Of water-wolves, fire and bears

Northern Pike

July 2014 .  Canada

Martin Sack

Actually it was never really getting dark in the artic summer. Above the black, pillared spruces the disappearing sun was standing for long time very deep until vanishing completely behind them for short time. It was almost midnight, and whereas Claudia and Jeff were already sleeping in their tents, I wanted to finish the tag by some relaxing casts from the bank. I casted again the shad to a promising edge of a weed bed, twitched it a couple of times through the water, felt the heavy impact at the lure and set the hook. The pike started to move sedately. As I forced the fish to the surface near at the shore, it was fighting with full power again, jumped completely out of the water and started so some last, heavy escapes. In the warmer water with much current the pikes were in best condition and showed an extraordinary endurance. Then my hand grabbed behind the gill cover, I removed the hook and arranged the measure tape. With a length of 1,15m this was the biggest pike of my life, which I released without a photo in the water – by a longer handling alone at the rocky bank the fish maybe would have get needlessly injured. I was warmed up a little bit, and that made the millions of mosquitos glad, which were attacking in the darkest hours of the night extra avidly everything which is owning blood. We have still been adapted to thinks, which had appeared two weeks ago as the unbelievable madness. Only in the last two hours I could outwit at my small foot excursion fife trophies and some short under! Now it was also for me time to find some sleep, because the following day on the boat would be arduous again. On the other side of the river something was moving in the wood. I was standing still and calm, observing what was coming out there. It was a wolf, which looked short time to me and then walked on at the river bank. In difference to the bears they were less interested to swin across the river and look in our camp for some food. Eased I walked back to the tent and felt asleep after some seconds.

At my first pike tour 2012 to Canada we caught an amazing amount of pikes, but a disappointing number of trophies. This tour had other targets- we wanted to find out if it´s possible to catch hundred pikes more than 1m in twelve days. Thereby we don´t wanted to fish at a lodge, with regulated eight our guided fishing day, breakfast, warm lunch and much comfortable cottage. But rather be in remote wilderness, far away from civilization and other fishing boats and only responsible for our own. One year Claudia and I planned with the Canadian Jeff a private expedition, which even for him would be the longest and most exiting venture. We planned to advance also to places where even Jeff never had been before and where maybe nobody ever had fished!

The sun appeared as a violet-red ball at the sky. The day had occulted, although we had noon. We stalked with our full loaded boat through small channels and over wide lakes. For that Jeffs boat was equipped with a further small outboard motor, because cards with information of the depth of these waters were not existing. Everywhere could appear dangerous shallows. After some time breathing was getting nasty, and sometimes ash was falling down on us. The woods around us were disappearing in the dense wades of smoke. Canada faced in this warm and dry summer a bushfire season outmatching everything before. Caused by the global warming the perma-frost soil had declined measurable – the cooling effect of the ground was staying away more often. This fanned the flames onward, which were not to extinguish and were feeding many weeks or month through the woods. Some of them were grow to real monsters and were immerging the land in a circle of many kilometers in a dense grey. As soon as we drove in one of the columns of smoke, the sunny day was getting haunting gloomy. But when the fire was in direction of the wind of us, we had free sight and could watch sometimes to mammoth smoke clouds at the horizon. One week before our start Jeff had hidden at some way points jerry cans and bear barrels with food. That way we could attain the range of our expedition. With the changing wind directions also the moving directions of the bushfires were unpredictable, and we hoped every time, that none of our depots in the meantime had been a victim of the flames. But at this move to a new fishing area everything was fine, we build up at the evening out tents, prepared some canned food instead of fish and tried to sleep in the stuffy grey. As we woke up the next morning and brewed our morning coffee, the wind had turned. The sky was blue and a new water section invited us to fish.

Slowly the e-motor was moving us forward over the weed bed. We had so save the battery as much as possible, but for these situations it was necessary. The clear water under us was interspersed with long tendrils, and some of them reached the surface. We dipped our rubber lures vertical up and down in the gaps. As Claudia started to change the spot and lifted the lure a little bit out of the water, a big trophy was following the lure and was jumping after direct at our boot – and with half of the length out of the water! Jeff and I were exited in the same way and also dropped our lures, but the pike was still spooked. Unbelievable how effective and fascinating this method was. We faced attacks on shortest distance, trophies which were following other already hooked big pikes, taking aggressively a second lure and then made much action direct at and under the boat. It was all the times grand moments, when the big pikes suddenly appeared out of the nothing and inhaled our lures in less than a second. One time a big lady bite a smaller pike, which was hooked on my shad, and spit it out close to the boat. Sometimes we caught trophy after trophy, and it could get very hectic on board when our “pike factory” was running on full speed! The fishing was much diversified, and we often had to adapt our tactic and fishing methods to the different water types and weather influences, to keep on catching all the time. So we casted to shallow waters at the shore, fished in faster current, top water over weed beds, vertical also in deeper water or were jigging at the ground. Especially in the middle of our tour we found some spots with mind-blowing average sizes, where we could outwit daily some fat big pikes around 1,20m. Claudia completed this monster pike session with a very fat lady of 1,24m, which should stay the biggest fish of our trip. In the following days we experienced more memorable moments and caught at the last day crazy 32 trophies!

Especially interesting were also two different pike color mutations, which were very rare and not explored much. So we could catch several silver pikes up to 1,20m, which were identifiable by the silver-blue color without a distinctive pattern. The italian pikes (Esox Lucius flaviae) in contrast where spotted and colored in great contrasts – our biggest species of 1,12m was a real beauty.

Among the pikes we found more exiting fish species. At some spots we could catch some walleyes, when the lure was running close to the bottom. But our highest interest was in the very rare inconnus. This member of the salmons can grow up to 1,5m and 25kg and is looking more than a tarpon as a trout, also especially because of the mouth. And this was also the way they fought in the hard current – wild turning around and nearly not possible to fight them until they were exhausted. It was not so easy to calm them for a short photo. The most time inconnus are living in the ocean and mowing upstream the rivers many thousand kilometers for spawning, like salmons. We were very happy to find one of these rivers at the right time and so many of these wild fighters up to 0,97m attacked our lures!

In our waters existed no salmons. That made the surviving for the black and grizzly bears harder, and they had to be more creative by finding food. About that Claudia was recognizing, as she walked alone at the evening to the bush toilet, only armed with bear spray, and stood suddenly direct in front of a black bear. We all learned the use of the shotgun and rifle, because here everyone was responsible for each other. But the weapons now were stored in the tent. Fortunately the bear was more interested in all the berries, and Jeff could banish him with two warn shots of the shotgun. We will keep in memory for sure how the bear was rising on two legs behind a rock and bushes and had a last view down in our tent camp. This was our only incident, which luckily had a good end for human and animal. We always were anxious to avoid these meetings, washed all cans, stored all rubbish and food air tight and camped only at spots, which were not on the natural routs of the bears. Nevertheless we often kept an eye on the woods, because the bears had also the stupid preference to eat fuel tubes of the boat!

While Jeff was fishing with heavy muskie rods and big baits like the real eel, Claudia and I focused on our Trophy Shads of 15cm. These relative small pike lures made it possible to fish with our light Antares spinning rods with a casting weight up to 50g. Unbelievable how we could torture these sensitive rods! Because of all the rocks and the heavy abrasion we fished only with heavy braided main lines minimum 0,28mm, titanium leaders of 40kg, steel of 24kg and fluo carbon of minimum 0,90mm. Furthermore we placed only one owner treble hook size 1 without barbs on the back of our shads. So it was possible to injure the pikes on a minimum level, and even the attacks of smaller pikes lead to a good hooking rate. We handled all “photo pikes” in the same way: Remove the hook in the water, let the pike relax in the water inside of the pike cradle, prepare the camera, take the pike out of the cradle, measure length on the measuring board, make photos and release. That was all pikes were not out of the water more than 20 seconds!

A better test tour for our Trophy Shads could surely not exist. So we tested parallel all decors and confirmed our color theory impressively: When the sun was very deep and at bushfire Mr. Pink was catching god, then Dark Water Sun was convincing over a wide spectrum of twilight. At daylight Claudia preferred the White-Machine and I the Wild Honey, when we had much sun it was time for the Glamour Herring and our special decors Sexy Shad and Lady M. To complete the international exchange Jeff caught with our german flag decor some big pikes.

After twelve days in the wilderness it was hard to say goodbye. We had experienced things which we could understand only with a little bit distance. For me this expedition was after twenty years of pike fishing the absolutely coronation, for Jeff the longest trophy pike orgy in a row and for Claudia a very awesome start to the targeted big pike fishing. So we finished our Tour with a total of 176 pikes more than 1m and outmatched with that result all our bravest dreams!



Angler: Claudia, Jeff, Martin

Fishes in total: 483

Pikes in total: 388

Pikes more than 1m: 176

Inconnus: 64 (up to 0.97m)

Walleyes: 31 (up to 0.5m)

Pike statistic in days  (lengthe in m):


1.22 1.11 - 1.08 - 1.05 - …


1.13 - 1.12 - 1.12 - 1.11 – 1.10 - 1.06 - 1.05 - 1.01 - 1.00 – …


1.16 - 1.11 - 1.08 - 1.08 - 1.05 - 1.05 - …


1.13 - 1.05 - 1.03 - 1.01 - …


1.24 - 1.19 - 1.19 - 1.16 - 1.17 - 1.13 - 1.13 - 1.13 - 1.12 - 1.11 - 1.10 - 1.08 - 1.07 - 1.07 - 1.05 - 1.05 - 1.04 - 1.01 - 1.01 - 1.00 - …


1.21 - 1.20 - 1.19 - 1.19 - 1.18 - 1.18 - 1.16 - 1.15  - 1.11 - 1.07 - 1.07 - 1.06 - 1.06 - 1.06 - 1.03 - 1.01 - 1.01 - 1.00 - …


1.22 - 1.17 - 1.17 - 1.14 - 1.08 - 1.07 - 1.04 - 1.03 - …


1.20 - 1.18 - 1.11 - 1.10 - 1.10 - 1.10 - 1.09 - 1.08 - 1.06 - 1.04 - 1.04 - 1.02 - 1.02 – …


1.24 - 1.20 - 1.09 - 1.07 - 1.06 - 1.06 - 1.06 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.01 - 1.01 - 1.00 - …


1.18 - 1.14 - 1.12 - 1.12 - 1.11 - 1.10 - 1.10 - 1.10 - 1.09 - 1.08 - 1.07 - 1.07 - 1.06 - 1.06 - 1.05 - 1.04 - 1.04 - 1.04 - 1.04 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.01 - 1.01 - 1.01 - 1.01 – 1.00 - 1.00 - 1.00 - 1.00 - …


1.15 - 1.15 - 1.14 - 1.14 - 1.13 - 1.13 - 1.12 - 1.12 - 1.11 - 1.09 - 1.08 - 1.07 – 1.06 - 1.04 - 1.03 - 1.03 - 1.03 - 1.02 - 1.00 - 1.00 - …


1.12 - 1.11 - 1.10 - 1.10 - 1.09 - 1.09 - 1.08 - 1.08 - 1.07 - 1.07 - 1.06 - 1.05 - 1.05 - 1.05 - 1.04 - 1.04 - 1.04 - 1.03 - 1.03 - 1.03 - 1.03 - 1.03 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.02 - 1.01 - 1.01 - 1.00 - 1.00 - 1.00 - …

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