From my perch near the cabin I saw it all. Rod No. 6, John Adams’s rod, wiggled a little, stopped moving and then wiggled a bit more. A beat later the tip pulled down hard and stayed down pumping and surging….
Captain Mullins was standing right next to rod No. 6 but he was focused on a tangled leader and didn’t see the bite. John saw it.
“Hayden, something is going on with my rod,” John said calmly.
Hayden glanced up and you could see his body language go from nonchalance to coiled spring urgency.
Hayden snatched the rod from the holder without raising the tip and drilled the hook home. The fish didn’t move an inch. You could see the rod load against the bulk of the unseen sturgeon below. Fish On!
Now John was at his side and Hayden deftly pushed the rod into John’s grasp. John had never landed a sturgeon before and his face was cloaked in equal parts of joy and concern. I could read his mind… “Awesome I’m hooked up with a sturgeon. Please don’t let it get away before I at least get to see it…”
We’ll get back to John’s post lunchtime hookup in a little while. The trip I’m describing took place on October, Friday the 13th . I’d met John walking the dock in the Pittsburg Marina well before dawn on the 13th.
“Hey man, I’m looking for Dragon Sportfishing’s big white yacht,” I told him. “Do you know where that boat is birthed?”
I’m on the Dragon too. Hayden’s boat isn’t in the marina yet. He told me he’d pick us up right by the fuel dock,” he replied.
The plan was for us and five other anglers to meet Hayden, his wife Stacy and Kyle, the Dragon’s deckhand at 5:45. John and I were a good 15 minutes early so we chatted until the Dragon pulled into the marina.
I knew Hayden’s boat was big, but when it slid past the marina’s outer wall it presented an imposing sight. It was a full blown 60 foot yacht and white as an iceberg, with a massive tuna tower that looked to be a full two stories high.
I could see Hayden high in the tower, working the controls, delicately maneuvering the huge boat up against the dock with the precision of a surgeon.
Minutes later with all the anglers and gear aboard we were off. The hunt for Suisun Bay sturgeon was underway. Hayden took us to the money spot where the mouth of Broad Slough meets the Sacramento River and the anchor was dropped.
“I saw some pretty good sonar marks. Hopefully the sturgeon will bite,” Hayden commented as he and Kyle rigged six rods with leaders sporting globs of awesome looking salmon roe.
With all the rods casted out and resting in holders everyone chose a rod. Hayden’s rod holders are numbered left to right, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. I didn’t have a rod in the water. None of the anglers that turned out for the trip had landed a keeper sturgeon. I think every angler should experience the thrill of battling a diamond back and I’ve already caught my share, so I figured I’d just stay out of the way, take photos and chat with the anglers and crew.
As impressive as the boat looked from the outside looking in. It’s all the more impressive when you come aboard and do a little exploring. The back deck is spacious and offers an incredible fishing platform. The cabin is amazing complete with white leather couches, beautiful décor and a big flat screen TV that comes right out of a counter with the touch of a button.
The Dragon is hands down the most impressive boat I’ve ever set foot on. If you want to fish in style, the Dragon is the boat for you. It is truly amazing!
While I was profoundly inspired by the Dragon, the sturgeon weren’t impressed. Several fish jumped around us, but none of them sampled our roe adorned hooks.
“Let’s reel them up,” Hayden told us around 9 o’clock. “There are fish here, but I don’t squat and rot. I give the sturgeon a chance to bite. If they prove to be off the bite, I head off in search of fish that want to feed.”
Our next stop was in the famous deep hole just off the Pittsburg Power Plant. Hayden saw a few fish on the sonar screen and they may have been biters, but we never got a chance to find out. There was an incredible volume of weeds pushing in with the incoming tide and our lines were constantly fouled with big gobs of salad.
Kyle and Hayden tried to keep pace with the weeds, reeling up, re-baiting and re-casting, in hopes that they would thin out, but they never did. Frustrated with the weeds, Hayden told everyone one to crank in.
Throughout out the morning I’d been in touch with several other anglers, but the story was pretty much the same with everyone. The bite was slow, the weeds were brutal and hookups were few and far between.
Long story short, we were on the move again. This time we landed in the storied sturgeon waters of the “Big Cut.”It’s the place you go when you absolutely, positively have to catch a sturgeon and this brings us back to John’s hookup that I started to describe at the beginning of this article…
While John hadn’t caught a sturgeon before, he does have a lot of experience fishing in general and he’d spent quite a bit of time landing salmon and lingcod on charter boats this summer.
As a result, when the sturgeon made a surge and wrapped another line, John stayed focused and fought right through the tangle.
By this time, Kyle was stalking the back of the boat with a huge net, as Hayden worked to clear tangle.
When the sturgeon glided to the top off the port corner, Kyle was ready and netted the battler with a wild scoop. Just like that John went from sturgeon virgin to veteran. The fish measured 41 inches to the fork, a solid keeper.
We stayed on the case for another couple hours hoping for more action, but it wasn’t meant to be. The sturgeon gods weren’t smiling on us, although they’d given John an encouraging wink at least.
A day spent on the Dragon is a day spent in luxury. Stacy is a great host and Hayden knows all the intricacies of hooking sturgeon and stripers in Delta waters.
Upcoming Hayden plans to begin offering combination sturgeon and striper adventures and I can’t wait to join him on the water again. On the striper side Hayden has a passion for soaking large live baits and so do I, because that’s how you hook the big boys.
If you’d like to join the Dragon Sportfishing Team on the water this fall, give them a call at (925) 428-1103.