Spend enough time on the water and you’ll see some cool and crazy stuff. The past 20 years of guiding have certainly provided me with an endless supply of interesting things — and some of my favorites are when we catch something totally unexpected.
Take the above skull for example. When we pulled this out of the river (on Halloween Day no less!), we were freaking out. I mean — what in the holy heck could it be? Well, when I flipped it over, I saw “Made in China” written on the underside. Mystery solved!
We sure had some fun showing it to other drift boats as we floated by them. Then, at the end of the day, I chucked it back into the river for somebody else to find!
I wish I had photographed all the kooky non-target species my customers have caught over the years but sometimes I’m just too busy running the boat, netting fish and untangling lines to grab a camera. Digging through the archives, however, I found a handful of shots of that are pretty fun. Here are some of my favorites…
Why wives don’t believe that we are actually going fishing
While side-drifting for steelhead one winter’s day on the American River, my client caught a black bra. You can only imagine the lively conversation such a catch started!
Being an enterprising young fella at the time, I of course snapped the pic and kept it in a safe place — just in case I needed it for blackmail purposes down the road. :)
All Mixed Up!
In California’s Central Valley, Chinook salmon and striper runs often overlap. It’s not all that uncommon to catch kings on striper offerings like crankbaits, minnows, jigging spoons…and swimbaits like this one:
But oddly enough, it doesn’t happen the other way around quite as often. I typically catch a few stripers on eggs each fall but you’d think they’d be all over a sardine wrapped plug. I mean, what’s not to like? A wobbling plug looks like a fish — and with a wrap — it smells like one too, but I just don’t hook all that many bass that way for some reason…
Sucker for a MagLip
Speaking of salmon plugs, I usually catch more suckers in a season on them than stripers. Weird, huh? I’m still not quite sure what suckerfish are thinking when they attack a big wiggling banana.
Perhaps it’s the scent of sardine that gets them riled up — or, in this case, maybe it’s just proof positive that everything’s a sucker for a MagLip!
My buddy Khevin and I were fishing the Trinity River one afternoon off the bank at a popular drift boat take-out spot. He set the hook on a “weird bite” and came up with this unique salmon species: The Pre-Filleted King.
Foul hooked in the tail, Khevin opted to release the fish despite the fact that it looks like there may have been more meat still on the carcass than the angler who cleaned it went home with!
Boondoggin’ eggs for kings on the Sacramento River one August, I had two clients simultaneously snag this unidentifiable hunk of meat. Before I cut the line (heck no I didn’t touch it!), we took a close look at the thing trying to figure out what the heck the backstory was on it.
Clearly the leg bone had been sawed off, which led to a very macabre conversation about folks like Jimmy Hoffa, Freddy and Jason. I’m sure there was perfectly good explanation for why the hideous chunk of flesh was in the river…but we couldn’t think of it.
Well, you’ve got to admire this little guy’s desire! I remember the client asking me why such a small fish would go after a lure that is about its same size. I told him that down there, in the depths, anything you can swallow is one less thing that can gobble you up!
A better question is what’s a catfish doing going for a FlatFish? Well, cats are much more predatory than a lot of folks give them credit for. Now, I’m not so sure that this little guy was actually going for the plug, however. My guess is that the sardine was what he was after.
Getting Jiggy for Sturgeon
Catching a sturgeon while targeting stripers is not at all newsworthy. On the California Delta, anglers routinely catch both species on baits like sardines, pile worms and shad.
I’ve caught plenty of them on accident while salmon fishing with eggs — and even sardine-wrapped plugs. While spooning for stripers like we were doing on this day, I’ve accidentally foul-hooked a few too. But this little fella is the one and only sturgeon I’ve had on the boat that ate a jigging spoon. I suppose it makes sense because they are known to eat live fish like herring and salmon smolt, but I’d hate to try to make a living catching sturgeon on artificials!