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Prepping & Survival

‘Legendary’ White Sturgeon Could Have Been World-Record Size

It was a rainy morning on March 29 when Capt. Zack Medinas met his party of three anglers for the day. The group decided they’d head out anyway to target white sturgeon in Suisun Bay, California, which lies northeast of San Francisco.    

“It was drizzling, and we talked about not going, but decided you can’t catch ‘em at the dock, so we headed out,” Medinas tells Outdoor Life. “It was a fireman, Corey Linefield, and his two sons, Chase, 16, and Tristan, 14, from Chico, California.”

Medinas says it was the trio’s first time sturgeon fishing, which ended up being a good thing. Otherwise, he explains, they might have gotten too excited when, later that day, they hooked the fish that Medinas has dreamed about since he was a teenager.

The owner of Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures, 55-year-old Medinas has been fishing the San Francisco Bay area for most of his life. Sturgeon are his favorite target, and he’s caught plenty of big ones over 40 years of guiding. But he’s always fantasized about catching a record-sized fish like the 468-pounder that local fishing guide Joey Pallota caught in 1983. Pulled from the coast in Benicia, which lies near the mouth of Suisin Bay, Pallota’s white sturgeon holds both the California state record and the IGFA all-tackle world record for the species.

Pallota killed and weighed the fish at a time when California allowed the harvest of giant white sturgeon. The species is now protected, and the state prohibits the harvest of white sturgeon over 48 inches, which means Pallota’s record is technically unbeatable. But there are still fish of that caliber swimming around — or at least, that’s what Medinas has always believed.

So that morning Medinas ran his 28-foot Farallon to a choice spot in 30 feet of water. They sent down bait sacks loaded with salmon roe but got snubbed all morning. Finally, around mid-day, something took their bait and Chase grabbed the rod.

“Within 30 seconds the sturgeon jumped completely out of the water, and I saw it was a giant of a fish,” Medinas explains. “Usually big sturgeon just slosh at the surface, or stick their head above water. But this massive white jumped completely out of the water twice. It was epic.”

Read Next: The Biggest Fish Ever Caught

Chase battled the brute for 15 minutes as it bore deep and peeled line off the reel. Meanwhile, his brother Tristan recorded a video that Medinas shared to Facebook.

Today’s my Friday and here is the video of our giant as promised.I never thought I’d see one this large in our system….

Posted by Gatecrasher Fishing Adventures – San Francisco Bay Area Charter Fishing on Sunday, April 21, 2024

“[Chase] couldn’t handle it, so he passed the rod to his dad, Corey, who fought it for another 20 minutes,” says Medinas.

Corey finally drew the sturgeon in close, and Medina grabbed hold of the 100-pound leader. He tried to lift the fish for a photo, but it was so heavy that he couldn’t even pick its head up.

“I’m six foot one and can palm a basketball, but it was so heavy I couldn’t even get it high enough to see the fish’s head,” Medinas says. “Corey is bigger than me, and in good shape as a fireman, and he couldn’t lift it. The mouth was large enough that I could have put a cantaloupe inside it.”

Medinas says he’s hesitant to guess what the sturgeon might’ve weighed, but he thinks it was around 10 feet long. Since they never got an accurate measurement of the fish’s length and girth, most of the formulas for estimating weight are unusable.

Read Next: Giant Sturgeon Speared on Lake Winnebago Is One of the Biggest of All Time

According to a chart published by an outfitter in British Columbia, however, the giant white sturgeon they released on March 29 could have weighed more than 500 pounds. This chart shows the average length/weight ratio for white sturgeon and is based off data from the Fraser River White Sturgeon Program, but it’s far from an exact science. A similar chart published by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game puts even the girthiest 10-foot sturgeon closer to 395 pounds.

After unhooking the massive fish, Medinas put a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tracking tag on it. The sturgeon was then released unharmed, as it was far bigger than what California regulations allow for harvest, and the worn-out anglers called it a day and headed in early.

“Corey just wanted to take his boys out for a day of fishing, and they latched onto a legendary fish — [one] I’ve been dreaming about catching my whole life,” Medinas says. “It’s just great to see the genetics of these giant white sturgeon are still here.”

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