Do You Have a “Wish Fish?

I’m very fortunate to have a job (with Field & Stream magazine) that allows me to travel to different waters, and catch many species of fish. But, like most anglers, I have a “bucket-list” of fish I’d still like to catch.  I’m not talking about that mythical 20-pound bass, or the 30-inch brown trout (who doesn’t want to catch something that big?)… I’m talking about specific species that has always captured the imagination.  Is there a certain fish that makes you wonder about the fight… or you just want to see up close?  A “life fish” doesn’t have to be a “lunker” by definition (at least not in my mind).  It might be that native, elusive greenback cutthroat trout in the far reaches of the Colorado high country. Then again, it might be a “silver king” tarpon–an amazing, almost prehistoric creature–hooked off the Florida coast.

As for me, the one fish that has always intrigued me is the white sturgeon. Sturgeon are the largest freshwater fish in North America, and some can grow to lengths of 15 feet or more.  Last week, I had a chance to fish the Willamette River in downtown Portland, Oregon, with guide Dan Ponciano and photographer Tim Romano… and I caught the first sturgeon of my life.

I can tell you that even “small” sturgeon pull hard.  This sturgeon was over five feet long, and was plenty tough to handle on a G.Loomis Pelagic trolling rod. Some sturgeon will even jump.  Catching sturgeon is not something you just go out and try.  We found ours in water over 100 feet deep, and we used dead baits (squid, shad, and smelt), with 16-ounce sinkers to drop hook and line all the way to the bottom.  You see the rod twitch a little… make a mighty hook-set, and then hang on and start cranking.  If ever in the Pacific Northwest (the Columbia and Snake Rivers are prime sturgeon territory), it’s worth trying to catch these fish…

…Or anything else that’s on your wish list.  What’s at the top of your angling agenda?

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.