Monday, May 6, 2013

Personal Best Northern

Esox lucius maximus (at least for Lake Champlain)
Lake Champlain has been on fire recently. Bowfin are in the spawn and are all over the place. They are looking for a fight too. I love that. But the real story these days are the pike. 

A pretty typical Champlain pike these days
The water temps are in the upper 50's to low 60's. It is prime time for freshwater barracuda and where I am targeting them it looks just like the saltwater flats. You will see pike just laying on the bottom. Sometimes you can get those fish interested in your offering but most of the time they simply sit there or spook. Just paddling around gets you lots cool visuals but not a lot of fish on the end of the line. Especially with the calm, glassy water on these sunny and windless days. The fish are pretty spooky. That changes. 

When the light goes down all Hell breaks loose. The pike are on patrol and hungry. Boils everywhere. Surface crashes, murder and mayhem ensue. Suddenly it is game on. And you have to bring your A game. 

It seemed like every 5 or 6 casts I had a V-wake behind my fly. The fish were chasing it down but not taking. I was taking the occasional fish but I was also getting my fair share of long distance releases. Solid strikes and fish on for a few seconds then, boop, gone. 

I felt the take. It was a hard take. I knew this was something different, something special, from the moment it took the fly. The fish took line immediately. I started trying to get line on the reel but I didn't need to worry about that. Line flew through the guides. The fish headed to my right then did a 180 and started in toward shore taking more line with it. I watched the entire fly line zip through the guides, something I had never seen a Northern do before. This was indeed a special fish. 

I got the fish turned and heading back around the boat. I wondered about pulling the anchor to be able to let the fish tow the canoe but decided against it. The fish started to tire but had enough fight left in it to go for a few more runs.When I got it next to the boat I saw just how big it was. Getting it into the boat was another matter. The thing was huge!

I got some pics of it as fast as I could. I wanted to get this beast back in the water. I used my tape to measure it. The tail was spread and I got 40" quickly. I suspect it might have been a bit bigger (especially using the standard fisheries measurement method of closing the tail for length). My guess was at least 20 pounds- it was a very thick bodied fish. A few self timer pics and away she swam. 

I was stunned. It was a monster and it tore me up. I loved it. I have caught a lot of pike in my day but that was the biggest I have ever landed. I fished hardheartedly for the next 20 minutes or so but I wasn't paying a lot of attention. I got my bruiser. Esox lucius maximus!

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