Columbia River Sturgeon

It’s been a heck of a summer for cast and crew of the Outdoor Channel original series Scouting for Adventure presented by Coleman! In the span of three weeks, I field produced two shows for the two largest freshwater fish in North America!

Last month, I had the pleasure of documenting two Boy Scouts from Troop 730 in Dallas, TX as they pulled multiple big alligator gar out of the Trinity River. This month we headed west to the Pacific Northwest where we searched the mighty Columbia River for over-sized White Sturgeon with the help of two eager Scouts from Troop 664 in Gresham, OR.

We met Captain Dan Ponciano on the northern bank of the Columbia River Gorge at Beacon Rock State Park (named by Lewis And Clark back in 1805). Hopping into the 24-foot long North River Scout aluminum boat we left Beacon Rock and the dock behind. Propelled by a big Yamaha 250, we bounced through the heavy chop with relative ease. Never having fished the Columbia I thought it was interesting how the current pulls you in one direction while the stiff coastal wind pushes you in the other – both with varying degrees of force.

After a short 20-minute run, Captain Dan delivered us to his “honey hole.” He set the anchor, we drifted into position, and then he broke out the heavy tackle. But it wasn’t until he opened the bait cooler that we began to grasp the whole concept of hooking an “over-sized” fish.

Now hooking a 2-pound fish for bait may seem unusual for a lot of anglers, but when you’re trying to attract the largest freshwater fish in North America you want something big on the menu. And, a 2-5 pound American Shad makes a nice presentation.

Capt. Dan’s method of rigging was sheer genius. Due to regulations, single barbless hooks are required. He chose a Gamakatsu 10-ought hook tied to 200-pound test braided Dacron. Hooking the fish through the top of the head, he proceeded to tie a series of half-hitches down the length of the fish. This keeps the shad partially intact when the big toothless sturgeon begins to munch on its meal. Creative and incredibly effective.

Day 1 - the guys from Troop 664 fished hard catching and releasing seven Shakers (any fish under legal size). No small task considering we were asking them to quickly tackle a new style of fishing. Day 2 - everything came together! In two hours, two huge fish were hooked and released. The first measured 8-feet and over 250 pounds and the second went 10-feet 350 pounds.

When it was all said and done, my first experience fishing the Columbia River was an overwhelming success. Two big brood stock sturgeon were cleanly hooked, caught, and released. Our Scouters were thoroughly whipped, and we had an incredible Columbia River sturgeon show!

That’s my best summer fishing story. What’s yours?

Boot Report: Anytime you’re fishing from a boat sole selection is key - especially in rough water. At some point in your fishing day, your footing is going to get slippery. Any combination of water (fresh or salt), fish slime, blood, and/or bait will put you on the deck in a hurry. For this very reason, I brought back my 8” Briar Oiled boots. The Alpha Wedge sole was the best non-marking boat friendly boot in my garage. Also, the ankle support always proves helpful when you’re hopping around with a camera on your shoulder.

Mike Garner Outdoors
mike garner outdoors

Chippewa has teamed up with Mike Garner, a lifelong sportsman and television personality with a love for everything outdoors, to bring you Mike's journey across the United States in his Chippewa boots.

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