Chinese sturgeon, the highly prized beluga sturgeon, and the Alabama sturgeon. Many species are classified as threatened or endangered with noticeable declines in sturgeon populations as the demand for caviar increases. I.U.C.N. data indicates that over 85% of sturgeon species are at risk of extinction, making them more critically endangered than any other group of animal species.

    In addition to global restocking efforts, the monitoring of populations and habitat, and various other conservation efforts by national and state resource agencies as applicable to their respective countries, several conservation organizations have been formed to assist in the preservation of sturgeons around the world. On a global scale, one such organization is the World Sturgeon Conservation Society (W.S.C.S.) whose primary objectives include fostering the “conservation of sturgeon species and restoration of sturgeon stocks world-wide”, and supporting the “information exchange among all persons interested in sturgeons.” The North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society (N.A.S.P.S) and Gesellschaft zur Rettung des Störs e.V. are W.S.C.S. affiliates. W.S.C..S has been instrumental in organizing global conferences where scientists and researchers can exchange information and address the various conservation challenges that threaten the future of sturgeons. Conservation efforts at the grass roots level are also instrumental in helping to preserve sturgeon populations, such as Sturgeon For Tomorrow which was founded in 1977, consists of volunteers and a sturgeon guarding program to monitor known spawning sites. The organization has grown exponentially over the years and has become “the largest citizen advocacy group for sturgeon in the world”, and has expanded with affiliate chapters in other states that have sturgeon populations.

    So with all due respect, this Pterodactylus like creature of the modern age deserves our constant attention. As a former Navy crew member of H.M.C.S Fraser, please follow the “Catch and Release” regulations. They are enforced for the very reasons as mentioned above. Otherwise, it will go the way of the Dinosaur.

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Fraser River, British Columbia

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