Red letter day

Tales of a personal best pike

by Andrea Penso

When in June 2018 my supervisor told me that there was going to be a conference in Western Canada, for me it meant automatically one thing: pike fishing!

I have dreamt about lure fishing for pike in Canada since I was a kid. More specifically, I’d always wanted to explore the pike Mecca: the Great Slave Lake. I remember collecting and religiously storing all the pictures of the Great Slave and the North Western Territories I could collect. This is the reason why I felt immediately mesmerized when I arrived in Yellowknife after my duty at the conference was done: my inner kid could not believe the natural magic of the place.

After a 30 minutes flight in a floatplane, I met my guide Greg Robertson and his crew, which were camping on a little island, located in a shallow bay. After leaving my bag in the tent, we jumped in the boat and took off immediately to explore a tributary of the big lake. All my readings and my most optimistic expectations could not prepare me for what I was going to experience that afternoon.

We arrived at the junction between the river and the lake, and started power-fishing with big spoons an area full of reeds in front of the right bank. First cast: pike! I could not believe my eyes. As I reel it in, I realize it’s at least 35 inches. By that time, I am jumping in the boat out of excitement, patting all my pockets to grab my camera. But Greg steps in, grab the pike by the boat and let it go. “Too small – no picture yet!”. Fair enough, it was not a pb anyway.

Second cast towards the reeds, two metres and strike: pike on! This one is even bigger, at least 37-38 inches. Once again, Greg does not even touch it end let it go using pliers. This script goes on for the next 30 minutes, where I land at least 30 pike in 40 casts – all nice specimen for my European standards. The motto is always: “no picture yet”.

As I start thinking Greg just does not want any pike slime on his hands, he decides it’s time to show me how the fishing is in the bay where we are camped. 20 minutes boat ride and we are drifting on this beautiful and peaceful shallow area.

After a couple of jack pike, I cheekily challenge Greg: “Maybe we should have taken one pic after all”. I can’t finish the sentence, and my spoon is stopped by something unusually heavy. I strike, thinking it was a log or something. The progressive bend on the rod clearly showed that there was no log at the end of the line. I start reeling in what immediately felt like the biggest pike I ever hooked.

Its reaction is slow, almost lazy. After 10 minutes it comes to the surface, and I nearly faint: this fish is way over 40 inches! As I finally managed to get it close to the boat, Greg tells me he’s not going to use a net or a cradle, because it could hurt the fish, and that he is going to lift the huge pike with his bare hands. As he kneels to grab the fish, he chuckles: “ok, maybe this time I outdid myself”.

In the meantime, I am sweating all my body fluids hoping that the single barbless hook will hold. Greg surely knows how to handle a pike, and with a firm move he lifts the fish in the boat. It’s done, I got the monster I was chasing since I was a little kid.

Now the scene in the boat is pure chaos: Greg is holding a giant pike with one hand, hugging me with the other while I am shaking like a leaf. A quick measurement tells us the pike is 47 inches long. I can not believe I caught a 47 inches monster within two hours after my arrival on the lake. We take some quick pictures, we release the monster and the only thing I can repeat is: “wow”. In all this, Greg is more excited than I am, he cracks open a beer and invites me to celebrate the success. We sat at least 20 minutes laughing like kids at that unbelievable fish, until Greg says: “I told you I would get you a picture fish!”.

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