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Opinion: Fishing for big pike can be rewarding

A continuation of last week's column, today I'll conclude the recent road trip to Pickle Lake, Ontario, Canada, and the subsequent fly-in to Kwinigans Lake by eight Wagner-area anglers.

After my last Kwinigans adventure, I told myself that if I ever return, I would put down my walleye rig, as much fun as it is, and make a concerted effort to take some of the lake's large northern pike. That is exactly what I did, even though many of the big pike that have been caught in the past came on small jigs by walleye anglers.

I firmly believe that walleye anglers, whether they fish South Dakota's reservoirs or Canada's pristine lakes, will catch more walleyes by tying their jigs directly to the ends of their lines as opposed to snapping the jigs onto a leader. Why? Better lure action.

There is one major problem. If a toothy northern pike takes the leaderless jig, he'll shear it off as though a razor cut it. The angler won't even feel the slightest tug. For this reason, I spent part of my time fishing a jig with a black steel leader. However, I also believed that my best chance for a really big pike would come on a big spoon or spinner.

I had an unusual experience relative to the above. Twice on early Monday afternoon, while jigging for walleyes without a steel leader, I had my jig sheared off by a pike. In both instances, I immediately dropped my walleye rig without reeling in the remainder of my now lure-less line, picked up a heavier outfit with attached spinner and steel leader, and flipped it out where I thought the marauding pike would be. Both times I got the pike, and one of them still had my stolen jig!

In spite of the fact that the lake teems with big pike, the big pike action was slow. On one occasion, we quietly slid into a shallow bay. With my Polaroid glasses, I could see big pike lying on the bottom, but there were no takers, even when Jeff and I would cast ahead of and in to them.

When we drifted over the same spots, we would see large swirls of sediment where big pike had spooked. However, my patience was eventually rewarded when I took a very large pike out of a weed edge with a Blue Fox Pixee gold spoon. Ron also took a big pike, and Jordan had his line broken by one.

I've done a lot of big pike fishing in my life, and I've had the best success when it was raining, or at least overcast. I believe the rain hinders the pike's ability to clearly see the boat. On a trip to Saskatchewan's Lake Besnard in 1977, our Cree guide, Miles Rat, told me that the best big pike action comes in the rain. He knew what he was talking about.

The lake water was tea colored, making the walleyes black on their backs and deep golden yellow on their sides. Jeff, Vern and I worked our way into a long finger that was protected at its base by a short run of gigantic boulders. Jeff exited the boat and walked our craft over them. Once clear, we came to a deep structure I named The Black Hole. It was full of almost black walleyes. I also caught a black northern pike in this remote finger. Jeff discovered a waterfall in the finger we named Jeff's Falls. Why this water was darker than the rest of the lake we don't know.

Jeff, Vern and I fished from a boat powered by a 50 H.P. engine. It was a disadvantage when compared to the smaller boats with 20 H.P. engines as it went too fast for effective trolling. However, the same boat was equipped with an electric trolling motor. When, with the electric motor, we trolled shallow mud flats with jigs and twister tails over the side, we hammered the walleyes.

I sat up front and steered the boat with the handy foot pedal. The trolling motor, along with the electronic depth finder, made that boat a fishing machine.

I had nothing to do with menu planning, and little to do with cooking, but I can tell you the food was superb. We ate walleyes, regular and spicy, at least once a day and sometimes twice. The ultimate feast, in my opinion, was a 15-pound prime rib. Ron massaged the cut a day before final preparation with herbs and spices. Then Jeff, in all the glory of his culinary expertise, used a gas grill, carefully monitored by a temperature gauge, to turn the beef slab into ambrosia, or the food of the gods.

Breakfasts were no less eventful. While Vern did the toast, I fried two pounds of Delmont bacon in a large iron skillet as Jeff chopped mushrooms, ham, onions and green peppers for another of his specialties -- scrambled eggs cooked to perfection. Meals were accompanied by fresh veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and, of course, potatoes.

The guys treated me way too well. My tremor, along with numb legs (peripheral neuropathy), give the impression that I'm a basket case. They helped me in and out of the boat and through the rocky paths. Though I'll admit that while filleting fish I look like John Philip Sousa with a fillet knife in his hand, I still have all my fingers. I'm embarrassed, but even more grateful, for their caring. What a great group!

You can make a very similar trip. Our Pickle Lake pilot, Pete Johnson, is a master aviator. He also owns 10 lakefront lodges in the area that he'll fly you into and out of with his well-maintained vintage DeHaviland Otter floatplane. If you are looking for a comfortable wilderness expedition you can reach on well paved highways at a very economical price, get in touch with Pete. You can still do it this summer. His website is

As always, I have no deal with Pete. He doesn't know I'm recommending him. Readers have gone from the Arctic to Africa to Argentina on my recommendation, and it has always been, "Thanks, Roger." Take it from me. Mr. Pete Johnson is a gem.

See you next week.