January 11, 2012
By Matt Straw
No, not this one. She's not 50 inches. That's guide David "Shoggie" Shogren. He's 50 inches. Easy. He's holding our pike. "Ours" because I caught it this time and he caught it last week. She came in under my trusty HT Enterprises Polar Tip-Up, crushing a 14-inch sucker. The tip-up is spooled with some 40-pound catfish braid for backing, and 5 feet of 20-pound Stren Tinted Fluorocarbon Leader above a Bigtooth Tackle quick-strike leader. I like the ones with size #4 trebles. (When I tie my own, I generally use size #6.)
A number of interesting circumstances surround the capture of this healthy, toothy, critter. She was caught (and released) 30 minutes from my house. As the last beams of sunlight on the trees in the background attest, it's evening. We fished from just after first light, catching quite a few pike. I lost count, but 5 were over nine pounds and this 43-inch, 17- to 18-pounder came on our last decoy of the day.
We expected something bigger. Rumors of the mythic 50 incher, the 30-point buck of fishing, lured us to this local lake known for producing giant toothies. Never saw her. The water under Shoggie's house was so clear (we could easily see bottom at 18 feet), Rick Hammer had his Aqua-Vu LCD Modular System set up, hoping to record a live strike.
Still under the heading of interesting circumstances, we've been losing ice. Shoggie moved his house because the ice on his home lake was reduced by almost half in this bizarre warm spell. The weather of the past four days would be more appropriate in May. Minnesotans are not accustomed to watching the fish through the ice as they battle under us in the first week of January. Rather disconcerting. Amplified by the lens effect of the ice, the green thing looked like a dragon twisting in rage, about to go medieval on the bedraggled foot soldiers gathered around the hole. In other words, yeah. We're still walking out there.
Water was lapping against the north shore of Mille Lacs last weekend. A four-wheeler went through the ice on a smaller lake this week, about 40 miles north of here. Weirdest January ever. So, yeah. For pike like this? We'll walk out there. On some of the lakes around here, you have to release all pike under 40 inches. Obviously, we're already seeing benefits. We release all the specimens anyway, but now that the general public has to follow suit, we find ourselves in the midst of a toothy rennaisance. The fish in the picture is still alive and t0ugher than cured tripe. After being caught twice in a week, she's living proof that big fish can be successfully handled, released, and caught many times.
I have a feeling we'll be back out there pretty soon. Grist for a post on some rigging details. Like, why fluorocarbon? Toothies forever. Peace.