PHOTO: Angler Catches Rare Prehistoric Fish While Surf Fishing

by Jon D. B.

This Michigan fishing guide just pulled an incredibly rare species of sturgeon ashore in Alabama after a harrowing 40-minute angle.

David A. Rose has brought in the “rarest of rare catches” while surf fishing at Orange Beach.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined landing such a rare species…ever,” Rose tells USA Today/For The Win Outdoors of his catch.

It took the angler, who’s a Michigan fishing guide back home, just under an hour to reel the titan in. At first, Rose thought he had a shark on the line after its display of size and power. Once he pulled it ashore, however, the fish revealed itself to be far more rare – and impressive.

Rose hadn’t caught a shark – but it was a species just as ancient. On the other end of his line was a Gulf sturgeon – a remarkable species listed under the United States Endangered Species Act as threatened. It was no small fry, either. His sturgeon measured over 6 feet, weighing an estimated 120-130 lbs.

“While I knew there were anadromous sturgeon along the Northwest Coast, it never even crossed my mind there were this species swimming about the Gulf of Mexico,” he adds to FTW.

Rose took a few quick photos on the shore before releasing the federally-protected specimen back into the Gulf. Reportedly, over 100 onlookers were on-hand to watch the catch & release.

Rare Sturgeon is the Catch of a Lifetime

“My first thought was I had hooked a shark; even after seeing the silhouette in the waves off the first break,” Rose continues to For The Win Outdoors.

“A few minutes later, when its back broke the surface, an onlooker—who obviously knew a little something about fish, and fishing—and I both glanced at each other with a puzzled look and said out loud in unison, `a sturgeon?’ I had no idea there were sturgeon in here!”

What a fantastic moment – surely one Rose and all onlookers will never forget. The catch made his Alabama beach vacation one for the ages. The trip was already a success for Rose, too. Before his Gulf sturgeon, the angler brought in all manner of sea creatures: Gulf kingfish, stingrays, croaker, a pufferfish, and a 5-pound gafftopsail catfish among his catches.

To bring in the 6 foot sturgeon, however, Rose notes he began using fresh dead shrimp to bait.

“By far, this is the rarest of rare catches for me, as well my largest catch to date,” Rose continues to FTW. “In my home state, the lake sturgeon is an endangered species, but every so often you hear of someone landing one in the inland and Great Lakes. This fish was definitely the proverbial needle in the haystack.”

A True Living Fossil

As for the sturgeon itself, Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) – like sharks – date back to a time before the dinosaurs, making these remarkable fish true living fossils. In addition, all sturgeon species look remarkably similar to their ancestors in the fossil record, too. This they also share in common with sharks, along with their ability to reach gargantuan size.

While Rose’s 6-foot catch is monumental, it pales in comparison to the adult sizes Gulf sturgeon can reach. Specimens have been documented in excess of a whopping 14 feet.

Even this large species, however, pales in comparison to the largest of sturgeon species. Known as the beluga, or great sturgeon, the beluga sturgeon can reach an astonishing 24 feet (7m) in length, and weigh almost two tons (3,500+ lbs, 1,500 kilos).