Chris Funk knew something big lurked in the water hazard at River Bend Golf Course.
The lifelong angler had the snapped line to show for his first brush with the brute.
But the Red Deer oilpatch worker was still amazed by what he saw at the end of his line when he finally hauled the fish to shore as his excited four-year-old son Avry watched in the early afternoon of June 4.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe how big he was. I only thought there was pike in there.
“So I was extremely shocked when I saw it was a sturgeon, and it was five feet long or more,” said Funk, 31. “My biggest fish before this was 22 pounds. So I blew that out of the water.”
He figures the fish must have weighed close to 80 pounds (36 kg), based on his experiences lifting his chocolate Labrador dog Moose — all 39 kg of him — into his truck.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife biologists believe the sturgeon likely wound up stranded in the golf course pond after an earlier flood. The fish are rarely found this far up the Red Deer River but it may have worked its way up when the river was running high.
Funk first snagged the sturgeon about a week and a half before he got the chance to land it. After a half-hour fight, his line broke.
But he was determined to pursue the one that got away and fished the pond as often as he could over the following days when he wasn’t working.
About half an hour into his day on June 4, he hooked the sturgeon again and after a 20-minute battle, managed to get it to shore.
This time, Funk was better prepared for battle. He was armed with a six-and-a-half-foot Ugly Stik rod with 50-pound Spiderwire line. He used a Rapala lure, but the specific version remains his fisherman’s secret.
After landing his catch, Fish and Wildlife was contacted and they just told him to take lots of pictures and release the fish. Department biologists came back on June 9 and caught the fish in a gill net and tagged and released it into the Red Deer River.
Avry gets the last word. His take on seeing the sturgeon emerge from the water: “It’s a huge, huger fish Daddy.”