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Anglers try to land a sturgeon in the wild and scenic Hells Canyon

Posted at 2:52 PM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 16:52:34-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Snake River in Hells Canyon offers some of the best fishing in Idaho, this wild and scenic area in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest also features the deepest gorge in North America.

Lurking at the bottom of the river is the largest freshwater fish in North America and anglers come from all over to try and land the white sturgeon.

We happened to be floating through the canyon enjoying a private trip when we came upon Mountain Outfitters and we could tell right away they hooked a monster of a fish.

"Oh my gosh, it is brutal you fight the thing and think you are making progress then it takes off and runs down the river," said Brett Johnson who was on the trip with his family."You have to start all over again."

We watched for about 45-minutes as a group of four anglers took turns fighting with this prehistoric fish, the white sturgeon averages around 400 pounds and is typically six to twelve feet long.

"It's quite spectacular you know it's like hanging onto a horse and slapping it on the butt then trying to hold on," said Peyton Baugh of Mountain River Outfitters out of Riggins. "These fish have an intense amount of strength and power and it is always a pleasure to see them prehistoric fish."

Sturgeon can live up to 100-years-old and they date back millions of years, but anglers are only allowed to catch and release which was implemented by the Idaho Fish and Game in the 1970s because dams and a poorly regulated harvest caused the number of sturgeon in the Snake River to drop significantly.

But that didn't deter from the mood of these anglers that were finally able to tire out the sturgeon and bring it to the boat, Baugh estimated that this particular sturgeon was seven feet long.

"It’s great, it’s just exhilarating," said Johnson. "It is what we have been up here for two days to do, so it has been a blast.”

Mountain River Outfitters offers a number of different recreational opportunities in Hells Canyon as they take people on multi-day rafting adventures, jet boat tours and of course fishing excursions.

It's also the easiest way to experience Hells Canyon because to run a private trip as we did you have to get lucky and draw a permit in the Four Rivers Lottery, the lottery season ends on September 10, but here is a video I made for fun so that my family can remember our journey through this wild and scenic area.