Back in the yak, Willamette sturgeon fishing, 31 January 2021

bass

bass

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Cedar Mill area of Portland, OR
This was only my second fishing trip since Thanksgiving (previous trip was a failure to connect at Merwin). I had not caught a fish in a long time and I felt a little out of place on the water. I had to think about everything I did twice before convincing myself I was remembering what to do. It is a dark place to be out on the water and full of doubt.

I launched at Swan Island boat ramp and immediately started heading out looking for signs of sturgeon on the FF. I had forgotten that around this time of year both the harbor and the river outside the harbor become choked with some kind of bait. I have no idea what it is but there are some kind of small fish from about 25' to 45' everywhere.

A strange thing about this is that if you are in 45' of water they look like they are on the bottom like sturgeon, but they really just seem to like those depths to suspend in regardless of the bottom depth. I tried to peer at the bottom portion of my FF so see if I could see anything that looked at all sturgeon like. I went near the Vigorous but that just looked like nothing but bait. They do have the area near the dry docks blocked off now. There could still be tons of sturgeon next to and under the dry docks but they are not reachable.

I decided that was OK and that I would head out into the main river in search of my quarry. I started near the mouth of the harbor. I was not really marking anything but sometimes they are so tight that it is difficult to see them on the FF. Narrator's voice: "This was not one of those times" :)

I fished that area for about 40 minutes fan-casting a pretty large area but I could not get any love. I had to decide on whether to go upstream or downstream at that point. As I mentioned earlier I was full of doubt and decided to go downstream for no particular reason. I started pedaling my kayak along with my eyes glued to the FF. Even the main river was fairly choked with those mystery bait fish. I eventually saw some marks that might possibly be sturgeon. I anchored up and tossed out my line.

As I sat there it started to sprinkle a little but I kind of like that when I am out sturgeon fishing. It just does not feel like sturgeon fishing unless there is some degree of miserable to the weather. Unfortunately that first spot did not pan out. Neither did the second, or the third or the fourth. I had spent 4 hours without so much as a bite. I was still using my first bait. I had a feeling of despair that I was never going to get a bite, much less catch a fish, ever again.

Had I completely lost my touch? Angered the fishing gods? I was at a loss.

I figured that if I was not going to catch fish at least I was going to get some exercise so I decided to pull up the anchor again and head upstream. I decided that I was not going to stop unless I saw something that I truly believed was sturgeon. If all I did was pedal around all afternoon then so be it. I made my way up past the mouth of the harbor and I noticed that the amount of bait in the water thinned quite a bit. I hoped that was a good sign but as I kept pedaling along. I went past the big medical ship tied up in the main river and kept pedaling.

Up above that ship a little ways I started to mark some bait again (but not an insane amount) and some larger arches on the bottom. I switched my view to include the downview. It became clear as I made my way upstream that I was marking some fish that looked a fair bit bigger than the others. It was easier to see that on the downview since there were still some many arches from the bait that it was hard to distinguish what was going on. On the downview I still saw tons of bait but now I started seeing some bigger dots.

A strange feeling came over me. Was it COVID? No, wait a minute, I recognized this feeling. It was hope. I dropped my anchor and made a first cast. After a short while I had what felt like a good bite but being so wound up from so much failure I tried to hook up too quickly. I cussed myself out, rebaited with a fresh bait and tossed back out.

Once again after a short wait I felt the thunk, thunk, thunk of a sturgeon bite. I patiently waited until I was sure the fish had the bait and then I tightened up my line. My rod bent over and all of a sudden I could hear the angels singing. Every shred of doubt and self-loathing was torn from me by that shaker sturgeon. It put up a nice little fight and I was completely elated when I unhooked it and let it go. I had forgotten how much fun fishing is!!

I went back to my anchor buoy and now the bite was really on. For the next 3 hours I caught a fish on every cast except for one. Nothing big, they were all shakers, but for the most part they were big enough to rip some drag and give me a short tow. With the water temp at 43.6F they did not fight for long but they did pull really hard for the short bit before I could get them off the bottom.

They were still biting like crazy when I left, but I had caught enough to be really happy. It would have been nice to get a 4 footer or an oversized, but I was still just ecstatic with my success. On the way back in I spotted a couple fishing near the Vigorous. They had not had any luck so I told them exactly where I was fishing, gave them the rest and wished them luck. I hope they found them.

I forgot my still camera and did not want to touch my phone with sturgeon hands but I did have my gopro. The video almost seems like it is on a loop because the fish were mostly similar in size but just in case you want to watch me reel in a few here is a link to the youtube video.

 
Fummus

Fummus

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Jan 9, 2021
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36
Hey! đź‘‹ Thanks for posting this. Sounds like a very enjoyable time, and I must admit the idea of hooking into an over sized sturgeon in a tiny little yak...yeah, that could be exhilarating (imagining kayak skipping across the waves like a stone). ;)
 
bass

bass

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Aug 4, 2008
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Location
Cedar Mill area of Portland, OR
Catching oversized is mix of fun and work :) I think my favorite size to catch is right around 4' to 5'. They fight super hard and the fight lasts long enough to be a good workout. A fight that lasts over 1/2 an hour is really only fun to do about once a year.
 
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