Mel, sturgeon and an epic day...

Ken Jones

Staff member
Date: December 2, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: Mel

Subject: Wow, what an epic day. Remember when...

...about 2 years ago I got my first sturgeon? Unclesteve was taking pictures and Red helped me land the fish. After 3 years of trying and trying I finally got my first keeper. I think a lot of you remember that if you were following the board at the time. I couldn't have done it without Reds help and Unclesteve helped capture the moment. forward 2 years and lo and behold.

Red and I hit our spot this morning and we were joined by Unclesteve a little later and we dunked various baits in the cold winds and choppy waters all day. We were about to call it a day and it started getting dark. Red and I wanted to cut out and get something to eat and head over to Keith Fraser's sturgeon seminar. Then Unclesteve gets bit. Whamo, big time sturgy. US played the fish beautifully and he landed a nice 61-incher. WTG! It was his first keeper and this time it was me doing the picture taking after another 3 year effort. I was high fiving and jumping for joy and packing up my stuff 'cuz it was getting dark. I look over my shoulder and Red was still casting out. Ha! It's dark! Let's go Red! Wouldn't you know, as soon as I get my stuff packed up Red gets bit! Now he has a big fish on the line! Next thing you know, I'm landing a 60-incher for Red! Just like he did for me 2 years ago! Wow, 2 reciprocations in one night. WTG! It sure was nice to finally return such a memorable favor!

We went and got a victory dinner and Red and I headed to the seminar. There was a lot of people there and Keith was kind of mad at me for not disclosing where we caught the fish.

Red was kind enough to become part of the sturgeon filleting demonstration by letting the famous Mike "Moose" McNair use his fish for the demonstration. I swear, the guy makes cleaning a sturgy look so easy!

There was also a cooking demonstration done by Mike and the 63-inch fish used for the cooking demonstration was donated yesterday by your's truly. This was the second year in a row that a fish that I caught got used in the show but the night belonged to Unclesteve and Red. WTG guys!

Posted by Raidersfan1

WTG Red and UncleSteve! I remember that hunt for your first keeper Mel... it was crazy but a whole lot of fun and I think that is what kept me so interested in fishing. You made it fun for someone who was just getting started, so I thank you for that, you taught me most of everything I know now. Congrats to Red and US. Mike RaidersFan1

Posted by bcooney

Way to represent at the seminar Two of the three fish on 'display' from PFICers! I had a great time at the event- I am glad Keith is OK-Keith got lightheaded and almost took a header into the audience, I was really worried about him, but apparently he is ok. Good seeing you guys there, and since I joined the Marin Rod and Gun club at the event I can now take a guest out on the Pier there if anyone is interested in the future...

Posted by mel

Some of the tips from the seminar...Probably won't be able to use a lot of them as it was mostly geared towards the boat fishermen. Yeah, I know... even though like Brian said that 2 of the 3 fish were caught from the shore...Anyways, some of the things that I remembered was that he said he uses short leaders, from 12 to 24 inches. You have to remember that he is a San Pablo Bay expert so he mostly fishes the faster currents. He said that the longer leaders flutter in the stronger currents and you don't want that. Also he said he uses a double hook rig, and he recommends that everyone else do the same. Mostly because he can sell double the bait too, (jk), but also because you can mix your baits and have a better presentation. Unclesteve used a self tied double hook rig and stuck both hooks beautifully.

As far as the sturgeon "pump", should you ever get one is that there is no set amount of pumps to wait for before you set your hook home. As long as you set your hook on the pump when your rod is going down while the fish is sucking up the bait you should be able to stick your fish. A lot of the advice was about where to anchor your boat and boater etiquette and stuff like that. What amazed me was he said that he fishes with his drags set at 100%, but he also sits about a foot or 2 away from the rods never taking his eyes off of them.

Posted by red fish

Okay.. tips... I just had to nod my head in agreement with things I already knew to be Gospel. Keith Fraser: "no beads" (meaning beads don't attract sturgeon, but you can use them to separate hooks or whatever). "leaders should be 18-24," the correct size, the size we make 'em" As Mel mentioned, in fast-moving water that Keith primarily fishes, you need heavy weights to hold bottom. With slower moving tides I have used as little as 4 oz on a smaller rod, but more standard is an eight-ounce weight pyramid, or a spider-weight if you really need to hold in one position.

Keith did say two hooks, and that is what I used on Saturday before the seminar (two octopus hooks opposing each other separated by a bead tied with an overhand-loop with a single-clinch on top). Nothing fancy.... but as Mel says, "Use clean rigs." Two hooks side by side give you two chances at putting one or both into some sturgeon lip. I still just put three grass shrimp on each hook or one ghost per hook. Joey Palotta likes a single hook with a short sixty-pound mono leader for his customers but will fish a little differently when he is targeting a monster.

On a pier, you have wait out the right tides. On a boat, Keith said that he will fish an area, and then move deeper when the bite dies: I think he said he moves form 12, 17, to 20' as the water goes lower, he goes deeper. The bite: pumpers, nibblers, suicidal fish. Keith mentioned when you get a pumper, that means that the fish are really hungry and there most likely isn't much around presently for them to eat, so the pumping-rod indicates a very aggressive feeding habit. A pump is an unmistakable bite!

As Mel mentioned as well, Keith says set the hook as soon as you can! Keith advises set and double set, even triple set. It may be seem like little stuff that seems regular, but, it makes a difference. I used a 555 Penn w/25# Berkley Big Game and a Daiwa Sealine-X 11' casting. Okay, big secret. I knew when Steve hooked his fish that sturgeon come in groups (so do halibut). I hooked mine (5) minutes after Steve's came in. Some final notes of the seminar: Keith said these big tides from Friday that will last through Tuesday are very good for sturgeon. Keith shared his thoughts on the current state of the sturgeon fishery in this area and believes there are way more than 10,000 sturgeon out there and that he is in favor of 46"-66" size limit and no punch card for the new year.

He then went on to mention that it would negatively effect the charter boat businesses if a punch card was adopted for the new year as their patrons would have to start off with paying $13 for a one-day fishing permit plus $15 for a sturgeon punch-card before they even began to pay the charter fee.

Posted by: unclesteve

YeLonekZ...Well, I was surprised about my reaction or lack of after hooking up and landing my first legal dino. It's been three years and a lot of money spent on bait and gear, before landing this bad boy. First, I spent a lot of money, time, bait, and gear before landing this keeper. Ohhhh, it's a truly sweet and to have done with some YeLoneKz made it even sweeter. I went through many missed hook sets, hooks popping out, skunks, shakers, popped lines, pier diving dinos, and now I can finally say mission complete. Second, if you fish with Mel he'll tell you how important fishing for bat rays can be for someone trying to land a keeper dino. I've literally spent hours and days fishing for rays. It truly does help you keep your cool and know how to play the fish. The two fish were caught at the bottom of the tide. I was using a sliding sinker with 2 6/0 Gamakatsu hooks and an 18-inch leader with ghost shrimp. 11 ft Daiwa Sealine X and Japanese Daiwa Power Surf reel w/ 65lb Spider Wire.

Posted by stripesidechaser

Wow, how cool is that! Makes my little 8.5# striper from my neighborhood seem pretty small in comparison. One question... how can you use a 12" leader? Isn't the rule for sturgeon that you cannot have more than 1/2 oz within 18" of the leader? As far as the 100% drag usage... that's one of the tips I got from MJonesJr. He puts the drag on and ties the rod to the boat or pier. When a fish hits, it sometimes sets the hook itself.

Posted by mel

The leader thing is only on the East side of the Carquinez Bridge. Funny you should mention that. I tried to throw Red off on Saturday and told him we were using illegal leaders. He said no we weren't and after a little arguing I had to let him off the hook by letting him know we were kidding. Oh yeah, when I said "we", I forgot to mention that JohntheFisherman and a friend of his stopped by to holler at us too. They were yakking in the area but the wind was howling at the time. I had to let red know we were kidding when he threatened to pull out his F&G reg book.

The 100% drag thing sounds like it would work but only if you tend your rod closely. Keith said he sets the hook home a couple of times then backs off the drag once the fish is hooked. I can't fish like that because I don't tend my rods too closely. I usually wait until I hear my bell ringing before I get up. I tried to get Monte to try this technique out but he thinks the sound of the bell is irritating. (but it was probably because he wasn't getting any bites anyways).