Monday, August 10, 2009

Lake Athabasca, 2009 DAY 1 - Lots of rain, and the biggest pike EVER

Our trip to Athabasca for 2009 was, in a word, interesting. It was my 3rd visit to Blackmur's Athabasca Fishing lodges, Andy's second, and Billy and Jim saw their inaugural trip. The trip was planned for the 1st week of August for one reason - coincide with the best wed growth, and target big pike on deep weed edges. Pretty simple plan. But, you know what they say - " . . . the best laid plans . . . "

2009 has been, for many of us in the US, an inordinately cool year. A cool -to-cold spring, followed by a cool summer. For the first time ever, Chicago didn't record a day over 88 in the month of July! The weather up north mirrored our Spring - imagine the LONG winters when you are a mere 60 miles from the 60th parallel. The lodge owner - Cliff Blackmur - told me the last ice he saw on Athabasca was July 6th! Many of the lodges up north lost their first 2-3 weeks of what is a very short season. Some never opened at all, and may remain shuttered. Fisherbabe's readers will remember well her trials and tribulations trying to find a place to fish in May in Manitoba. Everything was very late this year.

The float plane, as seen from our cabin

The water still has not really warmed up. And, naturally, the weed growth is about 3-4 weeks behind schedule. So, instead of targeting big pike on deep weeds, you had to search for any weeds at any depth. Find weeds - you find pike. All sizes. No weeds - no pike. We caught lake trout in the top 15 feet of water, when they are normally at 75'+ at this time of year.

Day 1 was nearly a total washout. It rained - HARD. Andy and I joked that everytime we sat down to try a new spot, the skies would open up, and we would have been drier by jumping in the water. The numbers of fish caught on Day One were low - 15 - 20 per man - but a few good ones were caught. Billy got a 41" to shatter his personal best of 36", while Jim got a 38". Andy and I struggled. But, like all good adventures, there is a terrific story to tell from Day 1, one that will live with me forever.

The view from our boat, on a day when it didn't rain all day

Andy and I were in the extreme back of a long, narrow bay. Really, it was too far to be back for August but, as I said, fish were in weeds at ANY depth, so there were fish in the shallow back waters, with a few good ones in the mix. We came to the last hole of any consequence. I cast a 3/4 oz. spinnerbait and looked down to see the biggest pike I ever seen in my life. It looked more like a musky - light green and very wide, in addition to being very long. We both estimated this fish at 45 - 50". It watched my spinnerbait but didn't commit. We both threw at him, to no avail. The pike sank into the depths, and was gone. The little hole the fish was in is about 30' long. At the tail end of the hole, I hooked a small (24") pike. Immediately, the monster pike T-boned the pike I had hooked. They were only a few yards from the boat! Andy got he net and we got the monster to within 10' of the boat when he spooked and raced toward shore - with my pike still in his jaws! Somehow, I had the presence of mind to back off the drag in case he ran. I slowly tried to get him back to the boat for another shot. After maybe a minute (but seemed like forever), the giant pike was within 15' of the boat and coming slowly. Suddenly, the little pike started thrashing wildly, and my trophy opened up his mouth and slowly swam away.

We never saw him again.

Now, I know there are people who will question our guestimate of the fishes size. For starters - I don't really care what anyone else thinks. Secondly, my biggest pike ever landed is 46", and Andy's is 46-1/2". This fish was bigger. I firmly believe it was my mythical 50"er. My knees were shaking when this episode played itself out and I had to sit for a bit to compose myself. Looking back on it, it was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me while fishing. People say you always remember the one that got away - I'll ALWAYS remember that fish!

Next post: Day 2 on Richards Lake. Will Fisherbabe's vaunted "Hammers" come through there???


Ben said...

Great story! That reminds me of some pictures that have been floating around the internets for a while - maybe you've seen them?



Fish Whisperer said...

Wow, great read. that is a true fish story to be passed on.
Tight lines

Anonymous said...

Wow, Wolfy, what a fish. Sad to hear it gave up the smaller Pike. Your memories is all that matters in a situation like this.

wandering owl said...

Maybe we should rig up small pike like they do suckers.

And I truly believe you. My dad lost one at Crane lake, MN that was half the length of our johnboat. It came right up to us before wrapping around the anchor rope I couldn't get up in time. It was a monster.