Since May 1st, I have caught a fish every day that we have stayed at the cabin. This alone should indicate some small prowess in my fishing ability. In addition, while performing as a fishing guide for family and friends, everyone I’ve taken fishing has caught at least one fish. More proof that I should know what I’m doing, right? Well, don’t be too quick to pat me on the back. Last Friday evening, I had an altercation with two fish that might indicate a chink in my fishing armor.
As I stated, it all began last Friday evening when I announced to my domestic CEO that I was going down to the dock to test my mettle against the Lake. I grabbed my trusty 45 year old rod and reel, rigged with a little black Beetle Spin and walked down to the shoreline next to the dock.
I made a few casts into the lily pads near shore. There are usually a few bluegills or crappies hiding there. I got no bites. My next cast was supposed to land just shy of my boat lift. However, my aim was a bit off and the little black Beetle Spin sailed over the lower lift bar, which was about a foot and a half above the water.
As soon as the little black Beetle Spin hit the water, a small crappie took it. The fight was short as most crappie fights go. The hard part was trying to get the fish over the lift bar without snagging the line. After a few tentative attempts, I finally jerked the little fish up and over the bar without breaking the line. Once it was back in the water, the crappie was landed without further difficulty. As usual, I released the unharmed fish back to the water within a few seconds. (If I want to eat fish, I go to the store or a Red Lobster restaurant.) This catch wasn’t pretty but kept my honor intact.
Now, if you have not read this part as foreshadowing, you should. If I had stopped fishing after catching the crappie, all would have been good. However, I hate to end a fishing session with a questionable catch. So, I confidently walked out to the end of the dock looking to find another fish.
The little black Beetle Spin landed perfectly on the outside edge of the patch of lily pads that separates my dock from my neighbor’s. I reeled up the slack and began retrieving the lure. It was about halfway back when I saw a large swirl appeared in the water behind the little black Beetle Spin. The rod tip bent severely and I felt the weight of a large fish. I raised the rod tip and a second later I heard a pop and the line went slack. The end of my line came floating back at me. My little Beetle Spin was gone!
“Damn, big toothy critter” I said as I reeled in the now limp line. That’s what we call Northern Pike.
‘Northerns’, look similar to a barracuda only with green stripes. They have large mouths that are full of razor sharp teeth. They are the top predator on many of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota.
I tied off the end of my line and stalked back to my shed, grumbling the whole way. I hate losing little black Beetle Spins. I put the rod in the shed alongside the fourteen other rods I store there. Then it struck me. My pride was hurt. The big toothy critter had stolen my little black Beetle Spin and that was unacceptable. What could I do? REVENGE!!!
I grabbed a rod that I rigged up for the CEO. It had a shallow running crank bait, attached to a six inch steel leader, attached to six pound line. The leader was designed to keep big toothy critters from stealing the crank bait. By God, I was going to fix the big toothy critter. I’d catch him and retrieve my little black Beetle Spin. I
stormed walked carefully back down the dock grinning with malice and forethought.
The crank bait that looked like a small fish and houses a small rattle, soared out beyond the lily pads and splashed into the dark water. I took up the slack and cranked the lure down until it ran about six inches below the surface. I could still hear and feel the rattle as the lure wobbled along. The lure passed through the site of the theft and I swore, “Chicken shit toothy critter!” In response, there was a swirl behind the lure as if to say, “Bring it on fat boy.”
I calmly reeled the crank bait the rest of the way back just in case the big toothy critter decided to get mouthy. However, he was too cool a customer for that tactic.
I smiled though because he had shown his hand. He was still interested in biting something and I had something he was interested in.
The next cast sailed out beyond the lily pads and I cranked it down so the lure was running just above the submerged weeds. When the lure reached the crime scene, it was greeted with a huge swirl. The big toothy critter rolled over on the lure like he intended to inhale it and take it to the bottom. It was my first glimpse of the Northern’s green striped sides. “Ha,” I said as my suspicions were confirmed. The rod bent severely and the fight was on.
At this point I was pretty proud of myself. I had him. He had taken my bait and I had him. After few seconds of battling a fish of decent size, you start to think of how you will land it. That is when doubt came crashing into my head. This was a pretty nice fish, just under three feet long. That would put his weight at about ten and a half pounds. As long as he was in the water and didn’t wrap the line around a stump or heavy weeds, my six-pound line would probably hold up. The twenty pound steel leader was doing its job, so far. The problem comes in when you try to remove the fish from the water. Netting the fish is the preferred method.
I’ve got a net. Where’s my net? It’s in the boat, on the lift, on the other side of the dock. How can I get into the boat to get the net without losing the fish? Uh…Uh…Shit. Ask the CEO to help out.
I screamed for the CEO to come help me. No answer. Screamed again. Still no answer. Now What?
The water is too low to get down on my knees and hand-land a fish this size. Alright, think there has got to be a way. Maybe I could get lucky and just hoist it up on the dock before the line breaks. Yeah, right!
I tried it anyway and the fish chose that time to shake its head. Six-pound monofilament fishing line sliding rapidly across bare fingers is painful at best. “Dumb-ass!” Okay don’t try that again.
If I can’t lift him. Maybe I can beach him.
By now the fish is pretty tired and I can move him where I want him. So, I brought him around the end of the dock and made my way towards shore. He was upright and eyed me with a hostile stare.
The shore is not a beach. It is made up of melon-sized boulders and reeds. I realized as I approached the shore that I needed some speed to get the fish up onto the boulders and through the reeds to make it to solid ground. So…I began running up the dock dragging the fish through the water. I got to the boulders and the fish made it part of the way up. But, it got hung up in the reeds and the line broke.
Now, normally, the rest of the story would be the fish flopped back into the water and disappeared. Not in my story!
Thinking quickly, I dashed back down the dock and spun the wheel on the lift to lower the boat far enough that I could dive into it to retrieve my net. I’m not as small and agile as I used to be so this was not a trivial thing to do. Once I got the net and got back out of the boat, I ran back to where the fish lay on the rocks.
“Holy crap, it’s still there!” I netted the fish off the rocks and set him down carefully on the grass.
Okay, remove the lure from his mouth and get him back in the water. But, there are two razor sharp treble hooks surrounded by razor sharp teeth attached to a very angry, though tired toothy critter. I need my pliers. Where are my pliers? In the boat! Crap!!!
I ran back down the dock, dove into the boat, grabbed the pliers and scrambled back to the fish. Armed with the proper tools, I made quick work of freeing the lure from the fish and got a hold on the fish that was safe for me and the fish.
I was excited as you might guess and in most cases this would have been the time to snap a few pictures to show off on the blog site and FB. However, I did not have a camera or my phone. Even if I had one of them available, I would not have taken the time for a picture. You see, by now the fish had been out of the water for a few minutes and I was worried about him. Yes, you heard me. I was worried that I might not be able to revive him and send him back to his home in the dark water.
I quickly carried him to he shoreline that I could easily get down to the water. I set him on the rocks with his head in the water. His mouth opened and closed several times which gave me hope that he might be okay. For those of you not familiar with Northern Pike, they are a slimy fish and can be hard to hold on to. I slowly slid him off the rocks into the water while trying to hang onto him. If I couldn’t revive him, I didn’t know what I would do. He wasn’t big enough to pay to have mounted and I didn’t want to clean and eat him. So, I was motivated to keep him alive. He was about halfway into the water when I lost my grip and he slid the rest of the way on his own. I started to follow him into the water to support him until he was fully recovered. But, as a last way of saluting my victory, he wagged his tail and disappeared beneath the lily pads. Damn, I forgot to look for my little black Beetle Spin!
I got up and turned around. There, standing in the doorway to the cabin stood the CEO, laughing her ass off. She witnessed the last part of the episode and said later that she had not seen me move that fast in years. She also said, “That was a nice fish.” We laughed for days. Too bad there was no video running. It would have made great U-tube action.
Epilogue: Saturday evening, as I sat on the deck drinking a snazzy beer, I saw a big toothy critter roll on a school of fish out beyond my dock. Yea, he was alright. And there was respect.