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Sturgeon Fishing "After Action Report"

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Sturgeon Fishing – “After Action Report!”


Awrighty… so Sassparilla Kid, Helen Brimstone, and I reported to the dock in Pittsburg at 0545 on a rainy Tuesday morning. We carried backpacks with foul weather gear and food – rations for the day were fresh-made jerky (three types), cheese sticks, nuts, boiled eggs, green bananas, water and coffee.  Plenty to share.  Oh… and lots o’ coffee.


No gear.  We’d been advised to leave personal fishing gear at home – all would be provided.


We joined my niece, Heather, her hubby Scott, and their friend Brian on board the Dragon, a 61’ Hattaras repurposed from “tuna duty.”  A LOT of boat for six fisherfolk! 


We cast off at 0600, and in short order the skipper was on the snoop through Suisun Bay (pronounced “suh·soon”).


Eventually, the skipper saw fish on the sonar and we dropped the hook.  A sea anchor was deployed off the stern to stabilize the craft, and the deck hand set to and got busy.


And this is where the day got kinda strange – well, for me, anyway.  I’ve done a fair amount of fishing, but the only “charter” kind of experience has been off the coast for salmon.  The boats always had bait, rods were available to rent, but we always took our own gear; every fisherperson was responsible for his or her own rod.


The crew – skipper and deck hand – set out nine rods, as three of us had “second rod stamps” with our licenses.  No person had a rod individually assigned.  Rather, a “fish order” had been determined.  If a fish was hooked, the person who was “up” would take the rod and fight – and possibly land the fish.  Of the six of us, Sassparilla Kid was determined to be the lone “Sturgeon Virgin,” so he was up first.


Well… it was a slow fishing day.  VERY slow.  As a buddy’s wise old mom once, said, “the fish are were you find ‘em!”  And we weren’t finding ‘em.  Actually, the skipper was finding them, but they weren’t very cooperative.


Eventually, a fish was hooked – and Sassparilla had his first sturgeon.  They DO fight!  That fish came out of the water a couple of times, did some surface dancing, and made a few runs.  I don’t know how long the Kid and that fish were at it, but it seemed like a looong time.  Ultimately, he prevailed, and had his first ever sturgeon.  And it was a keeper!  In California, sturgeon have to be between 40” and 60” (nose to fork of the tail) to be retained.*  Below forty; turn ‘em loose.  Over sixty; gently let it go.  There are some BIG fish out there!  Oh... the Kid's fish was "in the slot" at 56 inches.

     *There’s currently a movement by the wethers in Sackamenna to outlaw keeping any sturgeon – using the excuse of a “red tide in San Francisco bay.”  At this time, you can keep one a day and a maximum of three a year.  All fish must be logged; retained fish tagged, and the log reported to the state at year-end.


One more fish was hooked Tuesday; Scott fought that booger until he was pretty much done in (Scott, not the fish!) and Heather took over.  As best we could determine, that was at least 75” (over six feet); he was gently released and, even though a mite tuckered out, hurriedly swam off.  Watching both those fish encounters was exciting!  I think it’s fair to say that both the Kid and I have been bitten by the fishing bug.


All in all, an enjoyable outing ~ a good time had by all.  For me, the best part was time spent with family.  Beyond that, just being out on the water was terrific.  The scenery brought back wonderful memories of fishing those same waters with my grandpa back in the 1960’s.  I actually hooked a sturgeon once back then; we were catfishing, and all I could do was watch all the six pound test line spool off my lightweight reel.


Now, a few random thoughts:


A good time, but charters are too expensive for my blood; we need to get our own boats out there. 


The provided gear was adequate, but clunky – we had better reels and rods at home. 


Since I was a kid, my favorite fishing has been done with spinning and fly rods.  Now, this might sound corny, but the concept of a heavy reel mounted on top of a rod seems counter to practicality.  As does left-handed rod handling while cranking the reel with the right.  Cast right handed, switch hands to retrieve… don’t like it.  Just plumb awkward.  Even with my fly rods, I mount the reels for left-hand retrieve.  “You can’t do that!” some wag once told me.  Well, duh!  Of course I can!


Spinning gear may not be heavy enough for sturgeon – but now the search is on to at least find left-handed reels.  And to get our own li’l fishing boats back into service.  May not be adequate for sturgeon, but hey – there’s a bunch o’ stripers out there, and a lot closer to home!


And that’s the summation of Hardpan and Sassparilla Kid’s “day gone fishing.”  ^_^


Scott and the Dragon




Sassparilla and Hardpan




The Kid and his fish


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Great report, HPC.  Ikm glad you had such a good time.


We went for sturgeon a few times in the SF Bay in the 80s-90s (uncle’s boat as well as my dad’s ).  Iirc those were the times when being with the right folks mattered the most.


We rarely got more than 3 fish (if we got any at all).

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You’d catch more if ya left those bananas on the dock!  :D

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Thanks for "taking us along"!

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Sounds like you and yours had a great time. :) Very Cool! B)


I also don’t like using charter boat equipment. I also rig all my poles for left hand retrieve. I prefer spinning gear, but if I have to use bait casting rigs I want it left handed. 

I have never fished for Sturgeon. I was invited by some coworkers when I lived in Sacramento, but for some reason it didn’t happen. 

I’m glad you all had fun. 

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Out of curiosity I looked up CA sturgeon fishing on the DFG website. A wave of depression crept over me as I read…


I had to snap out of it and come back here. 

Bottles, drinks all around on me. Let’s celebrate Hardpan’s fishing trip. :D

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Sounds like fun was had by all!! Nice fish also.


Believe it or not, there is a large population of Sturgeon in the north Gulf of Mexico and the Suwannee River of song fame. Years ago I was with some friends that had a place on the Suwannee and went out in his boat.

He was just putting down the river doing about 10 mph and boats were passing us at much higher speeds. I knew his boat had a large motor on it and was quite fast so I asked him why we were going so slow.

He told me about the Sturgeon in the river, that they jump out of the water and had been known to jump at an inopportune time into speeding boats severely injuring people and killing people on occasion. I though he was full of it...until about 5 minutes later when a 5' - 6' Sturgeon jumped out of the water at chest high level about 3' on the port side.

If that fish would have jumped at the wrong time into a boat doing 40 or 50 mph, would have been time to call in a medivac chopper.

I did a little research on them after the excursion. They are a protected species (considered "threatened") in Florida and you're not allowed to keep them for food or trophy.

I didn't ask about the slow travel on the river again.

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