This is the picture of what is believed to be the biggest freshwater fish ever caught on rod and line, measuring in at over 12ft long and estimated to have weighed over 1,100lb.
The odds of landing the prehistoric great white sturgeon - estimated to be between 120 and 140 years-old - were certainly stacked against 65-year-old Michael Snell when he and his wife’s trip to Canada’s mighty Fraser River in British Columbia coincided with some of the toughest angling conditions of recent years.
With the river running at levels some 50ft higher than normal in places and tanking through at an astonishing rate of 33 metres per second, the Salisbury, Wilts-based angler had to call on all his reserves of energy to beat the huge fish during a 90-minute fight.
As soon as the sturgeon, which boasted a girth of 53ins, powered off downriver Michael was strapped into a full body harness by Dean Werk, owner of guiding service Great River Fishing Adventure. At times, he even had both of his wife Margaret’s arms clasped around his waist to enable him to stay in control of his quarry, as it meandered its way through the maze of sunken trees and rocks ‘the size of a family car’.
“It all seemed to happen so quickly. One minute I was being strapped into a harness and the next I looked down and only had about 75 yards of line left on my reel!” said Michael.
“I’ve caught some big fish in my time, but nothing has ever come close to this. When we took the sturgeon to the shore and got a better look, I was taken by the sheer size of its head, which was over three feet wide - I didn’t know freshwater fish grew that big!”
Even though there have been fish over 1,000lb reported in the past, Michael’s capture is believed to not only the largest ever landed in North America, but will also go down in history as the world’s biggest freshwater specimen.
Dean Werk, who has been a fishing guide on the Fraser River for over 25 years, said that anglers who hook fish of this size and power normally only have about a two per-cent chance of landing them.
“This is the most incredible and beautiful fish I’ve ever seen and to have it at the side of the boat after just an hour and 30 minutes considering the ultra-tough conditions was just truly mind-blowing,” Dean told Angling Times.
“We’ve had people with us that have been hooked into fish for over four hours and then lost them - the odds are always stacked in the fish’s favour.
“That said, Michael’s battle was no easy ride, because at one point the fish was lodged firmly in a snag, Margaret was hanging onto Michael for dear life and I had the boat on full power against the flow just to keep us in contact with the sturgeon!”
“I’ve caught more of these fish than I care to remember and their beauty never ceases to amaze me, but this was really something else and I feel privileged to have shared the experience with two great ‘brits’.”
Since 1995 Dean and his team at Great River Fishing Adventures have helped to tag more than 47,000 white sturgeon and have scanned in excess of 90,000 tagged fish that have been caught and released.
White sturgeon factfile:
- The largest freshwater fish in North America, White Sturgeon can grow to 1,500lb and measure up to 15 feet in length.
- It’s a slow-growing species that reaches maturity in between 15 and 25 years and can live for as long as 150 years.
- White sturgeon are bottom feeders. When young, they feed on insects and algae, moving on to fish such as trout and salmon as they get older, as well as shellfish, crayfish, clams and shrimp.
Great River Fishing Adventures contacts:
Dean Werk and his hand-picked team of guides boast over 350 years’ experience in the field, and their 20 state-of-the-art boats are kitted out with all of the latest tackle and equipment. For more information about the company and the fishing they have to offer, visit: www.greatriverfishing.com