A couple from England came to Chilliwack to fish on the Fraser River and are leaving with the catch of a lifetime.
On July 16, 65-year-old Michael Snell, of Salisbury, England, snagged a 12-foot, four-inch great white sturgeon that weighed approximately 1,100 pounds and is estimated to be over 100 years old in Chilliwack waters while on a guided tour with Great River Fishing Adventures.
The catch was an hour-and-a-half battle that felt “like we were hooked up to a freight train,” down six miles of river with Snell manning the rod and his wife Margaret holding onto his belt for anchorage.
“It is the most excitement I’ve ever had with a fish,” said Snell. “When we picked her head up out of the water, it was almost three-feet wide. I never knew a fish could be that large.”
With a 53-inch girth below the pectoral fins, and a length that spanned the boat, the catch is being boasted as one of the largest sturgeons ever caught in North America.
While Dean Werk, owner of Great River Fishing Adventures and the Snells’ guide, has seen sturgeons in excess of 20-feet long, he’s never before come face to face with one the size of last week’s.
“We knew it was big, we thought maybe eight feet, but until we actually got the fish to shore, we didn’t realize what we had,” said Werk. “The head was almost three-feet wide – we couldn’t get our arms around it.
“To catch and land a fish this big is pretty remarkable.”
Sport anglers have a less than two per cent success rate of hooking and guiding large sturgeons to shore.
Also remarkable is the fact that this sturgeon has gone unnoticed for more than 100 years.
Werk, who partners with the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society in tagging and collecting data on all sturgeons that are caught and released by his clients, discovered this sturgeon was not tagged.
That means, it swam through two world wars, the 1948 floods, the first manned moon landing, the discovery of penicillin, the invention of the Internet, and “it may never have seen a human life until now,” said Werk.
“What an amazing opportunity to touch a prehistoric creature.”
After inserting a tag under the sturgeon’s skin to help collect conservation data for the future, the great fish was released.
And the Snells who caught a five-foot sturgeon the last time they were in Chilliwack three years ago, are going home Saturday with a story for the ages.
“These people came all the way from Salisbury, England and they just had their very own Olympics right here in Chilliwack,” said Werk.
“This was a fish of a lifetime.”