November 01, 2015

Two sturgeon fisherman were sitting in their boat talking after the battle of their lives. “Wow that was one huge fish!” One said, while holding his hands out as far apart as he could.

His fishing buddy said, “You’re wrong man, it was even bigger; your arms aren’t long enough!”

These two fisherman could well have been Dave Gable and partner Chris Wilt, who captured the $1500 first prize in the first annual North Channel Sturgeon Classic catch and release fishing tournament held September 26-27 in Clay Township. This tournament was organized jointly by the Pearl Beach Lions Club and St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow and featured a catered Captain’s Dinner/Banquet on Friday night during which tournament rules and proper fish handling were explained. Actual fishing was from 6 p.m. Saturday until 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

Sturgeon fishing is unknown to most anglers, but is quickly gaining popularity as an exciting and awesome fishery. The opportunity to catch the biggest fish of your life is just part of the thrill! There’s nothing like feeling a tap…tap…tap on your rod and then setting the hook and feeling a heavy fish head shaking at the end of your line. Then the sight of a 60 inch plus monster torpedoing out of the water and splashing back into the depths to give you one of the best fights of your life!

photo by Chris Wilt.

Most of the fishing for Sturgeon takes place in the North Channel of the St. Clair River and many consider Clay Township to be the “Sturgeon Angling Capitol of Michigan.” This is with all due respect to Onaway which is officially recognized by passage of a house resolution as the “Sturgeon Capitol of Michigan.”

In the St. Clair River has the biggest self-sustaining sturgeon fishery in the state of Michigan that supports the longest hook and line as well as charter fishing season for lake sturgeon. There are more tagged fish reported each year as well as more master angler fish from the St. Clair River than anywhere else in our great state. The harvest season opened July 16 and ran through September. Sturgeon can be also targeted on the St. Clair River during October and November but must be immediately released. Check the DNR website for licensing requirements. The later it is into the season, the better the fishing gets. There is no better time to catch the fish of a lifetime than right now.

The start of the North Channel Sturgeon Classic saw Dave Gable set the bar high when he and Chris Wilt landed a 70 7/8 inch lake sturgeon with a huge girth. The weight of this fish was well over 100 pounds. Getting these huge fish into the boat really is a team effort. The nineteen other teams entered in the tournament reported an additional 32 fish caught. More fish were caught but not reported because they were too small to place in the money. Anglers reported their catch by texting pictures to the judges throughout the night and hourly reports were given by the judges to reduce excess handling of the fish. Greg Pacholek and Mike Humbert fishing together as “Team Jerry Vranish” fished hard to land a 70 inch and a 70 1/8 inch fish. This team took home both the $750 second and $250 third prizes.

Tournament boundaries were on the North Channel of the St. Clair River from near the south end of Algonac to the mouth of the river in Lake St. Clair. Most of this part of the river is bordered by private property so it is mostly a boat fishery. There is a large well maintained DNR launch at the south end of Algonac and another smaller launch at the end of Anchor Bay Drive near the downstream end of the North Channel. This is a very busy waterway during the warm summer months, especially on weekends. During late fall as thoughts turn more toward hunting and the weather cools there will be days you might have the river to yourself. Although a lot of Sturgeon are caught during the night they also do bite during the day. Limited shore fishing is also available on a public fishing pier in Pearl Beach where sturgeon are caught regularly. Bring sure to dress warm during the chilly and windy during late October and November.

If you have some salmon, muskie or catfish rods spooled with heavy line you should be able to land a lake sturgeon. Heavy sinkers are required in deep water with heavy current. Night crawlers, spot tail minnows, golden shiners or cut bait are fished on bottom using a slip sinker rig. A large net will be needed. If you are not familiar with how to properly handle large fish a link can be found on the St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow website Please do not forget that some of the most amazing fall trophies do not have antlers and they swim in the depths of the St. Clair River.

For more information on future North Channel Sturgeon Classic Tournaments visit our website and follow us on Facebook The 2016 North Channel Sturgeon Classic Tournament is already in the planning stages and registration will start in the early summer of 2016.