Idaho Sturgeon: The one that got away... (Part 1)

My buddy and Jackson Kayak teammate Steve Carroll caught on video an 8ft sturgeon jumping out of the water, right next to a kayak, while trying to wrangle the beast. The video ended up going viral earlier this year and was shared through-out the fishing community and in national spotlight through news organizations and other entities. This was a massive fish to say the least and was a near miss for the kayaker attempting to control this gentle giant. In the end the fish was landed and estimated at approx 300-350 lbs. 

 

As soon as I saw the video I messaged Steve which was followed up with a call from him. We spoke of the accomplishment and how cool it was. Steve then invited me out to come fish for these huge prehistoric fish and I couldn't say no. We quickly nailed down some dates a few months in advance and before we knew it, it was time. I hopped on my flight and was in Boise, Idaho in a short time. By air the flight was 3.5 hours from Chicago.

 

My flight lands on time and as soon as I walk out the airport terminals doors I am in Steve's car with Jameson Redding following close behind to the 1st spot. It's pretty warm out and the temp is starting to rise. Boise is a very arid location that has a lot of highland desert and not a lot of moisture. As we leave Boise the landscape really starts to open up with views of the mountains in the far distance. It's always fascinated me how close the mountains look to be when in fact they are not. The land is vast and there are tumbleweeds scattered about along the roads edge. There are little rodents running around that the locals call whistle pigs because they make whistle noises. They kind of look like prairie dogs to me but they are simply called ground squirrels. There was no shortage of those little buggers along the road side throughout our drive to our first destination.

 

We reached the Swan Falls dam on the Snake River and 3 of the gates are open and the water is flowing pretty good above what normally Steve would fish. This is a hydroelectric dam that provides electricity to the surrounding areas and is apparently operating to its design. Since we're here for a limited timed we launch knowing that the water might become sporty if we get into a fish and it decides to take us for a ride down the river commonly referred to as a "sleigh ride". We cast some baits out and let them soak for a bit. We get some bites but nothing that looks like a sturgeon bite and quite possibly could be a trout or catfish. After coming up empty we moved down stream to another hole that has produced in the past. Again we soak some baits for a while baking in the sun only to come up empty once more. We end up going back up river which was a chore to say the least. Given the higher water levels and flow, the under currents are so strong that when your pedaling to the left all of a sudden the kayak turns the other direction and you need to react quickly so to stay straight. There was a section that was almost impassible but if you pedaled really hard you could get through it. Right after I made it though I had to park in some slow water to catch my breath. I was like, "Is this it Lord? Right here I am going to die...lol". After a short break we pedaled up the 1st spot again to see if the bite had improved. The bite is proving to be very finicky but Steve has some other spots to hit in the next 2 days so we headed back to the launch planning the next couple days of attack.

 

The next day we head to a nice spot off some private land that Steve has access to. We set up and headed out to a couple holes that produce in this location. As soon as we put in we see sturgeons jumping which means they are active and feeding. We were all very excited and couldn't wait to catch one. We set up at the 1st hole and cast out our lines. Again we were met with a lot of nibbles but nothing that would indicate a sturgeon was on the other end. We moved to another spot a bit more upstream and set up once again. It seemed like we were repeating the events of earlier and needed to find a bite. We then went down stream to another hole just past the launch spot. We threw our best baits out and waited. During our free time in between bites we discussed some current events and possible videos of inspiration to further drive our devotion to land a trophy. Unfortunately, our day ends empty handed but the time spent with good friends was priceless. 

 

The final day we get going and arrive to a premium spot on some more private land that Steve has access to. The river was easy to access form a couple locations along the river, That was a more shallow section of the river and should produce some great photo opportunities once the sturgeon jump out of the water be it that given the shallow depth the fish are more likely to jump. A little while in we're seeing bite after bite but nothing is committing. All of a sudden Steve yells" FISH ON! FISH ON!!!". The rod tip is bouncing in his hands and is showing some strength that is a lot more noticeable than my usual opponent, the large mouth bass. He quickly hands the rod to me and all I can feel is weight like I've never felt before on the end of a freshwater rod. The line is ripping out and shows no sign of slowing down. Steve quickly runs over the other side of me and grabs the pole that was on my Jackson Kayak Coosa FD courtesy of Alpenglow Mountainsport. I scooted forward a little in the yak so the fish can take me out into the main current of the river. As I get into the main current the drag starts to increase in speed and I can't even keep up with the fish. I'm basically not reeling in any line at this point. I pull up on the rod and it feels like I hooked into the bottom. No give what so ever. It was amazing to feel the power of this fish. Steve had estimated that from the initial hook set it felt like a 7ft+ fish that could weight in excess of 200 lbs. I know...you really have to experience this to get a true gauge of the strength and power that this fish possesses. I soon find that the current is starting to turn my kayak bow down stream and the fish is still running upstream. You always want to be sitting straight over your seat with your rod tip straight out over the bow of your kayak. I work to fast track my repositioning while the fish is still taking drag at an increased speed and then all of a sudden.....silence. I quickly check the weight on the rod and look at the tip of the rod to see if there's still something going on. I start to reel in as fast as I can to see if maybe the fish changed direction and started to swim back in my direction. I get the line to the boat and all I can think is, "please don't jump this close to my kayak". I pull up the line and see that I have lost the one and only big fish that weekend. I am still pumped from the fight and I don't seem fazed. I think that there will be another one but as it turns out that was the biggest fish of the day and I lost it. I was not happy with myself and knew that I could have caught it if I hadn't done a couple things and reacted in a quicker fashion. I know this is my 1st time hooking into these beasts but I still felt like I should have been able to capitalize on this incredible hook up that ended in defeat. We did hook some fish though so it wasn't a complete wash. I landed a 16 inch trout and Steve brought in 2 smaller sturgeon, one about 2 ft long and another about 3 ft long. It was cool to see these fish close up in a smaller scale to get the best view of these little giants in detail. 

 

Unfortunately, I had to be back at the airport by 3 PM and we were running out of time. We loaded up the trailer and off we went. During the ride back to the airport I was reflecting on the past weekend and all I had learned. I am very grateful that Steve took the time to take me out to his spots and try to get me into a giant fish. As far as I'm concerned he did just that. I just couldn't deliver but I'm going back in November 2018, for a rematch, to get my giant.

 Special thanks to Steve Carroll and his wife for showing a flat-lander some western hospitality. Jameson Redding was an awesome addition to the adventure. I really enjoyed getting to know both of these guys more.

 

 

By Jay Randall