Fishing The Fraser River In Chilliwack For White Sturgeon…
August is a great time to visit Canada by all accounts, unfortunately not August 2008! Rain, rain and just to cap it off a bit more rain!!
Myself and my fishing buddy Bob McKee (a big, hairy bear of a Scotsman, I have fished with for several years) had booked a 10 day trip to Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Steve “Sturgeon Hunter” Kay
We had chartered the services of Steve ”Sturgeon Hunter” Kay, a jet boat skipper and great fishing guide, on the mighty Fraser River.
Nik’s 230lb White Sturgeon
White Sturgeon and Salmon
Our target species for this trip where the huge White Sturgeon that lurk on the bottom of this massive and powerful flow of water. We also intended to have a day or so fishing for the millions of Salmon that run up the Fraser every year, with those sorts of numbers how could you not catch one!
After a very uncomfortable flight from Manchester (UK) to Vancouver on Fly Globespan (don’t ever use them for long haul!) We rented our 4 x 4 and set off to Chilliwack some one and a half hours drive from the airport.
Pitching up at our Travel Lodge digs in the early evening, a spot of supper and then we hit the sack ready for Steve to collect us at 5.00am the next morning. Now there is usually only one 5 o’clock in my day, so the next morning I was a bit bleary eyed to say the least. Especially after the number of night caps we had the night before!! Well we were on holiday!!
Steve arrived on time and after we had made our introductions we set off to collect the boat. Steve has his boat stored only 2 minute from the launch site, so within 20 minutes we were afloat.
The jet boats out there are something special, they fly! And turn on a sixpence, 10 minutes down the river at about 45 mph and we are our first mark on the Harrison River just where the two mighty rivers meet.
The Harrison is completely different from the Fraser, it’s a beautiful blue for one thing, and gin clear. The Fraser has the color of a muddy puddle, and it has a much faster flow.
Squaw Fish Spinning
We stopped at a very picturesque spot, next to a stand of trees watched over by an Eagle, and were instructed in the fine art of Squaw fish spinning!! The Squaw fish is like a small trout that apparently is prolific in the Harrison and great bait for sturgeon. Not so prolific on that first morning, about two hours later we had 8!! That was enough for our skipper Steve (to be honest I think he had lost the will to live! We could not get the hang of it at all that morning) and we were off again. Another 20 minutes flying down the Fraser, this time, and we were ready to fish for real.
Ready at Last for White Sturgeon Fishing
Steve dropped the anchor and put three rods, baited with fresh Squaw fish out the back, and we settled down, eagerly watching the rod tips. An hour went by and not a single glimpse of a sturgeon, “Ok” said Steve “reel them in guys we will try another spot” I picked up the rod closest to me and gave one wind. The rod heaved over and nearly flew out of my hands, I struck, and line began to pour off the reel! As I looked behind the boat to see what the hell was going on, 5 foot of Sturgeon came out of the water about 100 yards away. The fish had not breached that was just the bit could see!!! Bob yelled an expletive I could not possibly put to print! My heart was in my mouth, this was going to be a baptism of fire.
The other rods where cleared away and the fight began. “That’s over 8 foot” said Steve. I was holding on for dear life, the power or this fish was incredible. It did not jump again, the fish just dogged it out, staying deep. Every so often it would make an explosive run, I could do nothing to stop it. I just had to let it go until it decided to stop, then came the strength sapping fight to get the line back on the reel. Then the fish would run again with the drag cranked right over it still stripped line at a rate of knot’s. Around 45 minutes later, and some 2 miles from where we had hooked the fish, we had finally managed to get the fish close to a pebble beach. I was, for want of a better word knackered. Steve jumped over the side and tried to get a rope on the fish’s tail. It was not amused and much to my dismay with a couple if flicks of its tail, headed back to the middle of the river. Steve shoved us back off and the fun began again, another 15 minutes (just what I needed) I had got the fish back to the beach. This time it was more obliging and I jumped into the river to finally get my hands on it.
The final reward for my efforts was 8 and half feet long white sturgeon, weighing 325lbs, not bad for the first fish of the week (it turned out to be the biggest fish of the season for Steve)
Once we had spent a couple of days pulling out big sturgeon, we turned our attention to the salmon. After bouncing a lead, and a little fluorescent helicopter thingy along the bottom for a few hours we had had no interest. Then all of a sudden my line screamed away, the boat was unhooked from the anchor and we were chasing after my first Chinook.
I have never hooked a Salmon before and the power and speed of its runs made me realize why so many people love them. They are stunning fish, 15 minutes later I had my very first Salmon in the boat, a beautiful looking fish of just over 30lb.
Nik’s 30lb Salmon
After that first fish Bob and I got the hang of hooking into Salmon after Salmon? Hooking into them was one thing, landing them quite another story. We must have lost 15 to 20 fish between us on that first salmon fishing day. As you can imagine we were more than a little frustrated when we went back to the Travel Lodge. We decided to try again the following morning.
The next day was a repeat performance, I think we hooked and lost more fish that day than the first, I did manage to pull out a little Sockeye but it was not much consolation.
We tried one more morning for the Salmon, but again hooked lots and landed none! I did get one fish of about 20lb to the boat and Steve did touch the leader. But a plonker on another boat, decided to come and have a look at the fish, while it was still in the water. This spooked the Salmon and the hook parted, we had a few choice words for him!!
The fish losses continued. It got to a point where we would have given an arm for a barbed hook. Steve said he had never seen such a run of bad luck, in all his years as a guide. We wondered if he had meant bad luck, or bad angling.
Back To White Sturgeon Fishing
We gave up and went back to the Sturgeon. They seemed to be more obliging! By now we were master Squaw fish anglers, and every morning stopped off for half an hour of fun pulling them out, ready to feed to the hungry sturgeon. Great fun on such light rods, some days we were loath to leave.
The scenery in this part of the word is breath-taking, and the whole experience of blasting up and down the valley between fishing spots was very exhilarating. Let alone the fishing itself.
The fishing from then on was just fantastic, we lost count of how many big Sturgeon we landed. I would say we averaged 10 sturgeon per day, with an average weight of 80 – 90lb. I had a couple of hundreds, and 2 more fish over 200lb. Bob landed 3 fish over 150lb the biggest 199lb and 15oz!! (His PB. He has an IGFA certificate I got him for Christmas to prove it. Shame it was just under the 200lb mark!!)
Bob’s 199lb and 15oz!!!
Nik’s 200lb and 1oz!!!
Accommodation and Food
All in all apart from the rain and the bloody salmon a good trip! Accommodation was adequate for our needs, we only really slept in the hotel.
The food was incredible, Bob and I are both “Foodies” and thought we would be living on burgers and pizza. How wrong we were! We found a little place called Bravo on our 5th night and never ate anywhere else after. The food was worthy of a Michelin star or 2, and not ridiculously priced. I would go back to Chilliwack again just for the food.
We returned to the UK with some great memories, brilliant photos and a few extra pounds! What a great trip, roll on May for our next trip to the Keys? If anyone would like any info on Canada (or Guinea Bissau, we were there in January 08) please feel free to contact me via Facebook (details on the home page) or via the comments section.
Cheers Nik Teal.