The little ones are sharp.
This interesting fact is one of many things I learned while fishing for sturgeon on Lake of Woods during Sturgeon Excursion 2010, an annual Hot Spot Outdoors/FishingMinnesota get-together.
Honestly, I spent most of the weekend laughing, thanks to my husband Eric, our companion Tom and a group of hilarious fishermen who were up north for the event. Eric and I referred to one boat with five guys as the “crazy boat.”
And they were indeed crazy. Their joking and wisecracking was a constant patter in the background, and teasing back and forth between their boat and others was commonplace. Every time someone around them would catch a little sturgeon, one of the crazies would yell out, “The little ones are sharp!”
Which is exactly what Eric said to me on the first day of fishing when I caught my very first sturgeon. It was about the size of my shoe.
The first day, Friday, was really windy. The three of us were in Tom’s boat, which was getting tossed around a bit. The wind itself didn’t bother Eric and I overly much. After all, we’re from southwest Minnesota, the land of eternal wind. But it was a bit chilly.
Because the boats were bobbing up and down so much, it was hard to feel when you had a bite. For a really big fish, sturgeon hit pretty softly. You’ve got a weight holding down a massive blob of night crawlers and minnows, and the weight drags on the bottom when the boat moves. You feel that almost constantly, and then there is a gentle tap-tap on the line that is almost tentative. That is the “hello” of a sturgeon.
I probably missed the first few (I know I got my bait stolen a few times, the little buggers) as I got used to the feel of holding a huge fishing pole, the dragging weight on the end and a much larger reel than I was used to. The guys had all told me tales of the major fight I was in for if I hooked into a big sturgeon, so I was a bit nervous. Eric and Tom had been going on and on about how excited they were about watching me land a lunker. Oh geez. Pressure.
I knew exactly what I was in for. Because I was fishing with boys. And when a girl catches a fish, every boy in the vicinity feels the need to stand as close as possible and holler out instructions. They don’t all yell out the same instructions, which is helpful, because then the girl gets to pick and choose the ones she wants to follow, then later, if the fish gets away, blame it on the fact that everyone was yelling too much.
My first sturgeon, like I said, was about the size of my shoe. Not exactly the 60 inch lunker Eric was hoping to catch on video tape. I didn’t even tell them when I had it on in an attempt to avoid the whole yelling thing. In fact, I believe my comment when it was right up to the boat was, “um…guys?”
Eric wrangled it into the boat and immediately warned me of the potential for injury. Remember, the little ones are sharp.
I ended up catching a few more that day — another shoe size fish, one about 24 or so inches long, and a 40 incher that put up a bit of a fight. When you’re used to hauling crappies out a hole in the ice, a fish that takes off like a bat out of heck is a different experience. The line is feeding out with a “ZZZZZ” sound, you’re trying to pull up and reel on the way down as told but not a lot of up is being accomplished, and advice is flying faster than the stories they’ll tell in the bar later that night.
The 40 incher ended up being the biggest one I caught, but from what everyone said later, it was a tough year for sturgeon this time around. I caught six of them all together, and Eric never once remembered to pick up the video camera and record the event. But he was usually busy wrangling for me, so he is excused.
Over on the crazy boat, our buddy Nick wrangled a huge sturgeon for his friend. It was apparently the size of a small submarine and Nick almost toppled into the water trying to pull it up. But given the amount of beer they drank all weekend, it wasn’t the first time someone almost toppled into the water.
Check back tomorrow. I’ll tell you more tales from the trip, including the floating food, some antics on the crazy boat and the 15 walleye I had to throw back in the lake on Upper Red.
Photo 1: Our boat load, taken by one of the guys on the Crazy Boat. You can see the back of head!
Photo 2: My very first sturgeon…what a lunker, eh?
Photo 3: My big fish. Big for me, a tiny guy by anyone else’s standards.
Photo 4: Our buddy Tom and a 49.5 inch fish. Notice it is not 50 inches, just 49.5.
Photo 5: The Crazy Boat, which was basically live entertainment while waiting for fish to bite.