White Sturgeon Fishing

November 18, 2007

This time our guide tooks us to Mission. This is the part of the Fraser River where you may need two different kinds of fishing licenses, freshwater if you go east of the bridge, and saltwater if you go west.

The Mission Railway Bridge opened in 1891 and all rail traffic between Vancouver and the United States was routed through Mission until the New Westminster Bridge at New Westminster was built in 1904.

Mission Railway Bridge

We had some interesting sights that we never had the chance to see while we drive, for example this abandoned BC Ferry that is used in movie sets.

Abandoned BC Ferry

The White Sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America and can weigh more than 1500 pounds (680 kgs), grow to 15 feet (4.57 meters) and live well over 100 years.

A happy Eric

Have a look on the enlarged picture, what the sturgeon has outside its mouth are its barbels, this, together with its taste buds (also outside his mouth) allows him to see if a possible food source is edible before sucking it up into its mouth.

A happy Dick

On our way we saw how wood related industries play an important rol on the local economy. There is an emphasis on red cedar shake and shingle mills. Mission also holds the only municipal tree farm license in British Columbia.

The rail bridge at Mission doubled duty as a one-way alternating vehicular bridge until 1973, when a long-promised new Mission Bridge was finally completed. The bridge's location is geographically important at the head of the tidal bore on the Fraser River, and its water gauge is an important measure of the Fraser's annual and sometimes dangerously large spring freshet.

Mission Bridge

We stopped on a slow-moving part of the river. The first thing I saw was the Cheam Range. This range is customarily known by long-time residents on the Central and Upper Fraser Valley as the "Four Sisters" because only four of its peaks are readily visible from the west. In this case the peaks from left to right are Cheam, Lady, Knight and Baby Munday

Looking north, on the top of the hill I saw Westminster Abbey, a community of Benedictine monks established in 1939 from the Abbey of Mount Angel, Oregon. The Abbey is home to the Seminary of Christ the King.

Four sisters (Top)- Westminster Abbey (Bottom)

The white sturgeon lives on the bottom of slow-moving rivers, bays, and estuarine areas, including the brackish water at the mouths of large rivers. Other sturgeon will spend most of its time in a marine environment, only coming into rivers to spawn. They are well-adapted to finding food drifting by with their excellent sense of smell and taste. When there is an insufficient food supply, sturgeon have been known to move into shallow water to eat freshwater clams.

During the spawning season, the white sturgeon moves to clean, fast-moving areas of rivers, such as just below rapids, with gravel or larger rocks along the bottom. 

Together with the Fraser River, the Columbia River hosts a large population of White Sturgeon. As a matter of fact, tagged White Surgeon from the Fraser River has been found on the lower section of the Columbia River.

I said lower because the dams constructed along the Columbia and Snake Rivers has become a threat to sturgeon, the dams block passage to and from the ocean leaving landlocked populations, all of this in the name of progress.

The final gift for the day, a rarely seen sunset from the Fraser River.

Fraser River

One of the most unique aspects of the sturgeon is the respect it inspires in the anglers who have had the opportunity to catch one of these special creatures. You just can't help but appreciate his fighting ability and his toughness to survive, when all others from his dinosaur era have long since disappeared.

If you come to the river, please respect the animal and follow the instructions of your guide. Future generations will thank you.

To contact Brian McKinlay (Silversides Fishing Adventures) visit his website at http://www.silversidesfishing.ca/

Driving distance from Vancouver: 88 kilometers / 55 miles (1.25 hours)