Sturgeon Fishing the Snake River

There once was a time when the Snake river was a free flowing river form source to sea. In the short time that man has been on this earth, we have chopped it into many pieces. Not thinking how it may affect the life cycles of the many native fish who were here long before us, many of the sections between dams became long reservoirs of slow moving water, which is not natural for the reproduction of the White Sturgeon.  Although Salmon and Steelhead get most of the media attention, the White Sturgeon still suffer greatly due to the many obstacles man has created.  Free flowing water is vital for the reproduction and survival of these native fish.  Although these fish have many obstacles to sustain a healthy population, there are certain sections of the river that hold healthy populations of self reproducing White sturgeon. While there may not be the behemoths of yesteryear, there still are giants in the canyons and holes of the mighty Snake River. 
The weather in the Snake River plain has been looking pretty good lately compared to here in Salmon.  So, itching for some spring weather, we packed our bags and headed to the mighty Snake.  We arrived to our camp spot just before dark and got the wall tent set up.  As we cooked dinner over the open fire, sounds of crackling wood and coyotes howling, along with a warm breeze, made for the perfect greeting. After not much fish action that evening, we stoked the fire and settled in for the nights sleep, while thoughts of what tomorrow might bring raced through our minds.
We woke to a red sky and calm cloudy conditions. We wanted to find some water that had not been fished by many other people, so after breakfast we loaded our gear and hiked upstream. After a good fight with some brush, we came to the rivers edge. The water flows were low this trip, which made for seeing where a fish might be laying, easy. We walked along the rivers edge, down to a point where the river slowed and deepened. With fresh cut bait placed on a barbless 6/0 circle hook attached to a 6 oz sinker slider, we lobbed our set up out and felt it sink to the bottom. Not long after placing the rod in one of the many cracks and crevices of the bank, I saw my rod thump down a time or two. Picking up the rod, I felt the heavy weight of something at the other end. One more thump and I raised the rod to set the hook feeling it come tight with a very heavy pull. A few cranks of the huge Penn reel and I was pulling as hard as I thought possible on something that was now slowing and steadily gaining speed, out and down river. The fish ran for a few more seconds, and as the line started to rise to the surface, Benjamin yelled "he is going to jump" and sure enough, not long after, the head and mouth and front pectoral fins raised out of the water. As the huge white bellied fish fell sideways back into the water, Benjamin and I both said "that is a giant". Knowing that the fish could be close to the ten foot range emotions were high to say the least. Once the fish showed us its size and got its fin back in the water it raced down stream with vengeance. The drag came out smoothly for what seemed like an eternity.  With line getting low and the smell of the reel getting hot we knew the only way we would land this giant, would be if we could try to stop it before it reached the rapids below. With both our thumbs on the spool, it finally slowed and seemed to turn towards the bank we were on. I am certain if it had wanted to, it could have ran off the end of the rapid and out of our dreams. Not knowing if it had just decided not to leave the deep hole or wether the pressure we had put on it kept it from leaving, we had it coming back upstream. After a long grueling period of lifting and gaining a few cranks each time, we had the fish close. As we developed a plan as to where we might be able to get the fish to shore, we slowly inched him closer and closer, until we saw the huge shadow raise up near the sunken rocks. It was every bit as big as we thought it was when we saw it jump an hour or so earlier!  By then the sun had come out and Benjamin was ready with the camera, it floated its back half of the body near the surface, for the perfect shot.  A few clicks of the camera and we were able to get the giant turned over and hook removed. As soon as we removed the hook, no time was wasted in saying goodbye, it was on its way to live out its life in the depths of this amazing river.  With drenched muck boots and wool pants, we headed back to camp with high spirits, big smiles, and reliving that moment already.  The weekend on The Snake River, was quickly shaping into one we could never forget.

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