Barbs and Backlashes

My biggest pike by whitetips
April 29, 2010, 5:05 pm
Filed under: Fishing | Tags:

The May 2010 issue of NEBRASKAland, , has an excellent story written by my buddy Jeff Kurrus, Tales of an Esox, The Unnatural History of the Northern Pike.

That story reflects on some of the legend and lore of northern pike including stories about Nebraska pike and Nebraska pike anglers.  One such story Jeff refers to is about one of my largest pike, and I need to re-count that story here.  I have had some fun with a couple of similar blog posts on my biggest walleye and biggest bass, so here goes another one.

I have a memory of an encounter with a pike when I was quite young and quite early in my fishing career.  We lived in Alliance, Nebraska until I was 8 years old, and one of our favorite spots to get away from it all was Nebraska’s first state park, Chadron State Park.  There is still a pond there where kids can catch some put-&-take rainbow trout.  Back all those years ago there were a bunch of small bluegills that we used to catch.  I can remember sitting on the dock fishing for bluegills and peering into the water under the dock and seeing the shadow of a pike under there.  I remember getting all excited because that fish was a lot bigger than the bluegills and I just knew that was one big bad predator I wanted to catch!

I also remember an ice-fishing trip to Pelican Lake when I was a kid and we fished for pike by jigging red & white DareDevles in our ice holes (is there any other lure for pike fishing?).  My uncle that we fished with was a meat-cutter and would you believe we tipped those spoons with chunks of beef steak?  Pike do some feeding especially during the winter on dead baits and that beef steak gave the presentation some odor that those pike liked.  Anyway I remember looking down my ice hole to see a pike nosing right up to my DareDevle.  I was sure that sinister-looking predator was just about to strike savagely and jerk my jigging pole right out of my hand.  It did not.

Fast forward to my senior year in high school.  It was mid-April, Good Friday as a matter of fact.  I had the day off from school, so I went fishing!  Dad had to work that day, so I went by myself.  I knew of some North Platte River sandpits that held some good fish and my hope that day was to catch a big bass.  I am wading around the first pit and work into a nice little bay with some cattails in the end, a quick drop into deep water and a warm, sun-exposed, south facing shoreline.  The water was relatively clear and as I am reeling a homemade spinner I look down to see a really nice pike following it.  That pike overtakes my spinner, opens its mouth, flares its gills and sucks it in, or so I thought.  I set the hook and nothing except for my spinner coming back out of its mouth.  How could I not hook that fish with the treble hook on the back of that spinner.  I make a few more casts and watch that pike follow a time or two, but it would not eat the spinner again.  So, I change up to a spinnerbait.  I toss that out there, crank the reel a few times and BANG, that pike slams it.  Again, I set the hook but no fish.  I reel the spinnerbait in and this time the spinner blade is entirely gone from the arm over the body of the bait–that pike had engulfed the whole spinnerbait and the upper arm ended up acting like a hook guard and kept that pike from getting hooked.  I imagine she spit the spinner blade out like a sunflower seed shell.  OK, so I am having a heck of a time getting the hooks into this big pike, so I change to a chrome Red Fin which just happens to have 3 sets of treble hooks on it.  I make a few casts with that and nothing, so I re-position to a different casting angle, make one cast, BANG fish on!  Now I am by myself and this is a big pike, I carefully fight the fish for some time and finally it is finning in the water right in front of me.  I begin to lift it to lead it to the shore where I can beach it and it thrashes its head once and the hooks come out!  Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!  For just a few seconds that pike sits there in the water right at my feet and we eye-ball each other.  Just about the time my brain is thinking something about grabbing the fish, whoosh and it was gone.  Many of you know the feeling in the pit of my stomach at that instant.

But wait, there’s more . . . .

I walked on and fished another pit, caught nothing.  I had to return to the pickup by trudging by the  first pit, so I figured I might as well try a few more casts–a pike just might hit again.  I am half-heartedly throwing the same Red Fin, not really expecting anything, when my lure stops.  My gramps had always told me to “jerk their eye-teeth out” when setting the hook and you better believe that is exactly what I tried to do.  I set the hooks into a nice fish and am fighting it, it swings by in front of me, several feet down, but I could see it in the clear water and my jaw hit the water (remember I was wading)–the pike I now had hooked was twice as big as the one I had lost!!!!!!!  I play the fish very carefully, no way I want to lose this one!  Actually I did not fight the fish very long because I was using casting equipment with 18-pound test line and the pike rolled as I fought it and actually tied its gill covers shut.  So it is played out and I am again looking for a spot to beach the fish.  I turn and begin leading the fish that direction, but once I get there I pull and my fish is stuck.  Once again Aaaarrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! There was one little submerged log in about 6 feet of water; of course as I was leading the pike that way it nosed-in right under that log.  Thankfully, once I back up to the other side I am able to pull free and the pike is still on!  I carefully lead the fish out around the log, to the “beach”, and I got her!!!!!!!

“Back in the day” you had to have a fish weighed to qualify for a Master Angler Award.  Up until that day I had only ever caught one Master Angler fish, so you better believe this pike was going home with me.  I had a rope stringer that had plastic clips on it, like the old chain stringers except the clips were made of plastic.  I put not one, not two, not even three, but four of those clips through the bottom jaw of that pike and headed for the pickup!  I actually crossed over and waded up the river to get back to the pickup in case anyone saw me they would not know exactly where I was coming from, where I had caught that fish (see, I have been a “fish sneak” for a long time!).

I got home with the fish, and both of my parents could not believe it.  We headed straight to the Game Commission office to weigh the fish–18 pounds, 39 inches.  I had a high school buddy that was dabbling in taxidermy and as soon as we got the fish weighed we stopped at his place and left it.  Of course it is not the best mount, but my high school buddy did it and it has a lot of sentimental value.  It is hanging in my basement today!

At the time I never dreamed of catching anything that big, I could not believe it.  Looking back that one fish meant so much, gave me so much confidence and probably sent me a long ways down the road as an angler.  It is one of those things, you fish a lot better when you have confidence, but the irony is you gain confidence by catching fish.  As I look back that one fish gave me a lot of confidence.  But . . . fishing will always humble you; the next day my dad out-fished me at an interstate lake 3 fish to none!

OK, yuck it up, this picture is from my senior year in high school. Good ole North Platte High is in the backround (we lived right across the street).

I have actually caught one pike that was a little bit bigger than that fish.  Actually it was just a little bit longer, but probably weighed less because it was not as fat as that fish.  That fish was caught in eastern South Dakota on one of the natural lakes found in that part of the state.  I spent a couple of years going to graduate school in Brookings, SD and loved the great hunting, fishing and trapping I had there while going to grad. school (yes, I went to class and did my research project, I did not hunt, fish and trap all the time).  Anyway, the fall fishing up there was fantastic; mostly walleyes, but occasionally some pike and some of the biggest white bass I have seen anywhere.  After finishing grad. school and starting to work in Nebraska, I made a few fall trips back up there to take advantage of the great fall fishing (I need to do that again one of these years).  On one trip I met my Valentine uncle and one of my cousin’s boys up there.  I really, really wanted them to catch fish and have a great trip, but of course a severe cold front blew through; the wind blew out of the north, the temperature dropped and we were afraid the fishing was going to be lousy.  But we were there and I always say I can’t dance–might as well fish.  Believe me, it was cold and miserable and there was no one else fishing; the day started off slow, but as it went on the fishing got better and better.  You never know, sometimes the days that you believe will be poor fishing turn out to be great; this was one of those days, one of the best ever.

Two of the fish we caught were big pike.  I got a 40-incher on a ShadRap, and my cousin’s boy got a 42-incher on a silver spoon.  They were skinny fish, just starting to fatten up for the winter, but still nice pike!

40-inch pike, Lake Poinsett, South Dakota, October 1991.

My uncle Ivan and my cousin's boy with his 42-inch pike. By the way, that "boy" is now an United States Marine!

So those are my pike stories.  I am still working on a Nebraska muskie larger than the pike that I have caught; that will happen one of these days and you will read it here when it does!  And who knows, there are some bigger pike out there too!


5 Comments so far
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Great Story. Brings back memories of my High School fishing days. I do think you meant you were sneaking out of your honey hole because you didn’t want airport security to detect your prescense!?! Yes, I also caught my biggest Pike just a sand pit away from yours in 1982.

Comment by Scott

Sshhhh! Actually “back in the day” security was nothing like it is now, and nobody cared. I am afraid it would be a breach of national security to go down there and catch another one of those big pike now.

Daryl B.

Comment by whitetips

I know the spot. And had similar results. If wasn’t for my cousin Curt Doucet (ring a bell) and brother doing a dogpile on the fish I would have never landed it. It’s funny how a terrorist act has such far reaching affects.

Comment by Allen Parr

Yes that does ring a bell. Tell Curt “Hi” for me!

Ah, those high school days; I remember the bunch of us that hung out together because all we cared about was hunting and fishing! We even had guns in the gun racks of pickups parked in the high school parking lot! Did not want to waste a second when school was out!

Daryl B.

Comment by whitetips

[…] we are products of our genetics and upbringing.  I wrote a blog post last week on my biggest pike, , well, my grandmothers were pike anglers! That's my mom posing with Grandma Roth and what I […]

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