Wednesday 8-5 - East of the Lodge
Day 4 of our trip found us headed to the east, to Pine Channel, Roubillard Bay, and the surrounding bays. This is the water closest to the lodge that we usually fish. Pine Channel is usually one of the largest expanses of cabbage in the lake. Usually, of course, is not this year. We found some weed growth, but it was scattered over a large area, and though there were fish there, they were not as concentrated as we had hoped for. We got a few fish, but nothing of note. (In my past 2 trips to Blackmur's, I've taken a 42-1/2" and a 45" pike here, and seen a couple of huge fish that missed baits). We actually started the morning in a small bay called Jackfish Bay, where Billy and Jim caught a lot of fish, while Andy and I got a few. Shorelunch of pike was outstanding, as usual.
Andy's 43 from Crouse Bay
My 37" from Wednesday
The afternoon we fished a number of smaller bays, most being known more for their success in the spring rather than summer. Crouse Bay ended up being the area of choice for the day. It is a small, narrow bay that is an offshoot of a larger bay. The bay itself is maybe 100 yards long and 40 yards wide - not a big piece of real estate. But - it did have some weeds, and that meant pike! Andy caught fire in this bay, taking a 38" and a 43-1/2" pike on jerkbaits - Rapala SW X-raps. I got a 37" earlier in the day, while Billy and Jim both got 38's. Every fish I caught on this day came on a #6 Vibrax spinner with a white tail. Our daily combo bet went to Andy and I, and we were all tied up with one day to go. And the plan was to fly out to Richards Lake again for our last day of pike fishing on our favorite water.
Our last day fishing Athabasca and we opted for the fly-out to Richards - again. Actually, I'd fish Richards anytime I get the chance - I just love the lake and the pike there. Everyone in our group had caught decent quantities of fish on the trip, and everyone had taken a number of trophy fish (over 40"). Except, of course, for me. My numbers were as good as anyone, but I just couldn't put the hooks into any good fish. The monster from the first afternoon was still haunting me, too. But anytime you go to Richards, you have to like your odds to overcome any slump you may be in.
As before, we were the only 2 boats on the lake. The first expansive weedbed we stopped at (the one that had been so good to Andy and I two years earlier) held some fish, but it wasn't giving them up easily. We opted to try one of the other beds. Jim got on a bite unlike any I have seen before. EVERY time we would look over to the other boat, he had a fish on, or was releasing one, or posing for pictures. He must have landed 40 pike that day, and caught the biggest one taken by any of us on this trip - 47" - a truly magnificent pike in ANY waters! He also had a 42" and a 40". Every big he caught fell to the same lure - a Jointed X-Rap #13 in Hot Steel color. He would make long casts, start a straight, slow retrieve and, when the lure would get hung in the cabbage, he'd pop it out. Almost all of the fish took the bait as it was busting out of the cabbage.
Jim's 47" trophy from Richards Lake
Andy got a 43" in the morning, while Billy and I had 38"ers. We got down to the last hour and a half before we had to meet Cliff at eh landing area. We went back to the 1st spot we tried that day. I looked at Andy and said "Time to go big or go home". I put a Dominatrix bucktail (a knock off of a double bladed Cowgirl musky bucktail) (these double bucktails are 11" long, and weigh 3-1/2 oz.) on my bucktail rod and stated casting. Got a small pike right away. Missed another decent fish - at least there were fish in the area that were interested! It was pretty windy with a good chop on the water. I got a nip at the bait and looked down to see a GOOD fish - finally. I watched him inhale the bait about 20 feet from the boat.
Andy's 43 from Richards Lake
It seems like there's always some kind of a story with a big fish that I catch, and this is no exception. The fish hit and came toward the boat. Like they do many times, when pike see the boat they make a run away from the boat, or they dive. this one dove. Only one problem - he dove under and BACK, toward the motor. Which, by the way, was running to try to keep the boat under control in the wind. Even with the big bucktail rod, the best I could do was slow him down, but he went behind the outboard, and the line wrapped around the prop.
This would be the appropriate place to talk about the gear I use, and why. The line on this particular reel was 80# Power Pro braided line. The leader was a 12", 75# Terminator Titanium leader. Why such heavy gear? I like Power Pro for its inherent toughness, but I dislike one of the properties of ALL superbraids - their thin diameter. I've found that anything under 40# test has a tendency to "eat into" the spooled line when a lot of pressure is put on it, whether from a series of big fish, or by using big jerkbaits and working them with slack-line jerks. the line gets hung up inside the outer bands of line on the spool, and consequently hangs up on the cast and decreases your casting distance (at best) or starts a hopeless backlash (at worst). So - I use a line with the DIAMETER that I like - anything over 30# test is certainly sufficient to play and land any pike. I like the diameter of 80#, so that's what I use. With regard to the leaders, I like the larger size of the Crosslok on the 75# leader, so that's the one I use.
My 42" pike from Richards Lake
All this info actually has a point - the line wrapped around the motor, and the pike got drawn in toward the prop. The boat had been put in neutral, so the fish wasn't hurt. But he was stuck. We got the fish into the net - thank God for long handled nets - and I cut the line. The slick braid came through the motor effortlessly, and I had my pike. 42", with an hour to spare! I am completely convinced that the heavier than normal gear is what saved that fish for me. I believe lighter (30#) braid would have been nicked and would have broken. the same for cheaper, lighter leaders. Bottom line - I got lucky.
Final tally on our little bet - Jim and Billy - 86". Andy and I - 85". Billy got a 39" pike in the last 15 minutes to better his previous best for the day by an inch - the winning difference!
The baits we used that caught the most fish on the trip were: Rapala Jointed X-Rap 13 in Hot Steel, Burt jerkbait - Orange/ black spots, Rapala SW X-Rap, Vibrax #6 w/ white tail. I DID use the lure sent to me by Lizzie over at Fisherbabe - the "Hammers" she loves to use. Cabelas Canadian Casting spoons, 7/8 oz. orange and brass. You can see from the picture that it was hit hard - a bunch of the paint was torn off. But I didn't get any BIG fish on it. Unlike Lizzy's group. If you pay atention to th epicture, you'll see some fabric wrapped around the hook. My guide - Laurent - liked the spoon, too, but wanted it to have a little bit of trailer action. He cut a strip off his shirt and tied it onto the treble base. I caught a few fish with it afterwards (it DID look good in the water!), and I'll keep that one "as-is" as a memento. The Hammer was the only spoon I caught any fish on during the week.
A selection of good lures from the trip
I always try to take along a few new baits to try. The best of these on this trip was an Optimum Double Diamond swimbait, seen above. The one in the picture above is the SMALLER of the 2 sizes I used . The bigger, and better one was almost 8" long. The action is tremendous and the profile big enough to entice the biggest pike. You need a substantial hook for these big baits - I used an 11/0 weighted Mustad swimbait hook, and it is barely big enough for the bait. The only downfall is significant one when pike fishing - the base of the tail is very thin, allowing the "wag" of the tail to be extreme, and gives the bait its great action. But - little pike (or big ones) short strike it and remove the tail very easily.
All in all - another memorable trip to Blackmur's Athabasca Lodge. We're already planning our return trip.