A Canadian fishing guide has shared photos of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with an elusive giant freshwater fish. The fishing expert caught the 200-pound (approx. 91-kilogram) beast quite by accident while hunting for largemouth bass.
Coel Forsyth, founder of Tightline Guide Service in Kenora, Ontario, was fishing on Ontario’s Lake of The Woods on May 21, 2020, when his fishing line started to drag. Shortly thereafter, the body of a large fish rose to the surface.
At first, Forsyth wondered whether he had caught a muskie. “I’ve never seen muskies in this lake before but there’s always rumors that they’re there, or a giant pike,” the fishing guide told CBC. “But I kind of got closer and soon realized it wasn’t either.”
“My knees were definitely shaking when I saw this thing,” he added.
The fishing guide told Kenora Online that he had a hard time wrapping his arms around the gigantic fish. “It’s bigger than me, and I’m 6 foot 2 inches, 200 pounds or better,” he explained, adding, “The head on that thing; it was three times the size of mine, and I have a pretty big head.”
He also identified “battle scars” on the lake sturgeon’s body, a freshwater fish that boasts an impressive lifespan.
Lake sturgeon have a typical lifespan of 55 years for males, reports the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Females, like the fish caught by Forsyth, can live up to 150 years of age.
Keen to document his catch, Forsyth, his girlfriend, Emily Enns, and a friendly local pitched in to help heave the huge fish over to the shallows by the shore. Forsyth, whose mother first got him hooked on fishing, proceeded to take photos for posterity before releasing the sturgeon back into deeper water.
A large fish, Forsyth explained, builds up lactic acid when it is fighting, which can be detrimental to the fish’s health and safety. As such, Forsyth was careful to release the sturgeon, a threatened species, “as quickly as possible” after documenting his catch.
Posting photos on the Tightline Guide Service Facebook page the day after his momentous catch, Forsyth shared further details.
“It measured by my account 84 inches [approx. 7 feet] from the tip of the tail to the nose,” he wrote. “I used a boat rope and marked the length of it with a jig as I had nothing long enough to get a bump board measurement, nor did I want to take this fish out of the water.”
“After unhooking, it took about 30 seconds before this big girl kicked off and returned to being one of those elusive once-in-a-lifetime fish you usually only hear stories about,” he added.
The fishing guide’s post garnered thousands of comments from fishing enthusiasts, many of whom thanked Forsyth for respecting the gentle giant’s welfare and releasing her so quickly.
Forsyth later credited his fishing equipment for allowing him a rare glimpse of the giant lake sturgeon.
“There’s realistically no possible way I would have caught it if I hadn’t had the heaviest setup you could have for bass fishing,” Forsyth told CBC. “[I]f I was fishing with any spinning set, there’s zero chance I would ever caught that fish.”
“It’s probably older than my grandparents so it was kind of neat to be able to see it and put my hands on it,” he reflected. “It had some history!”