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'The ride of a lifetime': Calgary fishermen catch massive 11-foot sturgeon in B.C. river

Three Calgary fishermen are coming back from their fishing trip to B.C. with some humongous bragging rights.

The trio snagged an 11-foot sturgeon from the Fraser River near Chilliwack while on an expedition led by the company SturgeonHunter Tuesday.

The fish, which was measured at 62 inches, or one-and-a-half metres in girth, is estimated to be 800 pounds in weight and 100 years old.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Tom Kirk said the next day. “This fish came out of the water probably three times about 10, 15 feet in the air. It looked like a shark coming out of the water.”

Kirk’s fellow fisherman Terry Jacobson agreed.

“Like a Great White,” he marveled. “It was pretty incredible.”

Alex Kirk, Tom Kirk and Terry Jacobson pose with the 11-foot sturgeon they caught in the Fraser River near Chilliwack on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Alex Kirk, Tom Kirk and Terry Jacobson pose with the 11-foot sturgeon they caught in the Fraser River near Chilliwack on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Alex Kirk, Tom Kirk and Terry Jacobson pose with the 11-foot sturgeon they caught in the Fraser River near Chilliwack on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

The third member of the group, Alex Kirk, said the hardest part of making the catch was simply keeping up with the massive fish, which took the boat down the river for several kilometres and into a pile of logs before finally relenting.

“It’s like hooking up to a truck and just letting it go,” he said. “Wherever that sturgeon wanted to go, we went and we had to follow it.

“It was just hooking on and holding on for that ride. The ride of a lifetime.”

The sturgeon won’t be travelling back home with its captors, however. After snapping some photos, the group released the fish back to the river.

SturgeonHunter regularly leads catch-and-release expeditions on the Fraser River.

Owner and guide Steve Kaye, who was on the water with the fishermen, has been leading tours since 1998 and says this fish may be one for the record books.

“This is the second longest fish I’ve caught, and it’s the second thickest fish I’ve caught,” he said. “But when you combine those together, this is by far the heaviest fish I’ve caught.”

Even more remarkably, Kaye says another sturgeon was caught a week before that was 10 feet long and 600 pounds.

Kaye said the average sturgeon seen in the river is between six and seven feet long.

Erin Stoddard, a fisheries biologist with B.C.’s Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said a sturgeon of this size is normally found in the area about once a year.

“It’s a bigger fish, no question,” he said. “It’s not quite the record though. I think the biggest one measures 11 feet and four inches, so it’s close.”

Stoddard said the sturgeon population in the lower Fraser River is monitored closely by the province, which tags the fish and checks on them regularly.

The population is starting to take a downturn, though.

“Right now there are about 40,000 sturgeon, which is a downturn from what we had before at about 45,000,” he said. “It stands to reason it will vary a bit, but it’s a bit concerning that it’s going down.”

Stoddard added the 100-year-old fish is actually of breeding age, which when coupled with the current spawning period means more sturgeon could soon emerge in the area.

Tom Kirk said the experience is one he and his fellow fishermen will never forget, meaning they’ll likely be back to try it again.

“Being from out of province, you hear about these fish and they’re one of those bucket-list things,” he said. “But words can’t describe it. Not until you actually touch it.”

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