- Cascade Fishing Adventures
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There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to early season sturgeon fishing. Being patient is the key. There are a variety of factors that can change from one year to the next, but one factor you can count on is cold water. A fish’s metabolism is directly affected by water temperature. Cold water means fish (particularly sturgeon) can be a bit slow and sluggish compared to the same fish in warmer water. Cold water fish are generally quick and easy to release. On the other hand, water that is too warm can also be a detriment to the fish – releasing any fish in warm water can take considerably longer to allow the fish to recuperate and swim off on its own accord.
Generally, after a normal winter of colder water temperatures, you will find the fish still “holed up” in the deeper water and as the temperatures rise, the sturgeon will start to move out from the deeper water. Finding some deeper areas that you know hold sturgeon over the winter is a good place to start looking for early season fish. You can fan out from there onto flats and shallower water adjacent to these deeper water areas. Don’t ignore water that is less than 15 feet deep!
From my experience, I tend to see a big difference in fishing from 5 degree Celcius water in April, and 5 degree Celcius water in November. In April the temperature is rising from a long cold season of inactivity. While it never really gets too cold here in the valley, the Fraser originates in central British Columbia and passes through parts of the province that can be very cold. The Fraser is also fed by other interior rivers that supply very cold water. The sturgeon are not very aggressive and are in no rush to jump onto a bait. Alternatively, in November, the water temperature is dropping. The fish will bite recklessly at times in November trying to fatten up for the winter months. At this time of year, be patient and wait the fish out to come to the bait! If I have a fish that is picking away at the bait for several seconds, wind down on him. Reel in the line until you tighten up to the fish and then set the hook. The sturgeon often won’t move far with the bait, and this will significantly reduce the possibility of a deeper hooked fish.
Bait size doesn’t seem to matter too much – we’ve had luck with small baits and medium sized baits (⅓ of a lamprey for instance), but we don’t use many large baits like we would in the summer. We don’t change our hooks or downsize. We still use the same size hook as always and still prefer a j-hook style. If the fish were so smart that we need to hide the hook, nobody would be catching fish. Period. Fish are fish, not wizards. Circle hooks are great when the fish are grabbing the bait and they reduce deep hooked fish, but I find that fish caught on barbless j-hooks are easier and quicker to release.
Choice of bait is pretty wide open in the early season, until the Fraser’s eulachon run hits the area you are fishing in. Those nice eulies you had in the freezer are pretty much second rate when the Real McCoy show up. It doesn’t mean your frozen eulachons won’t work but you will notice your catch rate decline somewhat when the Fraser river’s fresh eulachons show up in large numbers. The days of having fresh Fraser river eulachons are long over (for now), so we’re all in the same boat. With any luck, the eulachon run will rebound and we can enjoy catching a few for the smoker to eat (delicious!) and have a few for bait. Lamprey eel and roe will work well in the early season, and are worth putting out there when the eulachons are running. It does offer something different to the sturgeon. The peak of the eulachon run near the Sumas confluence is the last week of April. In the lower river near Vancouver, the peak will have already rolled on through by that time. Bait will be everywhere, and the fishing can become a bit spotty. Be patient!
The tidal effect on the river plays a role, and a favourite tide is the high tide. Depending on river volume, and the size of the tide, the delay can vary from an hour to nearly three hours when it reaches the Sumas confluence. During the summer the Fraser is generally running near its maximum levels and subsequently you won’t notice much of a tidal influence. In the early season (and in the fall), you will notice an obvious tidal effect – the river will rise with the incoming high tide and you will notice the water speeds will slow down. This is a good time to get out into the middle of the channels with the slower water conditions. The fish seem to respond favourably to the effects of the high tide, and will bite. At times they may bite on the rise, at times they may bite just after the peak. Be patient!
Early spring weather can be a real handful at times. Be prepared for variable weather conditions, including some strong winds. The spring-time winds blow against the Fraser’s hefty current which churns up some pretty good sized waves that are not “easy-to-ride rollers”. Keep an eye on the weather and have backup plans every time you go.
We are experiencing a really early spring this year. The sturgeon are biting and are providing an enjoyable fishery that many of us have missed during the long dreary winter. Get out there and have fun!
Whether you are looking for a day trip fishing or you want to stay longer, we can arrange everything from your pickup at the airport in a limo, to your hotel accommodation and the best guided fishing tours in the Fraser Valley. Please contact Marc or Maggie on Toll Free: 1-877-887-4366 or use our contact form.