Catching sturgeon on the pole is not something you see every day, but it’s exactly what Jon Arthur was doing last week in Holland! Here he explains exactly why and the gear he used to bank some unique looking creatures.
Last week I was in Holland to cover the European Championship for Drennan Team England as they put on yet another world-class display. It was a brilliant two-day event and I felt privileged to be there. The day before, however, I was doing something altogether different – catching sturgeon on the pole!
I had been in Holland all week staying with my good friend and Drennan consultant Maurice Prijs. He suggested we visit one of his favourite venue’s called Tom’s Creek. This is a brilliant fishery that’s a little different to anything we have back home in England. It is classed as an ‘Adventure Park’ and certainly has much more of a family, theme-park feel. There are several lakes that you can turn up and fish for trout, carp, catfish and, of course, those sturgeon!
My main reason to visit Tom’s Creek was actually to sample the more traditional sport I was used to on their carp lake. It was a red-hot day and fishing with pellets shallow at 13 metres with a 0.2g Crystal Dibber rig I proceeded to catch carp after carp. To my surprise, I also caught lots of F1s. Yes, they now have F1s in Holland! Admittedly, this is probably the only lake in the country with them (so far) but it was great fun nonetheless. All the fish were in great condition, averaged around 1lb 8oz to 2lb and really fought hard. I also had some big carp to over 10lb, all on a banded 4mm or 6mm pellet and pellet feed.
Maurice also caught plenty on a variety of tactics, including the short pole, tight to a central island and down the margins. It was just like fishing an English commercial. The big difference was what was happening around us on the adjacent lakes. Every time I looked up I could see people battling with great big sturgeon on sturdy rod-and-line gear! These fish were clearly not too difficult to catch and it looked like great fun.
Having never caught a sturgeon myself I packed up and told Maurice I was definitely going to catch one of these fish before I left. I quickly barrowed all my tackle to the small lake directly behind Maurice and proceeded to tackle up. Rather than a rod and line, however, I wanted to catch one on my Acolyte Margin Carp pole! I actually made a new rig up from scratch, featuring a 0.4g Drennan Carp 4 float with 0.23mm (8.9lb) Supplex mono direct to a size 12 Margin Carp hook. Strong gear as they were substantial fish – and I really wanted to get one out!
I was advised to fish a single large and smelly bait but decided to try a big bunch of maggots to begin with. I didn’t have to wait long. The float dipped and then sunk just below the surface before it began to snake sideways. Back home and I would have swore it was a tiny perch but I knew they were not in this lake. I was well aware that sturgeon have a very unusual mouth that’s well underneath their body, so I deliberately fished several inches overdepth and waited three or four seconds before walloping the hook home.
Striking upwards positively I was definitely not attached to a little perch. A good metre of 18-20 Red Carp Bungee streamed out of my Margin Kit, a boiling mass erupted in front of me and then a huge shark-like tail whipped clean out of the water. That’s when the fun began!
There are actually four types of sturgeon in the lake and whatever this one was, it was clearly a good ‘un! It powered off and attempted to leap clean out of the water to shed the hook. Thankfully everything held. My top kit was now bent double and the Red Bungee was at its limit. There was a reed bed opposite and a bridge to my right that could provide sanctuary so I had no option than to pull back. I was surprised nothing broke as I held on for dear life.
Finally, I felt I was making ground and could start to use my Side Pull System to gain some elastic. Several more surging runs followed but I was starting to feel more and more in control. As the fish got within netting range I suddenly realised another predicament. How on earth was I going to net it? These sturgeon are really long, shark-like fish and my largest 20in Speedex landing net looked a bit inadequate! I later found out that they don’t actually net the bigger fish at this place. Instead, they play them to the side and hoist them out by the tail. I really didn’t fancy my chances of grabbing this sturgeon’s tail, so the landing net would have to do!
Getting the sturgeon over the landing net was actually not much trouble. Getting it actually in the net was a bit trickier. After two fumbled attempts I had finally got it in; well two-thirds of it at least. I was still shaking with excitement before I realised my next predicament. How on earth do you unhook these weird-mouthed creatures? Eventually, I managed it, had a really quick pose with my prize before slipping it back.
Surely all that commotion had wrecked the swim. Nope! I foul-hooked another within seconds of dropping another hook bait in. I then caught two more on meat within about 10 minutes. Thankfully these were a little bit smaller and more manageable. That was all I had time for. Just 40 or so minutes of action and a new fishing experience ticked off.
As I packed up, Maurice decided he wanted one too and used his normal carp tackle to bag one. Again it didn’t take long to hook one. However, it took him a whole lot longer to get this one in. It never gave up and, when it finally looked like it was ready, Maurice decided he was going to tail-grab it like the experts do. Well, he was certainly no expert at this but he somehow managed to get the fish out. It was a bit bigger than mine and a different variety too.
It turns out that these fish are extremely hardy – and perhaps a little stupid – as it’s not uncommon to catch the exact same fish several times in one day! They are also closely related to sharks and as they don’t have any mucus on their body they are much less susceptible to disease. It was a bit of a novelty session but I can thoroughly see why they are so popular to catch in Holland. I wonder if sturgeon-only lakes like this will ever catch on in England? They certainly pull a bit and are great fun on the pole!