Losing fish has been on my mind this week, and it’s an agony every angler experiences at some point in their lives.
Anyone who says otherwise is telling a fish tale.
My latest brush with the agony occurred last Monday night, when I joined a couple of friends for an evening on a small river that shall remain nameless.
My jig had barely hit bottom when something solid tapped the leech in about 9 feet of water. I missed on the hook-set, but the leech was intact so I dropped it back down in hopes the fish would return.
It did — and slammed the jig so hard it basically set the hook on itself.
I love bites like that.
The beauty of river fishing is that you never know what might be on the other end of the line when a fish bites. Could be a walleye, could be a sheepshead, could be a catfish, could be a sucker, could be a pike … you just never know.
This was definitely a catfish, and it peeled line off my reel at will as my 5½-foot walleye rod doubled over.
I’ve caught some big fish on this little rod over the years, including a 31½-inch “PB” walleye, a 49-inch sturgeon and a catfish measuring 33 inches. It’s been through the wars, and while there are better fishing rods in my collection, this one is my favorite.
It’s like the fishing equivalent of a well-worn baseball glove.
I fought the feisty fish for a couple of minutes with little progress to show for my efforts. The fish was next to shore at a sharp angle to the boat when it snapped my braided line.
The battle was fun while it lasted, but I wish I could have gotten a look at that fish. On the upside, it’s good to know tackle-busting fish are swimming around even in small rivers such as the one we were fishing.
I redeemed myself with a couple of walleyes and a smaller catfish, but I’ll remember the Big One That Got Away as the defining moment of the evening.
Sometimes, seeing the fish before it gets away can make the agony even worse. That was the case in the early ’90s during my first fly-in fishing trip.
It was late September and three of us were fishing below a set of rapids at the mouth of a river that flowed into a remote lake north of Red Lake, Ontario. The lake was known for big pike, so we knew the potential for hooking into a big one was favorable.
The afternoon was one of those perfect, late September days with a noticeable bite in the air. The sun peeked through bluish-gray clouds, and the aspen leaves were a brilliant shade of gold.
I’d caught the biggest walleye to that point of my life earlier in the afternoon when I hooked a fish that measured 28 inches.
That was before Mr. Big paid a visit.
I knew I had a decent fish on the line but I didn’t know how decent until the pike appeared beside the boat.
Somehow, the pike spit the hook before we could land it and lingered there suspended for a few seconds before disappearing into the depths. I feel safe in saying the fish was at least 45 inches long.
There have been others, too, of course; many, many others.
Oh, the agony. ...
Wanted: Your fish tales
Speaking of big fish, I’ve had a nice run of big fish photos from readers in recent weeks, but I always can use more. Send photos and a few details of your catch to email@example.com. If you have a big fish to report but don’t have a photo, you can email me or call 701-780-1148.
Good fishing. And keep those photos and fish tales coming.