On September 27, 2014 Dennis Moritz and I were sturgeon fishing in my 18 foot Smoker Craft fishing on the St. Clair River. We had entered the first St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon For Tomorrow’s Catch and Release Sturgeon Tournament. A six hour tournament; 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. where the longest sturgeon was award half the entry fees and SFT received the other half for sturgeon preservation.
We motored downriver until I found a spot that looked promising. We had high hopes of catching a monster and around 7 p.m. Dennis hooked the first sturgeon. It jumped a few times and we both guessed it was a little over 40 inches. It ended up being 45 inches and was leading the Tournament. After a few quick photo’s with the special logo and tape measure it was released unharmed to be caught by another lucky angler another day!
An hour later Dennis set the hook again and yelled, “Sturgeon!” Two minutes into the fight, it jumped clear of the water as I was clearing the last rod. I missed it but heard Dennis say, “Whoooaaaa, Oh My!”
I knew it must be big and asked Dennis if he knew how big it was and he excitingly proclaimed, “I think it’s my 100 pounder!”
When we saw it jumped the second time, I was stunned and my jaw dropped. We were whooping and hollering like two kids on Christmas morning. Another couple fishing nearby stopped began watching and sharing our excitement as they watched us battle this prehistoric fish. It was her birthday and he told us that he’d show her a big fish tonight. Little did they know how big this fish was.
After two more jumps the monster finally surfaced and I was in awe, but we had to figure out how are we were going to get that thing in the boat. I grabbed our big net and tried three times to get it in the net but it was just too big! So, I put the net down and grabbed a hold of the giant’s tail and had to use both hands to hang on. Dennis put the rod in the holder and I told him to bear hug it and lift with all his might. I yell for Dennis to lift, which he said he was, however the fish didn’t move.
We gently let go and Dennis grabbed the rod as it was still hooked. I tried the net again I heard from our spectators in the boat watching, “I think you need a bigger boat!”
The net didn’t work so the plan was I would grab the tail with both hands and lift, hand the tail off to Dennis and I grab around his head. We got it half way in and Dennis drop the tail and grab next to me and slowly the beast made its way into the boat and was on the floor and the high fives and whooping and hollering started to echo from Algonac to Port Huron!
After measuring the length at 68 inches and the girth at 32 inches Dennis knew the weight chart so well he yelled, “This is my 100 pounder Don! My dream fish! Thank you so much!”
We quickly got the fish on Dennis’ lap for a few pictures and both grabbed hold of the prehistoric fish and slowly lowered it over the side. We couldn’t hold it upstream with its size and the current and it slipped from our grip! Luckily the spectator boat was still there and said they could help and put their hand in the fish’s mouth and floated it downstream. We were so beat we couldn’t pull the anchor. They I cannot believe the size of the fish. We saw a big splash and they cheered as it swam down back into the depths of the river. They actually thanked us for the experience and we thanked them for the help.
What a fish. We were so beat and exhausted we just sat there taking it all in for a good 10 minutes then I called Jim Felgenauer, the President of St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon For Tomorrow and told him we were done fishing. Jim asked what happened and I told him that we just caught and landed a 68 inch 100 pounder and it kicked our butts. I could hear Jim’s happy chuckle as he congratulated us.
This is what it’s all about…making sure every fisherman has the chance to experience catching a prehistoric fish that is almost as big as you that was almost extinct and now with the help of people like Mike Thomas from the Michigan DNR, James Boase from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Jim Felgenauer who founded St Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon For Tomorrow, all the board members and all the people who buy a membership we can catch these awesome fish right in our own backyard in the St. Clair River.
Oh…and yes Dennis’ fish won the tournament for us but that night and fish will forever be etched in my mind and that’s worth more than
any tournament winning ever in my book.
After the tournament ended at midnight we fished until 5 a.m. and I caught a 57 incher. What a night.
For more information on sturgeon and sturgeon fishing in the St. Clair River check out http://www.stclairsturgeon.org and on Facebook: St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon For Tomorrow. Don McChristian Jr. is a board member and they have a monthly tournament during all open months of sturgeon fishing. See complete details on their Facebook page.