This past week I was presented with an opportunity I could not turn down: pursuing prehistoric sturgeon species from the kayak in Canadian waters. Fellow AOTW pro staff Joe Tilley, the founder of New Brunswick Kayak Fishing, started fishing for sturgeon in the St. John River chain just a couple years ago and has immediately established himself in the fishing industry.
By perfecting his techniques, developing his own unique bait rigs and immersing himself in the buzz of the local fishing community, Joe has created a guided fishing experience unlike any other available.
With sturgeon stocks being heavily monitored, all of the fisheries in New England are completely closed. That’s why I could not resist the opportunity to make a road-trip north to meet up with Joe, explore Canada for the first time and try my best to land my first dino!
We arrived late Friday night and were greeted by great people and a great meal. Joe explained our game plan for the following day and we geared up for hitting the water. The GoPro's were charged, the rigs were tied and my anxiety was high. 630AM soon arrived and we were on the ferry to our fishing grounds.
This specific stretch of the river, known well for producing quality bite from two different species of sturgeon, is rightly called Sturgeon Alley. Though after hundreds of hours on the water perfecting his craft, our guide has narrowed down this expansive stretch of water to specific sweet spots for good sturgeon bite. Two different species of sturgeon lurk in the depths of these riverbends, of which we were lucky enough to catch both:
My guest Paul from the University of Maine Fishing Club was the first to get on the board. A light twitch at his rod tip lead to a solid hook set, and he was fighting his first
Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum) .
Some time passed, bobbing lightly from the current of the river as we sat anchored on a specific hole Joe considered a hotspot. I felt a couple light taps on my line and initially assumed it was just another tommycod trying to take my bait. I checked my rod and ended up setting into a weight I was not expecting - my first Atlantic Sturgeon! (Acipenser oxyrhynchus oxyrhynchus).
Our fishing continued and we ended the day with a final tally of 5 sturgeon. The trip was capped off by a little fishing and paddling at night under the stars of the Canadian wilderness.
Throughout the day our guide gave us a lot of insight into the art of fishing for sturgeon, but more importantly he provided a lot of information on the status of the fishery, the regulations and the culture.
The Shortnose sturgeon are present in the river chain year-round, while the Atlantic sturgeon are known as anadromous (traveling from salt to freshwater through their life cycle). Joe's PB sturgeon was a 54" shortnose - one he estimated to being over 50+ years old!
I highly recommend you add this experience to your bucket list. Fishing from the kayak for these dinosaurs was incredible. Joe Tilley has this locked down to a science: catch big fish using simple, but specific, methods. He's a great guide, and an even better family man!
Joe's son Rowan Tilley out-fishing all of the big guys from the back of his dad's kayak!