Crazy weather on the hunt for dinosaurs, 5 January 2020

bass

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I hit Swan Island (Jurassic Park) in search of sturgeon (dinos) again this past Sunday. It was the last day before break and so even though the weather looked a little dicey I decided to give it a go before heading back to work.

I got to the ramp around 8am or so and chatted with another kayaker. I told him about the schools I had found a few weeks back but that I those schools seemed to have moved out based upon my latest intel.

He said he was heading straight out to the dry docks but I told him that I wanted to search for the lost schools of Jurassic Park. I fish at the dry docks as a last resort (they do produce a lot of biters) but I find it more enjoyable if I can find biters out in the main harbor, or even better, out in the current.

About the time I launched the wind picked up and started gusting hard. I looked at the weather data later and it looks like the gusts were hitting 29mph. That is not a happy place!

The harbor has changed a lot since my last trip. I was marking millions of fish, but they were all suspended a short distance above the bottom and did not look like sturgeon on the sidescan. However, I have been wrong in the past, many times in the past, so I decided to fish the bigger concentrations.

I stopper perhaps a half dozen times as I worked my way out towards the mouth. As far as I could telll, given the fierce and gusty wind, I did not have a bite.

I decided to skip past the dry docks, which already had the other kayaker and another boat fishing them, and try at the edge of the current. Often this is a dynamite spot. It was kind of fun being tucked behind a huge barge, that acted as a windscreen, and casting out into and just watching a churning and malevolent Willamette.

As fun and interesting as that was, it really was not interesting enough for me to overlook the fact that I still was not getting bit. It was around noon and I had spent about 4 hours on the water and I was still fishing with my first, completely unblemished bait.

I should also add that with the blowing gale there were occasional bouts of horizontal rain. It may sound odd but it makes me feel truly alive when I am out in that kind of weather in my kayak.

I hunker down and lean forward and let mother nature have her way with me. The key is not to struggle and just ride it out until she tires and rolls over for a nap :)

I finally caved and headed over to the dry docks. There were a few boats there when I got there so I tied off a long cast away from the boats. On my first cast I caught a small shaker. That may not sound like much to you all, but after not even having a bite for the 7 hours on my previous Hagg trip and being another 4 to 4 and a half hours up to that point on this trip that fish was a godsend! The other miracle was that the rain had subsided and it had actually gotten sunny. In fact things were really looking up!



I remembered to turn my camera back on catch another shaker. I was feeling pretty good but that couldn't last on a day like this.

On the next cast, I was sitting there not paying enough attention to what was going on around me. I was riveted to my rod tip. All of a sudden my line took off, but if felt weird. I looked up and saw that the boat closest to me was hooked up on a good fish. I noticed that every time he pulled that I could feel it.

I felt like a total moron for not paying better attention to what was going on around me. I turned off my camera and I pedaled over close to them and told them I was tangled with them and tried my best to keep slack out of my line but put no tension on it. They were great sports about it and told me not to worry about. They landed the fish without further incident and were able to free my line.

A short time later one of the anglers on the boat opened the windshield and haled me over. He told me that they were on their last casts (they were really killing it) and that I should take their spot when they left. He told me to stay close and fish under the front of their boat (they were casting out the back). I did that and soon thereafter the lifted anchor and went their way.

I slid into their spot and started fishing. At first I was not getting bit while the bassboats around me were hammering them like crazy. Nothing more fun than being the only one catching fish, but nothing compares to the pain of being the only one NOT catching fish.

I took a breath and decided to observe. I noticed that they were doing a great job of casting really close to the docks. I also noticed that their boats moved around a bit I assume that dragged their baits a bit.

I made another cast, close to the dry dock, and once my bait hit bottom I lifted it and dropped it a few times to make sure it had not sunk down into the mud. That made a ton of difference for me. At that point I started catching fish on every cast.

After catching a couple of keeper sized and a couple of shakers I noticed clouds down river and what looked like a fog rolling in. Joke was on me. It was not fog but instead it was a pretty brutal hail storm. THe hail was about pea sized and the wind was howling and gusting. I reeled up, doubled over and waiting as the waves, wind and hail pounded on me.

Once again, when she is in a mood, it is best just to go along with mother nature and let her pretend you are enjoying it. I kept thinking I should leave but I was a little afraid to even try. Waves pounded into the side of my kayak with about a 1 second period. Every 10 seconds one that was big enough to wash over the side. In moments like that I think of the penguins from the Madagascar movies, "just smile and wave boys, just smile and wave".

After the insanity stopped I cast back out and I felt a gentle tap on my bait. I tightened up and it felt like a good fish. It swam towards me as I reeled, then it went straight past me and kept going. I am not even sure if the fish new that it was hooked, I do know that it did not care. I was twisted around like a pretzel as I struggled to unhook myself from the dry dock.

Once free I got myself directly over the fish and lifted for all I was worth. The rod tip did not move an inch, all I did was bend my rod to the breaking point. You know it is a good one when it feels like you are hooked up to something so big and strong that you can't budge it at all.

At that point all you can do is try and fail, try and fail to move the fish. Again and again, the fish would take off and tow me for a while. I would wait for it to stop, get over top of it and fail to budge it.

That fish had some amazing stamina. That went on for about 20 minutes when I finally got that first glimmer of hope. I pulled with all my might and it felt like I move the fish a few inches!

Of course the beastie responded by taking off like a train. However, when I got on top of it I could again move it, maybe this time a couple of feet. This was repeated but each time I could move the fish more before it would take off.

Finally, I hit that part in the fight that just feels amazing. I could tell I had broken its spirit. Now when I lifted I moved it steadily, then bubbles, then it was over. They big fights seem to alway end this way. It goes from impossible to over in a minute or two. My arms ached, my back ached, I was trembling but finally I was victorious.



I got my tape measure out and it looked to be 79". A really nice fat and healthy fish. As I went to release it I turned my camera down so I could film it swimming away. After I get it go I looked at my camera and noticed that it was not on.

What a moron I was. I had turned it off when I crossed lines and had never turned it back on. The best part is how I adjusted the camera angle (the off camera) again and again during the fight. That was kind of par for the course for the day.

By then it was getting late and I was exhausted. I tied back up and just rested a bit before I turned my camera back on and cast back out. I got a keeper and a shaker on camera before I hooked another good fish that broke me off.

I decided that I was done at that point. I was exhausted from fighting the weather and those big strong fish. I slowly pedaled back to the ramp with a smile on my face.

Here is footage of just a few fish:

 

bass

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thanks john
The harbor fishing is really slowing down now. It seems like there is a large group of fish that hangs under the dry docks due to the hot water release but that the rest of the harbor empties out. I am not sure if the fish go out to the Columbia or if the fish may already beginning some early upstream migration for spawning. I need to get in an upstream trip to see if that might be the case. I certainly know that in years past there seemed to be fish upriver all winter long.

What do you think Tony?
 

bass

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Thanks @Gulfstream .

I can tell I am getting older, now it takes my shoulders about 3 or 4 days to stop aching after catching a big one like that. Part of the problem is the 9' salmon rod. That longer rod gives the fish more leverage against me. My 7' Lamiglas big fish rod s the best rod for fighting fish I have ever owned but not quite as sensitive when they are biting softly.
 

Casting Call

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The harbor fishing is really slowing down now. It seems like there is a large group of fish that hangs under the dry docks due to the hot water release but that the rest of the harbor empties out. I am not sure if the fish go out to the Columbia or if the fish may already beginning some early upstream migration for spawning. I need to get in an upstream trip to see if that might be the case. I certainly know that in year s past there seemed to be fish upriver all winter long.

What do you think Tony?
I think that you need a new rod. "Strong fish, strong rod". Back in the day no limit and no size restrictions. it was not unusual to catch 100lb to 200lb plus dinos. I will send pic's and specs. of a rod needed to ease your pain. Will also dig in my shed and send my log records and maps of the dino holes in the Sac. delta. Remember to set the hook 3 times over your head and hold, the big ones will slowly bring your rod into play in front of you without any slack involved. I will never muscle in a dino until I have gotten at least 2 runs with a heavy/moderate drag. The third run is game on. I will also strum the line on the 3rd run to make mr. dino turn in a diff. direction after I feel a good head shake. You asked, I told. Tony p.s. more to come
 
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bass

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Hey Tony, I totally agree. I have a Lamiglas BFC70H that is a dream for fighting big dinos. It is strong and has a nice parabolic bend all the way to the handle. I even had it with me, but when the bite is slow I tend to switch to my salmon rod since it is more sensitive (and pretty strong in its own right). Since I was catching a mix of shaker and keeper sized fish the salmon rod was just fine - until the big girl came along :)

Once they started biting better I should have switched over but I was lazy and tired and cold so instead, I took some extra punishment :)
 

Casting Call

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Cont'd: 7ft is perfect for a vessel (no cast). Parabolic to the handle will make you wait and drain your limbs before you can get any hauling status. A fast taper (short parabolic)to mid part of the rod will help with line control. Mono line has the stretch, snubber effect needed for any quick movements by your finned advisory. I have used 40lb mono on a spinner reel to LAND my PB of 231lb dino. I did lose a 9 footer under the Golden Gate by way of the POTATOE PATCH on the north side, when I went below to get my .32 snub. I waited too long to go below, when I came back on deck I was 20 feet from the rocks, shoot or cut the line. Shoot and tail snare would have been a disaster to my boat "cut the line I did".That's the one I wanted to mount on the wall just behind my couch so that I could touch it every now and then and smile., Been chasing that dream for a long time, but that's another story. Speaking of another story: feeding habits, salt and freshwater of mr. dino. A spinning reel allows the line to lay crosswise in motion and not cut into spooled line. To be Cont"d. Tony
 
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Casting Call

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If anyone is interested U-tube "5 giant sturgeon caught on upper Sacramento River) @ 8:47. Columbia river @9:57. Smelt are a fav. of ocean sturgeon but when the smelt are on the Sandy guess what monsters follow. You are right John a boat trip is in order up the C. My power boat can get us up river. What say you? Tony
 

Casting Call

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I was just told not highjack your thread via pm. So where do go to continue my Delta story? Is there a Sturgeon forum anywhere? Tony
 

bass

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Cont'd: 7ft is perfect for a vessel (no cast). Parabolic to the handle will make you wait and drain your limbs before you can get any hauling status. A fast taper (short parabolic)to mid part of the rod will help with line control. Mono line has the stretch, snubber effect needed for any quick movements by your finned advisory. I have used 40lb mono on a spinner reel to LAND my PB of 231lb dino. I did lose a 9 footer under the Golden Gate by way of the POTATOE PATCH on the north side, when I went below to get my .32 snub. I waited too long to go below, when I came back on deck I was 20 feet from the rocks, shoot or cut the line. Shoot and tail snare would have been a disaster to my boat "cut the line I did".That's the one I wanted to mount on the wall just behind my couch so that I could touch it every now and then and smile., Been chasing that dream for a long time, but that's another story. Speaking of another story: feeding habits, salt and freshwater of mr. dino. A spinning reel allows the line to lay crosswise in motion and not cut into spooled line. To be Cont"d. Tony
I have used a heavy action tiger stik that has the action you describe and it is much worse for fighting a fish out of the kayak. Big fish just beat the crap out of me when I fished with a faster action rod. That Lamiglas is leaps and bounds better for fighting fish from the kayak. My biggest taped out at 8'. According to weight charts that would weigh in right around 276lbs. That fish took around 50 minutes to whip. Maybe a faster action rod is a good tool from a more stable platform but it is not the way to go in a kayak.

I fought a monster in the upper river (Newberg) for 2.5 hours before it broke me off. It came up one time and I would guess it was close to 12' long. Not sure I ever could have controlled it enough to unhook it from the kayak.

@minnowmagnet caught one that was 9 or 9.5' from his yak. That is the biggest I have heard of caught from a kayak (from a reliable source). I forget what the weight charts said for that one but I think it was around 400lbs. Crazy. I think that one took him a few hours to land if I recall correctly (I was not fishing with him that day).
 

Casting Call

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John ur correct, when you hook a monster ALMOST as big as the yak ur fighting a third axis. No wonder ur shoulders need convelesing. Have you ever took a spill/roller under any conditions in the yak. Lost a co-worker on the willy a few years back. He was an very avid and passionate (every week-end) about his sturgeon fishing. I never went fishing with him because I did not care for his seamanship as told by others. I will be starting a thread under "Other species forum" My first topic will be feeding habits of sturgeon. Sounds like I am in good company, minowmagnet and yourself. I would like to see how much of a following of sturgeon peeps are on this forum. Maybe I can learn about Oregon Sturgeon. Maybe we'll tangle lines someday(I mean that in a good way). Tony
 
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bass

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John ur correct, when you hook a monster ALMOST as big as the yak ur fighting a third axis. No wonder ur shoulders need convelesing. Have you ever took a spill/roller under any conditions in the yak. Lost a co-worker on the willy a few years back. He was an very avid and passionate (every week-end) about his sturgeon fishing. I never went fishing with him because I did not care for his seamanship as told by others. I will be starting a thread under "Other species forum" My first topic will be feeding habits of sturgeon. Sounds like I am in good company, minowmagnet and yourself. I would like to see how much of a following of sturgeon peeps are on this forum. Maybe I can learn about Oregon Sturgeon. Maybe we'll tangle lines someday(I mean that in a good way). Tony
I have had a few close calls but I have been fortunate to have remained upright in all my trips. I tend to keep my drag just medium tight for most of the battle and use my thumb to create the extra drag. That has saved more quite a few times on a late, awkward surges. I have also almost flipped myself trying to pull a stuck anchor in fast water. That was completely my fault but that was probably my scariest moment. I let the anchor line get under the kayak and I was holding it on the downstream side of the kayak. The current was doing its best to try and lever me over. I was eventually able to work the rope up the side of the kayak towards the front until the current spun me around but for a few minutes I was really close to flipping myself.

It would definitely be fun to meet up out on the water some day. I will keep my eyes peeled for you upcoming posts.
 
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