A Retirement Fishing Tale

I grabbed a smelly old fishing rag and wrapped my finger, trying to stem the flow of blood. I then grabbed the tape measure from a cabin drawer and bled on it. We had to turn the fish diagonally on the cockpit sole to get him flat and straight for an accurate measurement. He was an unusually large male, tough and lean and long. He measured 68 inches, the largest male sturgeon I’ve ever seen. Ol’ Al and I together struggled to weigh the big guy with my fish scale. With a small portion of his tail still lying on the sole, the scale read 65 pounds.

We nearly doubled the fish over to get him into the big ice chest that served as my fishbox. The monster was so big that we had to tie a line around the fishbox to keep the lid closed.

After securing our big catch in the fishbox, Al and I sat heavily on the gunwales and took a break from all the excitement. I grabbed a beer and drank deeply and I don’t recall a more refreshing brew! If the afterglow of such a thrilling, rowdy fish fight as we’d just had wasn’t Miller Time, nothing would be!

When we weary, old graybeards recuperated, we cleaned up the mess in the boat, weighed anchor and headed for the ramp at Brannan Island. It had been an amazing day and we still had a big fish to clean.

I called Audie at Hap’s bait in Rio Vista, hoping that he’d be willing to clean our big catch for us. Sure! He would get the fish cleaned for us by the next morning. We drove over to Hap’s Bait where Audie cranked the monster up onto his scales and weighed him properly. He weighed in at 67 ½ pounds. Having been bled in the water, we decided he would have easily weighed 68 pounds when he was caught. 68 inches by 68 pounds!

Al had over 30 pounds of sturgeon meat to take home to Oregon along with what certainly had to be his best fishing story ever. He was a happy fella. our previous fishing adventure was three days of trolling Lake Almanor in the wind and cold for one little trout. It was not a memorable trip but Al has never let me forget it. This year’s Delta adventure turned out to be our most memorable fishing trip ever. Al experienced the excitement of a great fight with a big, tough sturgeon – the fish fight of a lifetime. Now the tables are turned on ol’ buddy Al and I’ll never let him forget!

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  1. It is a big fish, but I wonder how old it is and live that long. I feel bad for it.

  2. That sturgeon was probably 20 to 25 years old. Charts are available online that estimated a sturgeon’s age by its length and weight. The largest sturgeon are too big to weigh because they must be released and lifting their huge mass out of the water would injure and even kill them. The largest are estimated to be as much as 1100 lbs. and 100 year old. And… the sturgeon is the oldest living fish species on earth.

  3. I don’t know about California, but in Washington and Oregon it’s illegal to take a sturgeon longer than 54 inches; reason being that the older sturgeon are the spawning sturgeon and keeping sturgeon the older sturgeon helps maintain breeding populations. Sturgeon are long-living fish, and don’t start breeding until between 5 and 11 years (different maturities for males and females); they don’t breed every year, but the older a female gets, the more eggs she may produce — hense the maximum size restrictions.
    It’s my understanding that California also has a max size restriction, which is 60 inches; and barbless hooks are required.
    Given these two considerations, I wonder (1) how you snagged your finger so badly on a barbless hook, and (2) whether this fish was actually legal to keep.

  4. Note the first sentence of this story. At that time barbless hooks were legal and the limit was 72″. Damn; I remember back in the day when a feller could get an atta boy now and then for a good catch. Nowadays it’s “poor fish” and “was it legal…”. Sheesh.

    Part of the reason I gave up fishing, besides simply getting old was the endless and excessive regs the state fish and game kept adding but were not able to enforce because Kalifornistan will not fund nearly enough for enforcement of their endless regs. We have the smallest budget for enforcement of any state based on number of fishing and hunting licenses issued. It’s a pathetic situation and I’m glad I’m not part of it any longer.

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