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Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, January 18, 2013
The last few years have been very good years for sturgeon fishermen. Even though the major factor that perks up the sturgeon bite in winter, a big herring spawn, hasn't been a contributor to angling success, many sturgeon fishermen have been doing better than in the past.
There are many parts of the puzzle that have played into this. Certainly, one part has to
do with the fact that rock fishing has been relegated to a summer/fall sport. With the closure of the winter rock fish season, the seasonality of striped bass fishing, and the move of the opening of salmon season from mid-February to April, there is little to fish for in the bay area.
With sturgeon the only real game in town, fishermen have had little choice but to concentrate on these piscatorial beasts. Of course, with more and more practice and time put into sturgeonfishing, the better fishermen get at catching them.
Another factor to consider is the widespread popularity of my Swing Arm Sturgeon rig. For those who are not familiar with the rig, perhaps a brief history is in order.
About six years ago, Captain Don Franklin of the six pack boat Sole Man approached me and asked if there was any way I could devise a rig for sturgeon that would have two hooks that were tied to two separate short leaders. The only leaders at the time were either 1) a leader with a single hook on the end, or 2) a leader with two hooks in a single loop on the end.
Captain Don noticed that while the two hook rig garnered more bites, the single hook rig had a better hook up percentage. The theory was that maybe the second hook hung up on the lip of the sturgeon, keeping the first hook from getting a good grip on the sturgeon's lip.
By having two hooks on two separate short leaders, you would have a rig with the attraction of two baits with the hook up power of single hook rigs. Long story short, the rig Captain Don and I designed worked like none other for sturgeon.
It wasn't long before many of Captain Don's customers wanted rigs of their own. Other
party boat skippers, hearing of Captain Don's success with the new leader, wanted rigs of their own as well. It wasn't long before I started tying and selling hundreds of rigs through a local tackle shop, Hi's Tackle Box.
Customers who bought and used the rig started catching more sturgeon than they have ever caught before. It worked so well that it earned the moniker, "The Sturgeon Death Rig." I thought that was a fun name because, of course, any sturgeon shorter or longer than the slot limit must be returned to the water unharmed, and there is a three fish a year limit.
Last year, due to request for such, my buddy Sharkman650 videoed me tying the sturgeon rig and posted it on youtube.com. Since its initial posting, there hasn't been a week where I didn't get a phone call or email telling me how this rig has increased sturgeon fishing success.
As of the last time I checked, the video had over 160,000 views. Not bad for a video on tying a sturgeon rig! (To view the video, log on to youtube.com and type in "hippo lau" in the search box.)
New sturgeon regulations for next year are to include an alternate measuring method. Sturgeon are now required to be between 40" and 60" measured from the nose to the fork. I suspect that this was changed from 46" to 66" total length because fish that were 66.5" long were getting that last 1/2" trimmed off when it "accidentally" backed into a running propeller. I suspect the fish size will remain the same, just the measuring of them is different.
Another new regulation will be the mandatory purchasing of the previously "no-cost" sturgeon report card. It is proposed to be priced at $7.50, with the same three fish annual limit. We all knew this was coming, right? So this should not come as a surprise.
Also new is the banning of any type of noose, snare, or tail rope for the assistance in landing of fish. This will create some new challenges as to how to safely land fish from some of the bigger boats, but you know how the DFG often writes rules with little regard for practical application.
But the final new regulation will be instituting a "single barbless hook" rule. No longer will it be legal to use more than a single barbless hook for sturgeon fishing. This, of course, rings the death knell for the Sturgeon Death Rig with its two hooks.
Well, it was a good run while it lasted, and although I haven't asked DFG why the single hook rule was instituted, I would like to believe it was because I designed and made a two hook rig so good the government had to ban it. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
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