By Travis Huber, Augustana University, Class of ’18.
The first time I went paddlefish snagging I was about fifteen years old, and it was still the best paddlefish season I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget that first catch, because to this day it’s still the biggest fish I caught in my life.
Getting up early was the first tiring part of the day, but setting the anchor in the rapid current below the dam was the absolute worst. My brother Anthony and I were each holding anchors, dropping them, and waiting, but we had a rough time getting the anchors to catch. While my other brother Jeremy positioned the boat over and over again, it was after lifting the anchors up and down four different times that we finally had the boat set in one place. It wasn’t even fishing hours yet, and I was already drained of energy. I waited a bit to get my energy, and then took my FIRST cast.
I cast down river, and on the second yank I snagged into what felt a brick wall. I couldn’t believe it, I had hooked into what felt like a monster. I immediately knew this was going to be a pretty long, tiring fight. Given that it was only the second yank, my line was at pretty much the farthest distance of the cast, meaning it was DOWNRIVER a long ways, and I was supposed to pull the fish UPRIVER, against the current of the dams. I began reeling, and worked on bringing it in.
After about five minutes of reeling, I was feeling pretty dang tired, but the problem wasn’t really that I wasn’t strong enough to bring it in, it was the fact that the fish was pulling so hard it was digging the string deep into spool of my bait cast reel. The string was trying to feed into the spool where it shouldn’t, so the reel wouldn’t cooperate well while reeling it in. So that made the next ten minutes of reeling an absolute pain.
I finally got the fish to the boat, and upon bringing it in I basically didn’t have the energy to hold it. At first Jeremy held it up, but then after a moment he handed it over to me. I basically had to balance the thing in my arms because after fifteen minutes of fighting that fish I was tired as could be. It weighed almost 45 pounds, and at first we thought it was 45 inches measured out, right at the keeping length, but it turned out to be around 44 inches. That being said, my giant fish I had just caught had to go back into the water because he was in the slot size for paddlefish. It was an extremely exciting catch, but definitely a sad moment to let it go. For the rest of that day I was so tired I barely tried more, but to this day, I’m still looking forward to catching one even bigger.
Travis is blogging for The Outdoor Campus as part of a 20-hour internship in public relations.