THAT FISH WAS 8 FEET LONG!
By Bob Jamison
Well, it might not be the one in the picture because it would have been illegal to boat it from the cold waters of the Pacific where the Columbia River meets the sea. For us law abiding anglers, the giant fish was properly released after a tremendous dual at the end of a braided line and stainless steel barb less hook. But we whipped him.
The funny thing about it was that my fellow Texan fishing partner on this great trip, the learned Jess Kaps, a Dayton CPA, was fighting the great deamon of the sea to the point of exhaustion for him and the fish. Off the record, I discussed with the guide, Captain Larry Page of Astoria, Oregon, (fishingoregon.com) that just before the great Sturgeon fish gives up, and it has the propensity to belch up huge air bubbles.
In the 49 degree drizzle, Kaps appeared to be tiring a bit. Admittedly, I enjoyed it though it wasn’t my catch. We have heard of guys catching Sturgeon up to eleven feet long and fighting it for hours while passing the rod from one to the other to rest the tiring fisherman. Secretly, I noticed the great fish bubbling up some air. So I asked my friend if he wanted me to ‘spell him’ a while. He quickly consented. I swapped sides of the 25ft boat and quickly brought the l50 pound beauty up to the side while the captain released MY trophy fish.
Now I’m not one to say that my skill in landing such a large fish was one of my attributes. On the other hand, I never failed to mention that it was I that brought the prehistoric giant to the surface to be released. In fact, the fish was so fatigued that it failed to reenact his repeated dive as it often did when Kaps brought him to within sight of the boat. Then the reel and its drag would virtually smoke as it spun off most of the line again and again. All the while I watched with great anticipation.
The Columbia River at its mouth is about three miles wide before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. The fishing depths run from about thirty feet to one hundred feet or more and then sand bars are quite shallow showing up with the tremendous tidal changes of the northwest. Scores of boats await the tidal changes as the fish most often feed on strong tide changes. This is no different than the tidal waters of our own Texas salt water areas.
While waiting for the bottom feeding fish to find our hook baited with a fresh six inch Anchovie fish, we could hardly keep our eyes off the gorgeous shore line of Astoria. Freshly painted houses of high pitched roofs of various colors situated on the sloping mountain side sea resort, reminded us of coastal waters of places like Sweden or Norway. It is the resort home of friendly people who love the sea and the art of fishing.
We were there in the month of July which is the ‘in-between’ seasons of Salmon, Steelhead and the delicious Dungeness crabs. But this is ideal for Sturgeon. And that was our mission. Not only are the Sturgeon great fighters but they exceed that only with their reputation as excellent table fare. Whether they might be boiled, baked, fried or smoked, Sturgeon is one of the finest fish to eat this writer has enjoyed.
Another guide we met and hired was Larry Martin (Martinsbigfish.com) of Astoria. He specialized in Sturgeon fishing this time of year and also takes customers out in the fall for a combination of Salmon and Dungeness crab adventures. Early in the trip, Captain Larry will drop nine great circular crab traps and then proceed to take his party Salmon fishing. Near the end of the day, he will return to retrieve his traps and each customer will be allowed fifteen giant Dungeness crabs each plus his limit of Salmon. The crabs will be steamed until done and cold packed for your return trip home. A typical plastic ‘hard box’ ice chest is recommended for this due to airport baggage handling.
Astoria, Oregon is a comfortable and scenic two hour trip from Portland. Portland is a non stop flight from Houston on Continental airlines. Fall fishing is very good on the Columbia River which runs though Portland. Personally, I prefer the beauty of the drive to Astoria and the ocean connection with the Columbia River. Big game animals are also plentiful.
If history and an abundance of shops for both antiques and memorabilia is your wish (or your wife’s desire), all is available in Astoria. There is hardly an area of this United States that boasts more of importance than the Lewis & Clark expedition that was commissioned by none other that President of the United States Thomas Jefferson.
This is where the famous guide Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian mother of a small child led the group often referred to as the “Undaunted Courage”. They frequently met tribes of unfriendly Indians whose scouts felt little challenge as a woman with a child accompanying them would never be assumed to be war like. The famous discovery of the passage from the east to west to these beautiful shores is history in its finest. Here, the expedition spent two winters. They built Fort Glaskop at the village we found most enjoyable, Astoria, Oregon.