I had high hopes for today. I upgraded my bait yesterday and got some heavy shiners (5-6 inches) to see if I could entice a big pike...the one I've been looking for. I got up early (6:20) and headed out to the ice. I knew exactly where I was going to place my tip ups and I knew I would get into fish. I had a great feeling about today. I had a goal and I knew what I wanted. I thought for sure getting my lines in early would pay off and it did..... but getting a big fish to strike is only the first part. Landing one is a different story.
It was a rough first hour. I didn't have Chris Stiles' auger, so drilling holes was tough with my crappy old one. I did manage to get all five tip ups out before 8 am. I had a very strategic setup, with all five flags in very shallow water (less than 4 feet), and 2 of them positioned at the mouth of small incoming creeks. It didn't take long for a flag and I was not surprised that it was in the same exact location where Chris and I got robbed three times in a row last week. I was excited. I ran to the flag and watched as line was being ripped off the reel. I set the hook, felt some very heavy weight and snap! There it goes. I pulled in the line and found my leader sliced right through. I was pissed off. Could that have been the one? With the amount and speed of line the fish ripped off and the weight when I set the hook, I knew that I had missed my chance. I slowly and disappointingly walked back to get the bait bucket and re-bait the tip up.
The next 30 minutes went about as bad as the previous 30. I had 3 more flags and 2 more missed fish. The day was definitely not going as planned and I was very frustrated. I finally got to sit down and catch my breath after a while of running back and forth to flags and changing bait. Things slowed down and I sat for a while, losing hope. I decided it was time to actually start my fly fishing documentary with my new hero 2 GoPro. I began doing a little introductory clip and explaining that until I get back to Montana, I'll be ice fishing. As I was talking, I looked over and go "Shit. I got a flag." I quickly sprung out of my chair and strapped the GoPro (which was appropriately already on the head mount) to my noggin and sprinted to the flag. I quickly set the hook and felt some massive heavy weight and then my reel screamed as the fish ripped line away. The fight was on. I pulled in line until I got to the leader and then I saw the head of the fish. The video tells the story of my reaction (excuse my language).
I tried to turn the fished mouth upwards and failed to do so a couple times. Finally I got the fishes 'beak' coming up through the hole. The fish thrashed but I had its gills. I pulled the fish up through the hole and placed it upon the ice in disbelief. WOW. I was flipping out (like in the video). The pictures say it all.
This pike was huge and had extreme girth. The head on the fish was even more impressive and I estimated the fish to be close to 40 inches. I was extremely happy that my efforts payed off. After taking a few pictures, I laid the fish down near the tip up and made a mark for the length. Then I released the fish and it swam off strong. I had just landed the fish that I've been looking for, and my day was made. To top it all off, I got the entire fight on video. Check out the fight on YouTube.........
(Don't diss on my santa hat. Evidentally it brang me pretty good luck. Again, I apologize for my language. I'm in rare form when I get the fish)
I looked over after I was done releasing the fish and 2 flags went off simultaneously. I couldn't believe it. I checked one which the fish had left and then ran to the other and set the hook on another nice fish. It was about a 23 inch pike.
Just after I released the fish, my sister Ellie and brother in law Jamie walked out on the ice to visit. I explained to them that they had just missed the show. I was still full of adrenaline. I was sufficiently satisfied with the day and I would be fine with quitting right there and then. I didn't do that of course. I gave it about another hour with no action. I cleaned up and headed in. I checked the mark on the tip up when I got to the house. The fish taped out at 36 inches. Not quite the 40 incher that I know lurks somewhere in the lake, but still a great fish and the biggest pike that I've caught in the US of A. Despite missing fish early, it all payed off and I landed my trophy northern that I set out for. Maybe tomorrow I'll land a bigger one. I'd rather be out there again, than being bored.