Landing the Big One
By: Glen Gebhart
I grew up fishing Lake Itasca in north central Minnesota and always dreamed of catching a giant northern pike. I finally hooked a monster pike when I was ten, but lost it at the boat because our dip net was too small to land it. Eight years later, I lost another giant northern in Kansas when I tried to "horse" him into the dip net and he straightened three treble hooks and got away. I have been canoeing and fishing the Boundary Waters since a Boy Scout trip in 1967 and have become totally hooked on the area. I like to catch a few walleye for their fine eating. I love the jumping fight the smallmouth bass displays. Unlike some people, I also enjoy catching northern pike and always dreamed about having another chance at a giant one.
My friend Roger and I made our annual trip into Quetico in late August of 2007. On the second day out, I caught a 10-½ pound northern, which was my new personal record. He was a nice 36-inch long fish, but not the big one I always dreamed about. The next day we were fishing a weedy area, "real pikey" as we often say. I made a cast with my Bomber Flat A and retrieved it to the canoe. I was just starting to lift the lure out of the water when I saw a large brown streak coming up out of the depths. I stopped and let the lure back down into the water a couple of inches and a giant northern swam right by me and hammered my lure.
I only had about two feet of line out and was afraid he might break my rod tip if he thrashed around on such a short leash. He quickly took care of that problem as he stripped off about thirty feet of my ten-pound test line on his first run. I immediately asked Roger to back us out away from the weeds and shore because I had just hooked my new record northern. The fish proceeded to swim us around at his own pace and make my reel sing for the next ten minutes. Roger finally got a look at him and quickly agreed he was a new record and also wasn't sure we could get him in the canoe. I got him to the surface near me and saw that he only had one of the back treble hooks in his lower jaw. I had put the new crooked barbless trebles on that lure just before the trip so this was a good test for them. I decided to try and land him myself with our lip gripper because I wanted to be the one responsible when he got away.
I had to have Roger paddle at exactly his swimming speed so that I could get parallel to him to attempt to grip him. He easily pulled away from me on my first attempt, but I got the gripper on his lower jaw on the second attempt. I told Roger to hold on because I was going to have to stand up to bring him into the canoe. I stood up and with one big fluid motion lifted him up and over into the canoe. Roger suggested we go to shore to weigh and measure him. I easily unhooked him as Roger paddled us to shore. My other concern was that our digital camera battery had failed to power up earlier on that cold morning. Roger thought it might work now that it was warmer.
We hit shore and I stepped out with him and put him on the scales. He weighed 17 pounds even and was 42 inches long. He flopped off the gripper as we tried to get a picture so I picked him up barehanded for three quick pictures. I quickly released him back into the lake. I could see that he was spent so I got a hold of his tail and gently swished him back and forth to get water moving over his gills. He finally recovered and swam off. What a fish, I finally landed the big one!