Fish wrap: Monster sturgeon tows kayaker across bay
BRENT BARNES of Woodacre says there's nothing quite like hooking a big sturgeon while fishing from a kayak off San Rafael.
A fish weighing more than 100 pounds towed the 38-year-old Presidio firefighter for 90 minutes the other day, cutting a zig-zag pattern along the bay as it zipped along at about 3 knots at times. The sturgeon pulled the kayak from China Camp toward the Pumphouse and back, at one point turning abruptly, just missing a dredge barge stationed offshore.
"I thought about that book, 'The Old Man and the Sea,'" Barnes said of the spectacle, noting his rod was bent to the bay as his kayak trailed the fish . "I didn't think I've ever get it near the boat."
He was almost spooled after hooking up near the duck blinds beyond China Camp. The sturgeon took off, surging toward deeper water in a long, breathtaking run, emptying the reel as line melted away. Barnes' eyes widened as the knot tying the line to the spool popped into view.
After what seemed like an eternity, and with no line to spare, he was able to untether his kayak, chase the fish and gain some ground.
Finally, after a pitched, seesaw battle across the bay, the fish neared the boat, but "as soon as he saw the kayak, he took off again" with a final burst of energy. Minutes later, the big creature was spent. Barnes was able to lasso it and work it partially aboard, draping it over the kayak.
"I never could get it completely out of the water," he said. "It was too big, definitely over 100 pounds, and seven feet" long.
Rob Chew, a buddy fishing in another kayak, snapped a photo and the fish was released.
Barnes said he was not aware that a sturgeon obviously outside the legal 46- to 66-inch slot limit should be released at the side of the boat. The weight of a big fish can damage its internal organs when it's removed from the water.
Marty Gingras, supervising biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, said that while "taking an oversize sturgeon out of the water for a photo is not illegal in and of itself," wardens can issue citations based on the circumstances.
"Current regulations in California require immediate release of oversize and undersized fish and prohibit (their) possession," Gingras noted.
Run into a warden having a bad day who thinks that the sturgeon on deck represents an "unlawful taking of fish," a deputy district attorney with nothing else to do, and a cranky judge, and that photo could cost you $540 in Marin Superior Court.
- Allen and Patrick Leepin of Cotati, members of the Northern California Kayak Anglers, also had luck with sturgeon the other day, hooking four roughly a half mile off China Camp in back-to-back trips. They cranked three fish to their kayaks without having to release an anchor, but one 56-incher towed Patrick more than a half mile before it was decked.