August 02, 2012
So what does a Park Ranger do on his day off? Fish a stretch of the river he seldom sees of course!
On a very hot afternoon at the end of July, a friend and I set off from the Highway 70 Landing for a day of smallmouth bass fly fishing and camaraderie. The day was beautiful but fishless until I got a strike on a top water popper in rocky rapids about halfway through our float. We stopped and fished the rapids hard, but with no further luck. Disappointed, we got back in our canoe and headed on downriver, my friend Joe paddling in the bow and myself in the stern. Conversation lagged as we were caught up in the steady pace of casting and retrieving our lines.
Floating lazily through shallow water, I was startled when Joe begun bellowing a steady stream of surprise and bewilderment. Turning towards the bow, I was amazed to see him grasping a giant fish which had somehow appeared on his chest. Flailing away, he proceeded to throw this brute backward where it first glanced off of the side of the canoe before landing motionless before me: white belly up lay a sturgeon somewhere near four foot long!
Before I could react, the primordial monster flipped into the air, arched back into the river and was gone.
The entire event lasted only a few seconds, and we were momentarily stunned and speechless. Joe, who was eloquently muttering words of distress, was left with a soaking wet shirt and a knee bruised from the force of the fish hitting him. It is not known why sturgeon exhibit the behavior of jumping out water, and neither of us had ever experienced anything like this. While we had seen them jump in the distance several times, who would have thought they would attack?
Joe, by the way, has said that next time we go fishing on the St. Croix he will paddle in the stern of the canoe.
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Did You Know?
Winged maple leaf mussels were thought to be extinct until some were rediscovered in the St. Croix River in 1987. Today scientists are helping to raise young mussels and re-introducing them into their former range including St. Croix National Scenic Riverway to help prevent future extinction.