It’s said a picture’s worth a thousand words. In that case, the wide grins on sunburned faces said all anyone needed to know about the success of Saturday’s 10th annual Winner’s Edge Sturgeon Derby.
Derby organizer Steve Alain said 140 people registered for this year’s event – the biggest number ever. “I’m not exactly sure how we ended up with that many - maybe it was because we didn’t hold it on the holiday weekend,” Alain suggested.
The first prize for the largest fish went to previous winner John McCabe, who landed a six-foot, eight-inch sturgeon just after 10:30 Saturday morning.
Second place went to Eric Zimmerman, who caught a six-foot, seven-inch sturgeon at Fraser Cove.
Third-place was decided by one-eighth of an inch. Shawn McLellan and Jamie Sudlow both caught fish measuring six feet, six inches, but McLellan’s was just that tiny bit longer. Their fish were caught at the Basran and Vannice fishing holes.
Fifth place was won by Bob Sheridan, who landed a six foot, four-inch sturgeon early Saturday morning.
Mary Oldring’s six-foot, two-inch sturgeon was good for a sixth-place finish in the derby. She was the top female fisher in the event.
After the fish had been measured and photographed, the sturgeon were released back into the Fraser River under the catch-and-release program for the giant prehistoric fish, which is an endangered species.
Prizes for the winning catches were handed out at a barbecue held Saturday night at the Reynolds Hotel parking lot. Proceeds from the silent auction and raffle at the barbecue went to the Lillooet Fire Department. At the barbecue, tales were told of the fish that got away, fishing gear lost in the river, and the effort of pulling and reeling, pulling and reeling to land one of the “monster” fish.
Because of the large number of entries in this year’s derby, participants in this year’s event will have an opportunity to pre-register next year between May 1 and May 31. Following that, registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis for the July 27 derby. Alain said July 20 is the cut-off date for all registrations next year.
The smallest catch of the day on Saturday was a 13-inch sturgeon.
Until last week, the largest sturgeon ever caught in the Fraser was 3.4 metres, or 11.154 feet. That fish was landed in 2003.
Last month, a monster white sturgeon weighing an estimated 1,100 pounds and measuring 12 feet, four inches was caught in the Fraser near Chilliwack by British angler Michael Snell, 65, from Salisbury, England. Snell’s sturgeon is believed to be to be the biggest freshwater fish ever caught on rod and reel in North America.