We continued paddling to the Moosechute Rapids which did not require any scouting as they were straight forward. So far, the Berg looked to be a mecca for Moose, though we did not see any. We arrived at the Double Falls and did the portage on river left. At the put-in at the base of the falls, the river opened into a large pool. The entire bay slowly churned with a constant chop on the surface. The air smelled like fish and the scene represented a picturesque remote Northern river.
Upon reloading the canoe, we decided it would be apropos to do a few casts. Floating into the middle of the bay, situated in a shallow eddie, we rigged our lines for some routine pickerel fishing: A white grub, ¼ jig head and 10-lb mono, a deadly combo for Northern Ontario pickerel. We quickly got down to business casting our jigs into deep pools.
It was not long until Alex casually announced, “Got one…”. The fish did not hammer the bait, nor did it do anything out of the ordinary. Alex could only describe the fish as “having weight”. Not knowing what it could be Alex adjusted his drag to let the fish run. If the fish was a pike, their sharp teeth are known to cut monofilament and for the fish’s sake, we did not want to leave any jigs in it’s mouth. Due to the circumstance, the drag was set back so loose that with a flick of your wrist, you could peel line. Next thing you know Alex was playing a fish that seemed to just be sitting in the dark, no advancements being made. Having no idea what we were dealing with, Alex was enjoying the fight of this elusive fish.
Every time we thought it was coming to the surface, the fish would peel off line until is was back, deep into the pool. My first thought was that is was a good size pickerel. “How loose is your line?” I said, getting a little impatient with Alex’s finesse fishing. “I don’t know man, it’s hard to tell with the drag” After about 10 minutes, Alex thought the unknown fish might be getting tired-out, so he increased the tension on his reel. Using the power technique, Alex slowly pulled the rod tip up, and then reeled in the slack; the fish was cooperating as Alex made advancement. After a few more pulls and reels, the fish was under the boat, still out of sight.
In anticipation we were both leaning over the side of the canoe to see if we could catch a glimpse of the fish. The line slowly rose from underneath the boat and like a submarine rising from the depths of the ocean, the biggest pike either of us had ever seen rose from the dark. As soon as we saw it, we both exploded with emotion, we both had never witnessed such a fish, let alone in a canoe with 10 lb monofilament! At that moment, this was no longer a fun casual fight, it was a fishing battle of a lifetime.
It seemed like the pike sensed our emotional high as it made one large kick and disappeared into the dark. Alex’s drag sung as line raced off the spool. Not knowing how the fish was hooked, or how the line was holding up, Alex decreased the drag once again to let the fish run. If the fight was going to take all day, so be it.
Time passed as the fish dragged us around the bay, we were now a good 200 yards downstream of where it was hooked. Drifting closer to shore, we made the decision that this battle would be better fought on solid ground. As Alex played the fish, I slowly farried the canoe to the shore. We had not seen the fish since the introduction in the middle of the bay. With deliberation and total concentration, we beached the canoe onto the sandy shore. The beach made for a good spot to continue fighting the fish as it had a graded drop-off into the river with room to walk around. The fight continued, now getting close to the 20-minute mark.
It seemed like the monster was getting tired out, it was miracle that the enormous fish was still hooked. Alex made some advancement as the fish emerged from the dark. Once again, our excitement was sensed by the fish as it took off with renewed energy and power. This continued for what felt like a lifetime. The fish would swim off completely green, and then slowly be brought back just to repeat the motions.
Thinking we had the upper hand, we devised a plan that involved me wading up to my knees, and Alex guiding the fish to where I could grab it. We had a net but there was no way it was fitting in it. Upon execution, our plan didn’t work as flawlessly as we thought. My presence kept the pike at a distance, as we both silted up the water creating a turbid cloud.
Alex’s continued effort made headway, after 40 minutes the fish started to tire out. I stood motionless in the water as Alex again tried to guide the fish over. This time it cooperated as it slowly moved towards me as it stayed perfectly suspended. I stood there with total concentration and vigilance towards this pike, I felt paralyzed. After what felt like a lifetime, this fish was finally giving us an opportunity.
As I reached out to grab her tail, I remember being surprised of how thick it felt. I cautiously advanced to her gills as I held onto her thick tail. She allowed me to slip under her gills where I fully committed and clenched down. With what felt like a good grip I pulled the tired-out, monster pike out of the water. Her weight was staggering as this thick bodied fish emerged from the water.
We both cheered with joy as I slowly waded back to Alex to present him with his trophy fish. Upon wading to shore, a renewed breath of life went through the fish as she did an unexpected head thrust. I lost my grip as she free-falled into the water. Out of instinct, I tackled her with my entire body into the river, fully clothed. I felt the fish underneath me as a straddled her to try to get a better grip. I locked in on her gills and we both emerged from the water once again. I handed her over to Alex. We were both blown away by this beautiful fish as we took photos, measurements and revived her after the long battle. In such delicate circumstances, one strong head thrash, change of direction or pull of the line could have broken her off. Alex’s rod control, drag setting and patience was the only reason this trophy pike was landed.