An English tourist fishing near Chilliwack has reeled in one of the largest sturgeons caught on the Fraser River in recent memory.
Sixty-five-year-old Michael Snell from Salisbury, England, hauled in a 12-foot-four-inch-long white sturgeon on July 16. The fish is estimated to weight around 1,100 pounds.
Snell, along with wife Margaret, were fishing the Fraser with guide Dean Werk, of Great River Fishing Adventures, when they hooked the massive white sturgeon.
Even for a veteran fisherman like Werk, the size of the fish was a shock.
"It really was amazing," he told the Times Friday.
On a video taken from the boat as Snell is reeling in the fish, Werk can be heard estimating the fish's length at eight feet and its weight at several hundred pounds.
But some 90 minutes later, when the fish was brought to shore, the sturgeon turned out to be much bigger, with a 53-inch girth measured below the pectoral fins.
"I've been a professional fishing guide on the Fraser for 25 years and I've never seen a sturgeon this big," Werk said in a press release.
The fish had not been tagged before Monday. After Snell reeled it in, Werk applied a PITT tag, which will mean the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society (FRSCS) will be notified if the fish has been caught again. It will then be able to track the fish's growth and movement
Sarah Schreier, the executive director of the FRSCS, said the largest sturgeon caught in recent years measured 13 feet. But even larger ones might be out there. At the turn of the previous century, Schreier said fishermen caught sturgeon measuring up to 20 feet long and weighing 2,000 pounds.
Werk says he and his clients have probably hooked fish even bigger than the one caught last week. But reeling them in is virtually impossible.
"It's almost unheard of," he said Friday, estimating that fishermen and women lose the fight 98 per cent of the time.
"Michael really bared down on that fish, and he stayed on top of it," said Werk, who has seen anglers battle sturgeon for three to five hours before losing their catch. "It's a miracle . . . it's an Olympic moment."
The fish's size is an indication that it may be more than a century old, according to Werk.
"This tells us this dinosaur fish hasn't been caught in at least 18 years if ever at all. I'd bet she's over 100 years old," he said. "It may have never seen a human being before."
Snell first fished the Fraser in 2009, when he caught a five-foot sturgeon. But he wasn't prepared for the fish he caught Monday.
"It is the most excitement I've ever had with a fish. It all happened so quickly," Snell said in the release. "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."
After a week of fishing, the Snell's were slated to fly back to England last weekend. They will return, and Werk hopes the publicity surrounding the massive fish will bring more tourists like them to the Fraser.
"This is a big thing for Chilliwack and tourism in Chilliwack," he said.
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