It only took 25 minutes for a group of Canadians to catch the Fraser River fish. But when they finally pulled the white sturgeon to the surface, they realized it was one for the record books. The anglers were fishing east of Vancouver, near the town of Chilliwack, when retired National Hockey League great Pete Peeters and his buddy Jake Driedger took turns reeling in the fish. Coincidentally, Peeters lives in Sturgeon County, Alberta. The former goalie played 13 seasons in the NHL for the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, and Washington Capitals.
His catch was an 11-foot-6-inch long white sturgeon (measured from tip to tail fork, as is the standard on the river) with a pectoral girth of 55 inches. Using a length and girth formula to estimate the big fish’s weight, the anglers discovered the sturgeon would likely tip the scales at 890 pounds, or almost half a ton. That would make it a Canadian provincial record for the species, reports the Vancouver Sun.
“I couldn’t fathom how big these fish were,” Peeters told the Sun. “Even when the fish came up, it was hard to believe. It wasn’t slimy like the trout we have out here—it felt like a damp snake.”
White sturgeon are generally protected under British Columbia regulations, but catch-and-release fishing is allowed. By law, no fish that measure more than five feet long are not allowed to be lifted from the water. But the Frazier River was running clear that day, and the anglers could get a great look at the fish while they taped it and posed with it in the water before unhooking and releasing it unharmed. The fork was
Peeters was fishing with Kevin Estrada, the owner of Sturgeon Slayers guide service.
“Very rarely do you see something this big—over 11 feet,” Estrada told the Province. “I’ve been fishing this river since I was 15 years old. We’ve had some spectacular fish, some very memorable fish over the years. But never anything this big. Something this big could take well over 100 years to get to this size. It’s a lifetime moment. It’s hard to put into words.”
The IGFA all-tackle world record for white sturgeon, caught in 1983, weighs only 468 pounds. But since white sturgeon are widely protected today, catching and officially weighing one is unlikely ever to happen again. Some old white sturgeon records for the species date back to the 1800s, with fish that reportedly weighed more than 1,000 pounds. But those are not confirmed sportfishing catches by IGFA. The sturgeon had not yet been tagged, a practice that Sturgeon Slayers participates in as part of the Sturgeon Monitoring and Assessment Tagging Program.
“This is the largest untagged and recorded white sturgeon on rod and reel on the Fraser River and potentially the world (we are verifying this),” Estrada wrote in a Facebook post on August 29. Estrada estimates the sturgeon was at least 100 years old, which he says was confirmed by a provincial biologist. “The reality is we don’t have good aging on Sturgeon so with a fish this big it’s hard to be exact.”