March 10, 2013
By Matt Straw
Swimming in Great Slave is definitely not advisable. We completed our 3-day tour of the many dozens of interconnected bays and islands protecting the north shore with more than 45 toothies over 40 inches. We hauled in more than 700 pike in total, with no apparent gaps in year classes at all. Meaning hundreds of thousands of pike must spawn successfully here each spring, with no shortage of shallow, mucky, wind- and weather-protected bays to harbor spawners and their progeny.
Over 45 trophies, but no "kraken," the mythological beasts referred to in a previous post. The lodge's garrison of guides read the post, picked up the term, and happily passed it around the next day. Checking each other's results via hand-held radio, the question, "Any kraken?" passed freely through the airwaves. (Which was slightly embarrassing.) Among themselves, the guides decided that "kraken" is a quick, efficient, easily-recognizable reference to anything exceeding 47 inches in their sometimes garbled transmissions.
During the three days of our visit, more than 6 kraken were pulled in. Did I mention that Trout Rock rocks? Ragnar Wesstrom, a true Swede, carved it out of the wilderness, building it up a bit at a time since 1989. You may come in by float plane (a very short hop of only 15 minutes or less from colorful Yellowknife) or by Hagglund — an amazing tracked, armored vehicle that can cross rivers, lakes, swamps, mountains, and boulder fields.
However, I'm actually relieved to be leaving the land of the midnight toothies, where the sun barely sets this time of year. I'm pretty well beat up. Even the 6- to 8-pounders stressed arms and shoulders with braided line. They all seemed to take a running start at our bucktails from 20 feet away, shocking into our lures like waves of pure energy, eliciting involuntary grunts and cries of "Holy cow!" (among other time-worm favorites). When one of these tubular monsters powered into your bait, well, just thinking about it makes my back spasm.
We tried to get away from Mepps and Blue Fox bucktails but kept getting dragged back to them, with pike of all sizes showing a decided preference for flashing blades on our boat. Maybe we just didn't have enough options along (certainly,weight restrictions when flying in float planes and today's extra baggage costs had something to do with that). Baits with size #5 and #6 blades worked best — with or without bucktail — but guides like famous Mike "Pike Mike" Harrison guaranteed us that jigs and plastics often rule this time of year. I caught fish with them, but could only stand watching Ted Cawkwell's steady parade of hooksets for so long before switching back.
Three days of teeth are enough around Enodah (an abandoned Dene settlement nearby). But I'll make my way back someday.