Professional Hockey Player and Simms Guide Ambassador Guide Kevin Estrada talks to us about life in hockey, protecting sturgeon and what you might find on his boat.
Talk to me about the history of Sturgeon Slayers: We started developing business a plan while I was attending Michigan State University on a full scholarship for hockey in 2005. By 2006-2007 we were in full swing. We aimed then to be a niche, boutique guiding company and it has been growing ever since by offering luxury fishing here in BC. For those who are scared by the name, remember it’s a play on words! We are catch and release only here. Just couldn’t stand how many companies had similar names. We are catch and release only here. Just couldn’t stand how many companies had similar names. A bit boring isn’t it? Once following us on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram you will quickly realize what we are really about. It’s fish first! Photos and humans second.
Do you really offer a fish guarantee? Yes we offer that. It has only happened once in the last 7 years we haven’t caught a fish and it was after dramatic weather changes. Those clients got a free trip a month later and caught 6 sturgeon.
So the fishery is that healthy then? The healthiest in the world and we are very dedicated to the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society (FRSCS) which helps us and our clients tag and record data on the sturgeon. It is a privilege to be involved in the tagging initiative and the FRSCS does not just let anyone tag. It’s a very good thing what we are doing and it’s a major part of why the fishery remains open. Retaining sturgeon has been banned for over 18 years and we are strictly a catch and release fishery.
We know you are a professional hockey player when you are not guiding. Do you find it difficult to balance both of these occupations? At the beginning it was a learning curve, but I have people around me now that help it run smoothly. I brought on a partner for the fly fishing film tour in Canada which has helped and everything with Ruddocks Ranch operates as it always has. I can do bookings and talk to people from anywhere about their trip, but it is a juggling act and we are very busy. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sturgeon Slayers runs year-round even when I’m not here. I have to communicate with clients if I am not going to be in town to personally guide them. This is important to discuss with clients especially if they have seen me on TV and expect to be fishing with me.
Are you more passionate about hockey of fishing? To be honest they are both different and once you’re as busy as we are in both it becomes work! The funny thing about being in the fishing industry is that you don’t get to fish for yourself anymore! Nobody told me that.
Has the lockout affected your plans? Not really. I planned to head back to Europe/Stay in North America but we got called for a major international TV show which had a crew come here, then sent us to Brazil and then England to film another project. I wanted to do the show so I delayed going to play hockey. My agent is talking with some teams now and I expect to make a move in the next couple weeks. Of course it’s late in the season, but it’s what needed to happen because of business. I survived a plane crash 3 years ago which took me out of hockey for 19 months so I’m used to getting back into it after being off.
What would be scarier…facing a grizzly bear on the bank during a guide day or Eric Lindross on skates coming full speed? Grizzly bear, no doubt, and possibly the right pissed-off cougar. We have property in the mountains of Chilliwack and cougars are plenty!
You mentioned the FRSCS…another other conservation orgs do you align yourself with? FRSCS is the major one because of the business we are doing. There are several that we support probably – too many to mention. But I am a catch and release advocate, I write and educate about proper handling and I sit on boards that are put in place to make difference in fishing.
What’s the strangest thing I might find on your boat during a day of Sturgeon fishing? A curious deck of cards that a forgein client left me.
What worries you the most about the future of our sport? Proper handling of fish and the importance on education. There always needs to be more because more people are coming in contact with fish and that means they need to know how to identify, handle and ultimately release fish properly. For sturgeon proper handling is critical.
What’s the one song on your iPod that might surprise me? Every trip starts with Black Dog from Led Zeppelin as we cruise up the mighty Fraser River.