The Northern Pike is a ferocious fellow. Last season the fishing trips were plagued with bent out hooks, shredded fishing lines, baits ripped from the rods, and a few decent sized Northern Pike brought to the boat. Those big ones (most likely the females) tore us up. Apparently the males are smaller and watch the brood close to shore during spring. The females are the larger of the pike.
Rarely a day came when we didn’t find the pike lurking along the shores. Chasing these “gators” on Lake Coeur d’Alene takes a bit of perseverance, but having the right gear for the job is a large part of the check list; so we learned. It took us some time to get dialed in. Finding their routine and how they move is one thing; keeping on top of it all season is quite another thing entirely.
I come from the world of fly fishing for trout; fish the “Ranch” on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake above Ashton, Idaho and you’ll quickly learn what it means to have a Phd in fly fishing. I’ve heard stories of trout circling an angler’s fly, waiting for the currents to take it under, only to see whether the offering is real or fake. I rarely pursued the trout on the “Ranch,” but the hunt always intrigued me. My time was more spent chasing trout through runs, riffles, and rapids from a drift boat. Box Canyon, Lower Mesa, and the Canyon of the South Fork I dearly still love.
The Northern Pike is essentially the opposite of this and it took me a while to understand the fish. In freshwater, there are few rivals to its aggressive behavior. A large pike will not only clear it’s habitat of other pike if food is scarce, but it waits for nothing and feeds charismatically on meals it’s own size. With a strike at 40 miles per hour, your gear better be ready if its a large pike your chasing. They’ll fight hard, wrap themselves in vegetation or structure, and make any angler struggle to bring in their catch. Once landed you’ll have to be careful; their mouths are like sticking your hand into a screaming table saw or blender.
The largest pike on record came from New York State in the 46lb category with a length nearing 5 feet. I’m sure Minnesota or Wisconsin folks will soon be commenting their pike have the record size; which I don’t doubt. Canada is a league all their own. The Idaho state record was recently stripped away from Lake Coeur d’Alene and now belongs to Kim Fleming whom landed a 40lb 2 oz. behemoth on a small spinner on the twin lakes just north of us. It’s length was 51″. On that day in May, Kim was fishing with 6 lb test line. I’m just guessing but I doubt Kim was out on the boat chasing the Idaho State record. I’d a love to see the battle and I guarantee there was yelling, screaming, and a few moments where the fish was more than close to getting away and becoming just a fishing story.
Too many times last season we had the rods just ripped from the boat only to never see the quarry. Too many times we had the fish shear the line within seconds of the catch. Too many times we had 30lb test line shred or leaders in the 60lb test sliced through. Every trip out we learned something new. Now that our gear is set we’re keeping tabs on Mr. Flemings record.
But really, just having the chance to be out there and fishing is worthy of rising up in the morning before breakfast. Lake Coeur d’Alene, the river, and the Chain Lakes are breathtaking at sunup. It’s absolutely a privilege to share this with our guests. And once or twice every summer there are those few times when no one wants to brave the early hours since they’re on vacation; I still find myself on the boat watching the day break and hoping for that run-in with infamous, “Walter”. This coming year we’ll take our photos and measure the fish. And as always, we’ll release the fish back to the lake for another day. We may or may not get the record publicly since it’ll swim away and that’s ok. Most importantly, I just can’t wait to see that kid’s eyes light up when he knows he’s chased a record fish, caught it, and let it go.