The time finally arrived and we made the long drive up there. Friday night my buddy brett and nate ran to cabelas and picked up a new rod and reel setup spooled with 40lb fluoro, a little light but that's what the guy said to get. Saturday morning we headed to smiths and picked up some salmon steaks for bait and pulled the boat over to the CJ Strike dam where the Cabelas fish guru said there were 500 sturgeon sitting under the spillway. We baited up and tossed out into the current and waited. Caught a few decent smallies and a trout right there but had nary a tug on the sturgeon rod.
With no one having luck that morning we decided to spend the rest of the day on the reservoir fishing for bass. We all caught a decent number of smaller smallies but nothing huge, just a beautiful day on the water. We had an 11 year old kid with us on the boat who caught his first and then second fish ever, so all in all a successful day.
Tired and not very optimistic, I dragged myself out of bed Sunday morning to give the dam one last try. We baited up with the stinky salmon from the previous day, attached the big slider pyramid weight and lobbed the rig out into the middle and waited, catching a few bass to pass the time.
Then the line went slack.
Fish on!!!!!!! Against all odds we had hooked one! I pulled out my camera to take a few pictures of the first moments and just as I clicked the button
The enormous fish surfaced, coming clear out of the water! I turned just in time to see the last bits of him go under but the picture says it all, this fish was BIG!
Fifteen minutes in the first guy is tired of tugging on the fish so it's my turn. I get the 13' rod between my legs and start pumping the rod and cranking the reel in between. Only minutes after I take over the fish decides he's had enough and starts ripping line off the huge reel at an ever increasing pace. Horrified, we watch our line disappear and dwindle till we can see the spool underneath. To the sound of a screaming reel I realize we're only moments away from loosing this fish. So I start running. Running with a 13' rod between my knees an cranking as fast as I can to get back some of our line. After a 100yd dash I end up in front of the camp of some of our fellow fishermen who are watching and laughing at our predicament. The fish jumps again, giving us a good look at what everyone agrees is closer to 10' this time.
The fish stops and sits on the bottom unmovable. We crank on him until our arms and backs are screaming and then we pass it. An hour passes. We crank, he tugs but doesn't move.
An hour and a half goes by and we shake him loose so he jumps again, ooohs and ahhs go up from the crowd we've gathered. We start to make progress slowly, bringing him in inches at a time. The tug of war approaches 2 hours and through the fear of loosing him I start to see that he's getting close to shore and seems to be slowing down. Men run down the shore to prepare for the finale. Wrong.
The fish finds his third wind and jumps again, then starts taking line again, starting the game over again. Another spectacular jump and we're all getting frenzied and exhausted. Two and a half hours have gone by and he's pulled us another hundred yards down the shore, getting dangerously close to the bridge. We realize that our brand new cablelas reel drag is shot, not holding near enough tension for us to tug effectively on the dinosaur. In a risky move, one guy pulls slowly on the rod while another holds the spool in place. He's close now, I can see by the angle of the line he's no more than 40' away from us now. We keep getting back line slowly and as we approach three hours we're getting close, so close.....but it wasn't in the stars for us this time. Just after I traded off the rod the fish starts another screaming run and in our efforts to stop him the line snaps and the three of us simply stand there, defeated.
That was the single most incredible experience of my long fishing career and even though I didn't get to touch him, I still consider this an amazing experience and a triumph. That fish haunts my dreams now.