Nick McCabe catches legendary sturgeon

"Pig Nose" caught near Lillooet

It’s the one that didn’t get away.

Local fishing guide Nick McCabe had the thrill of a lifetime when he reeled in a giant white sturgeon in the Fraser River just downstream from Lillooet Tuesday night, Aug. 23.

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McCabe caught a sturgeon named Pig Nose, estimated size 650 pounds, length 10 feet and two inches, with a five-and-a-half foot girth. The fish is estimated to be at least 80 years old.

Pig Nose comes by his name honestly. He damaged his nose approximately 40 years ago. No one knows how the injury occurred but the fish with the distinctive schnozz has been the talk of fishing and sporting goods shops for decades.

McCabe, 19, works as a guide for River Monster Adventures guide, a Lillooet-based fishing company that offers sturgeon fishing tours and trips. This is his first season working as a River Monster guide.

He landed Pig Nose after a long day of fishing.

"We had fished all day pretty hard and struggled to get something to a good size for my group of friends that I had out," explained McCabe.

"The last hole of the day there, we pulled in and it happened right away," he said. "The fish jumped right out of the river and I said, 'Well, that looks like a 10-footer, so strap on, we're going to be into at least a two-hour fight.' And it ended up being two hours, two hours and 15 minutes."

Once Pig Nose had been caught, McCabe, who participates in a voluntary program to monitor the Fraser River’s threatened white sturgeon population, checked the big fish for a tag.

"I was given a tagging kit with microchips, so every fish I catch, I scan completely, and if it's a recapture I take the length and the girth of the fish and record that and if he's not tagged, I insert a microchip into him," he said.

Pig Nose had a tiny microchip the size of a rice grain implanted several years earlier.

"He's been caught not even a handful of times since, and the records show he's growing healthy and every time he gets released he's still in the same area and he's getting bigger and bigger and things are going good for him. So it's good to see a big fish like that doing well," said McCabe.

After measuring and photographing the fish, McCabe released Pig Nose back into the waters of the Fraser.

Fellow guide Jeff Grimolfson said the group followed standard protocols for sturgeon fishing.

“Take some photos, videos, scan the fish with a scanner to see if he’s been tagged, then as soon as it beeps, we know it’s been tagged. Take some measurements, make sure the fish is healthy, then let him go,” he told Global News.

His fishing exploits made McCabe the talk of the town in Lillooet, across Canada and internationally in countries such as Britain (The Daily Mail) and Italy, where the daily newspaper L’Unione Sarda described him as the “l’eroe locale” (local hero). 

2016 is turning out to be a memorable year for the athletic McCabe. Earlier this year, he helped his hockey team, the 100 Mile House Wranglers, win the Cyclone Taylor Cup as B.C.’s Junior B hockey champions and then the Keystone Cup as Western Canadian Junior B champions.

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