Sturgeon for Soldiers

Having a small internet community isn’t unheard of. Southwest Idaho fishing is a little more than just a small group. It consists of over 6000 members. A group that I help manage on Facebook has grown into a very amazing community. From tips on how to catch fish, fishing reports and fish recipes it is a very productive and helpful group. We have had meet and greats and a few outings so far. For the people who know me, know that I am all about fishing; and so is our group and I say our because we are like a family. The Southwest Idaho Fishing page (or SWIF, for short) was created by a good friend of mine; Eric Cetovick. Like most anglers he is a very nice guy who is willing to help others as much as he can. Also, since my pal Eric is a veteran, and has served multiple tours in Iraq, he had a splendid idea. He wished to help out his fellow soldiers by creating a fund raiser to raise money and awareness for Project Healing Waters. If you do not know what Project Healing Waters is, it is an organization that “is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings.” (projecthealingwaters.org) As soon as he proposed this idea to me I was on board very excited I am a big fan of helping out charities. Eric did all the footwork I was always there to help, if or when he needed it.
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As soon as Eric announced on Facebook that SWIF would be conducting an all-day charity event at the Schwartz pond in Parma, Idaho, we noticed that many people were eager to sign up for such an event. The entry fee was $10 and new sign ups started pouring in! Mr. Schwartz being the nice guy that he is donated the pond for the SWIF group members to use for the day! This means that everyone’s entry fee went straight to fund the Healing Waters! A private pond that is a little over 3 acres was at our disposal and it is full of fish. Trees lined the bank with green grassy areas to sit. It was a fisherman’s delight. However not just any fish were in this pond, the majority of them were sturgeon! The size of the sturgeon ranged from 1 foot long all the way up to an impressive 5 feet! Now if that doesn’t get you excited I am not sure what else will!

Eric and I had planned to meet at the pond early in the morning to set things up for the participants (or it could’ve been the fact we wanted to catch the first fish!) Our arranged meeting time was at 6am on Sunday morning. I was certain I had arrived to the pond first. I had found the pond without any issue, so I turned on the dirt road to come around the pond and park to wait for Eric. Little did I know I had chosen the incorrect road that did not lead to the pond. A little while later, I look down at my phone to see Eric had texted me. The message read, “Where are you?” I immediately recognized that I was not in the right location and became frustrated because I knew I was out in the boonies and not anywhere close to my destination. I drove for several more minutes before finally finding a spot to turn around. To my surprise, I saw three bright halogen lights coming towards me. A spacecraft? No, it was an angry farmer going to reprimand me for being on his/her property. The lights of the ATV blinded me as I slowed to a stop. As I rolled down my window and I am greeted with, “I see you decided to take the scenic route, eh?” It was Mr. Schwartz himself! This was the first time I have ever met the man and he was welcoming and pointed me to the right road to turn off to get to the pond. With a chuckle he started up his quad and rode off into the dark. Now that it was 6:40am 40 minutes past our meeting time I was getting anxious to get out on the water.

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Now in the right area Eric and I both lined up as fast as we could to get out casting on the water. The sun was coming up and the sturgeon where taunting us with big jumps out of the water. The fish were flailing about like large whales in the small pond. The fish were not happy to see us and our fly rods. After some time spent fishing we had no luck. We decided to head toward the truck to get things set up for the day. People started showing up at 9am and stared staking out their spots around the pond. Smiles were wide as participants came to get there special event sticker. I knew it was going to be a productive morning.

Around 9:20 someone was already hooked up on a little sturgeon and brought it in with comforting ease on his massive sturgeon pole. Everything became active from that point on, the fish were very happy to eat worms and cut bait thrown out in the water. At one point there was 3 or 4 people hooked up on fish over 4 feet! I sat on the bank watching the excitement from other anglers catching very large fish.  I was very lucky to be able to help a gentleman out by flipping the sturgeon he had caught on its back for him while he rolled up his pant legs to get in the water for a photo. The fish was rough to the touch like sand paper. I was just as excited as the other guy because I was able to touch a prehistoric beast. It was an amazing experience!  As the man knelt down to hold the fish for release. Mr. Schwartz comes up and yelled “Hey that is old stubby!” I look at one of the fins and low and behold one was a stub! After a quick shot the fish was flipped over and with a quick sway of its tail it was gone.
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As a fly fisherman it was hard for me to think of using bait. Sitting there waiting for a fish to bite. I like being active and casting or even using a lure. Bait come on! Well I wanted to catch my first sturgeon so I barrowed Eric’s cat fish pole and stuck a worm on a casted out into a shaded area of the pond. There I sat, sitting waiting, doing absolutely nothing! The time went by so slow and seemed as though father time put on the brakes. Four minutes had passed since my first cast… my rod thumped in my hand and I set the hook! With a mild splash a little sturgeon surfaced and thrashed. I got the fish close enough for me to try and grab him. Eric asked if I wanted help and I told him that “I want to do it all by myself” As I reached down to grab the fishes tail he shakes out of my hand. Eric busted with laughter to tell me “Brian it’s not a trout you need to flip the fish over.” Heck I didn’t know I figured it was only about a 25 inch fish and figured I could handle it. I was wrong these guys are strong. I got a quick photo with the fish and let him kick out of my hands back into the pond. Well that was enough bait fishing I could stand, plus I had some other obligations I had to attend to that day.
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All in all we had 82 people participate raising a donation of $820 for Project Healing Waters. What an amazing way to spend the day and helping out people who protect our country and freedom. It was a fun experience I and I would love to go out and do it again. I think next time I’ll bring my float tube and put it to the test.

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