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ICYMI: Squamish angler wrangles infamous ‘monster’ sturgeon

‘Pig Nose’ is a fishing legend. 

Joe Eppele and  Nick McCabe were in for quite the surprise when they reeled in a three-metre (10-foot) sturgeon while filming the T.V. show The Edge in the Fraser River.

Squamish's Eppele—host of The Edge on Wild T.V.— and McCabe had a great day fishing the day before; they caught some juvenile fish, getting to microchip one, and some other big two-metre (seven-foot) long fish. So, they decided not to film the second day of their trip and focus on having fun.

That is when they caught the massive sturgeon. 

“We went back into one little fishing hole, and we could see some good fish on the sonar. But we did not see the absolute monster that was underneath,” said Eppele.

McCabe set the line—after Eppele struggled to—and it immediately started “screaming off the reel,” said Eppele.

Neither of them could have predicted how large the fish was, but they knew they were in for a long fight. 

“I'd have to lock my arms, lean back and reel as fast as I could to try and gain enough line back on the reel basically ... It was a constant battle, and my arms were definitely screaming,” said Eppele.

According to Eppele, sturgeons often breach the surface of the water while being reeled in, allowing the fisher to see how big of a catch it is. This time was different. 

The sturgeon didn't come up to the surface. It was not until they saw how far away the tail was from the line that they knew just how big of a catch it was. And it is when McCabe spotted markings indicating it was the famous Pig Nose.

“His eyes lit up. He looked at me, and he said, "That's Pig Nose. We have to play this perfectly,' and everybody's energy changed,” said ​​Eppele. 

Pig Nose is a 317 kg (700 pound) sturgeon estimated to be anywhere from 80 to 100 years old, but could very possibly be as old as 200 years old, said Eppele. McCabe first caught Pig Nose nine years ago, when he first tagged him. It was then the fish got its unique name. 

A nose by any other name

Most B.C. sturgeons travel up and down the bottom of the Fraser River, where rocks tumble into the river from the shoreline. Sturgeons will bump their noses on rocks at the bottom of the river or be bonked by falling rocks. This sometimes results in a bit of a blunt tip of their head from running into bottom rocks or getting hit by those falling. Because of Pig Nose’s age, he has encountered a lot of rocks. And thus, has a very blunt head—just like a pig's snout. 

McCabe has caught Pig Nose a number of times since that first time. Eppele said the fact that Pig Nose has been caught and released so many times goes to show that the fishing protocols are working to keep sturgeons safe. 

“If you were only catching these fish once, and then they were never catching them again, then there might be a concern that it wasn't a sustainable method for gathering this information,” said Eppele. 

According to the Government of Canada, White Sturgeons are the largest freshwater fish in Canada. They are also an at-risk species as their population has declined as a result of over fishing, polluted water, lessened food sources, and dikes and dams. Groups like Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society and other scientists work to monitor and conserve these fish alongside anglers who measure, record, and chart where they catch and release these fish. 

Eppele has been fishing since he was a child but he has never come across a fish like Pig Nose.

Before Pig Nose, the wildest aquatic encounter Eppele has had was when a pod of killer whales approached his boat. He turned off his motor and watched them swim around until they were a safe distance away to restart the engine. 

But Eppele is excited to catch more fish and possibly see Pig Nose once again. For now, people can soon see the catch when it airs on his T.V. show, The Edge.