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Reeling In A Dinosaur

English tourist catches 12-foot white sturgeon on Fraser River

Reeling In A Dinosaur
Michael Snell, his wife Margaret and Dean Werk pose with a huge white sturgeon. (Courtesy Great River Fishing Adventures)

CHILLIWACK, British Columbia – Michael and Margaret Snell traveled nearly 5,000 miles to fish. They were hooked after catching a five-foot sturgeon on that trip in 2009, so much so they came back this July.

The retired couple from Salisbury, England, reaped a huge reward, reeling in one of the biggest fish caught in North America.

“It is the most excitement I’ve ever had with a fish,” said Snell, 65. “It all happened so quickly.”

The sturgeon was almost as long as the boat, measuring 12 feet, 4 inches and weighing around 1,100 pounds.


“When we picked her head up out of the water,” Snell said, “it was almost three feet wide. I never knew a fish could be that large!”


On June 16, the Snells set out on the Fraser River out of Chilliwack with Dean Werk, owner of Great River Fishing Adventures. About 1:30 p.m., Snell saw his rod tip dip and set the hook. An hour-and-a-half fight ensued.


Click image for photo gallery


Snell did wonderfully on the reel as Werk helped play the fish down the river. A fish this size and strength is difficult to land. Werk estimates an angler has less than a two percent chance of everything going right like it did.

Once the fish tired out and was taken to shore, Werk examined it. He scanned the head and dorsal fin and found it was an untagged white sturgeon.


The group measured it and applied a PITT tag to its left side below the head. It was measured at 12 feet, 4 inches and had a 53-inch girth below the pectoral fins. While impossible to weigh with its planned release, charts indicate it weighed about 1,100 pounds.

Werk said it was a definite fish of a lifetime.

“I’ve been a professional fishing guide on the Fraser for 25 years and I’ve never seen a sturgeon this big,” he said. “We have helped to collectively tag more than 47,000 white sturgeon since 1995, and scanned in excess of 90,000 tagged sturgeon that have been caught and released.


“This tells us this dinosaur fish hasn’t been caught in at least 18 years if ever at all. I’d bet she’s over 100 years old.”

For the Snells, fish enthusiasts who traveled such a great distance for a week of angling, it was a fish story to beat all others. With an iPhone and a mini-cam the group was able to take numerous photos and video of the entire catch and release.

What comes after the catch of a lifetime? The Snells still had two more hours of fishing, and they managed to land two more fish, one over six feet.

About Great River Fishing Adventures

Since 1998, Great River Fishing Adventures have been chasing sturgeon and providing first class adventures to people from around the world all year round. They have a handpicked team of guides who have over 350 years of fishing experience combined. Great River Fishing Adventures provides the opportunity to fish with experts who work hard to also preserve and maintain the great white sturgeon and the surrounding habitat. Their passion for preserving these prehistoric fish has been the foundation of their success and motivation for the past 25 years.

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