VANCOUVER -- Three years ago, British couple Michael and Margaret Snell travelled to the Vancouver area for a fishing trip and thought they hit the jackpot, reeling in a sturgeon that was 1.5 metres long.
But that trophy pales in comparison to the massive fish the retired couple caught in the Fraser River during a return trip this week, hauling a white sturgeon out of the water that measured nearly four metres and weighed half a tonne -- believed to be one of the largest fish ever caught for sport in North America.
The couple, from Salisbury, England, set out onto the Fraser River from Chilliwack, east of Vancouver, on Monday.
Michael Snell, 65, said he saw his rod tip, but he struggled with his catch for nearly 45 minutes before he actually saw the fish surface.
It was 3.8 metres long.
"We just saw a tail fin come up, then a bit later we saw a middle fin, and eventually, as it got tired, we saw the head come out as well," he said in an interview on Friday.
"We realized the sheer length of this fish -- next to the boat, it's nearly as big as the boat."
The couple's guide, Dean Werk, estimated the sturgeon was at least 100 years old, weighing roughly 500 kilograms. Based on a database kept by the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society, Werk said it could be the largest fish ever caught on the continent.
They released the sturgeon back into the river, but not before snapping some photos with it.
-- The Canadian Press