Editor’s Note: This story is part of "Headwaters to Harbor," a project by The Chronicle to document the Chehalis River from Pe Ell to Grays Harbor while highlighting people and issues connected to the river along the way. Our coverage is compiled at www.chronline.com/Chehalis-River.
Rich Eaton, of the YouTube channel “BigBankFishing,” has the personality to rival the 7-, 8- and even 9-foot sturgeon he reels in from the banks of the Chehalis River at Montesano and Cosmopolis.
Eaton and his daughter, Julia Eaton, began their venture documenting their catch-and-release sturgeon fishing shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began. They took a short break when fishing on the river was closed for a while.
Ever since they’ve been back at it, the channel has been gaining traction. Though still at the scale of being father-daughter focused, they’ve attracted the attention of bigger channels and brands that have set them up with custom gear and other fun things to try for their riverside recreation.
“In a way, we’re the biggest little channel there is,” Eaton said.
Eaton said he was all about sturgeon fishing while growing up and used to fish from the Friends Landing area with his father before the campground was operational. When he had children, family became his priority and he was less focused on the sport.
Now that he can combine fishing and family by catching sturgeon with his daughter, his passion has been reignited.
In Cosmopolis, which Eaton refers to as “Cozzy,” locals come to the parking lot by the boat launch just to watch the big bank fishermen fight against the massive fish.
Julia and Rich Eaton also invite anyone watching to join them and have made many new friends along the way. Eaton said his biggest goal with his YouTube channel is to get veterans, children and people who haven’t fished before “hooked” on sturgeon fishing.
“Let them try it one time, get them to hook on it. They love it,” Eaton said. “The bad thing about sturgeon fishing is it’s a waiting game. We’ve been here all day and had two or three bites. Then you’ll come here another day and you're (in) constant action. Just constant. We lose more than we actually land but it’s about the battle.”
Because the pair is fishing from the shore, fish sometimes manage to snag themselves on wood just off the river banks and escape. But that just makes landing a big fish all the more rewarding.
Eaton said he’s had battles last up to three hours.
The poles he and his daughter use are 14 feet long. When reeling in a fish, they can rest the butt of the pole against their foot, rather than dig it into their stomachs, giving them the stamina necessary for the task.
Eaton refers to this technique as the “slayer stance,” which is a term he said other fishing channels on YouTube have picked up since his invention of it.
For more on the sturgeon fishing family, visit their Facebook page or YouTube channel at bigbankfishing, or just visit Friends Landing in Montesano or the boat launch by the Chevron in Cosmopolis on weekend mornings. They are happy to have visitors.
“This is all for fun,” Eaton said, adding later, “We all need more joy in our lives.”
Find full coverage of The Chronicle’s “Headwaters to Harbor” project, which seeks to document life on the river from Pe Ell to Grays Harbor, online at www.chronline.com/Chehalis-River.