When I set out for Oregon I really didn't know what to expect. I hadn't seen any pictures. I didn't have a clue where I was going to be fishing. All I knew was that I was landing in Portland and that the team from Steel Shad Lures would pick me up at the airport, drive me to our hotel where I would hopefully get a little sleep before we set out very early the next day. That's it. I had heard that we were going to be fishing for salmon and smallmouth, both of which happen to be my two favorite flavors. I did not know that the sturgeon was even an option. Where I live (Upstate NY) it's against the law to target Sturgeon, and even if we happen to hook one by mistake we aren't allowed to photograph it (IMO, one of the most dilusional laws ever created).
The first few days I spent a lot of time looking around just in awe of where we were. I've been all over the world, and I can think of only two other places that are in the same category of beautiful as the Columbia River is. The way it curves and bends through the Cascade Mountains is truly amazing. It's really no wonder that they named the bridge there "The Bridge of the Gods" at the Cascade Locks. I'll admit that the fishing was slow. A trade off I suppose for having 4 days of beautiful sunshine in Oregon during October. I'm a bit spoiled, and I've gotten used to going places when the fishing is on fire, so having to grind for hours to get one fish was a bit out of the norm for me; but probably a much needed reality check.
My third day we were fishing for salmon in the Columbia River and the tide was not right. Consequently the fishing was painfully slow. We did manage a really nice King. But after many hours giving chase we heard Ed Chin (our guide and owner of AAA Excursions) say from the back of the boat "You guys wanna go catch a Sturgeon?".
That got my attention real quick.
"Yeah, I do. But how difficult is that going to be?" I asked.
"Oh it won't be hard at all we'll definitely hook one."
I'll admit that I was a little skeptical ONLY because in my experience it is NEVER that easy. But we packed up, made a short run, switched out our gear, and within about 30 minutes we were bottom bouncing giant bait. After about 30 minutes I was reeling in my first giant White Sturgeon. I fought the fish for approximately 20 minutes, brought it to the side of the boat, but as we were about to land it the fish rolled and broke the line on the razor sharp gill plates.
I was devestated.
"No problem. We'll get another one!" said Ed.
Now if you thought I was skeptical before, you can multiply that by about a thousand by now. But Ed was certain we would hook another big sturgeon. And he was right. About 45 minutes later I was leaning on another, even bigger white sturgeon. This time we got the fish in the boat, and I was able to hold a sturgeon for the first time. I'm not sure if I can truly describe how amazing it was to hold that fish.
The raw power that they have is incredible. To see them, and hold them, is without a doubt one of the greatest experiences of my life. Had I known that, I would have taken this trip years ago. If you like to fish, you need to go Oregon and take a trip with Ed Chin and catch a sturgeon. Not only is the background breathtaking, but you'll get to hold the fish of a lifetime.
I am eternally grateful to Steel Shad and Ed for taking me on that voyage. We filmed the entire thing. So stay tuned for that!
Mt. St. Helens as seen from the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon.