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This article was published 13/9/2017 (279 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Reeling in a 27-pound sturgeon, VanBi Le knew that he’d found something unique, but didn’t realize just how unique it was.
Until 1996, the species was considered extirpated in the Assiniboine River, meaning there weren’t any of them.
Le caught the fish approximately a half-hour after first dropping his pickerel lure into the waterway off a friend’s private property west of Brandon’s water treatment plant, during the early evening hours on Saturday.
A resident of Brandon for approximately 40 years, he said that it was his first time catching a sturgeon and that he was taken aback by its size.
The friend he was fishing with had to wade into the water in order to help bring it to shore, where they snapped some photos before setting it loose.
This, he said, is the key reason he was keen to come forward with his story.
"It’s a very unique experience and I want people to know that this is not a fish to keep," he said. "It’s very surprising that we have that kind of fish here in the river."
The fact that Le set the fish loose was relieving news to Jeff Long, who serves as manager of fisheries science and fish culture with Sustainable Development Manitoba.
Sturgeon were considered extirpated for decades before the department began stocking fry into the river as part of the province’s hatchery program in 1996.
Although 27 pounds is large for many fish species, Long said that the fish Le caught was only a "sub-adult," and that it can reach as much as 80 pounds once it reaches maturity.
Lake sturgeon typically grow slower than those living in the Assiniboine River, but Long said that they appear to be growing at a faster rate as a result of warm temperatures and the waterway’s wealth of nutrients.
Thus far, the sturgeon stocking effort appears to have been a success, which Long credits not only to his department but also the public at large, with people seeming to follow the fish’s catch and release requirement.
Sturgeon don’t reach sexual maturity until they reach an age of between 16 and 20, meaning the fish that Le caught might not yet have reproduced.
At 27 pounds, it might have been nearing maturation, but Long said, "it’s difficult to say."
As it stands, sturgeon are still considered "under considerable threat" in not only the Assiniboine River but also in many places across Canada, he said, adding that preserving the species for future generations remains a "collective" effort that requires everyone who uses the waterway to play a role.
"They have a great chance of succeeding, and that’s important," he said.
In mid-2015, The Brandon Sun shared the story of friends Sebastion Pulak and Mac Mulligan, who spent 45 minutes wrestling a 51.5-inch lake sturgeon to shore along the Assiniboine River.
Then both 13 years of age, the two anglers estimated the fish to weigh approximately 50 pounds.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB