An Early Fall Fishing Trip
(In search of Pickerel Americanus ~ family Esocidae ~ Esox Lucius)
By: Dennis Bryant "The Fishing-Professor"


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I know that a lot of you out there have at some time or another, hooked into one of these toothy critters while in the search of the elusive "Largemouth Bass" if you live in the northern US, or southern Canada. Some of you more than others, have undoubtedly wondered what in the world you were doing wrong to catch one of these fish, when there should have been a Bass where this guy was caught, instead. As long as you didn't try to "lip it", you probably didn't do anything wrong at all! Chances are, you did everything right! It's just that "Ol' Bucket-Jaw" just wasn't at home at the time your lure arrived! Both the Bass & the Pike are structure orientated. They thrive in the same general type of areas, eat the same forage species, and attack the same type of lures!

Late in August, I accepted an invitation to accompany an old friend on a weeklong fishing excursion. Plans were made for the second week in September. My friend Don was a business professional who had retired recently. He'd made yearly fly-in trips to the Canadian 'out-back' with his grown children, during the last ten years. From the way he spoke about our destination, I was fairly sure that he had had first-hand experience with the area, and had researched our final destination as well. The destination was to be the Arctic Watershed Area, of N.W. Ontario Canada, about two hundred and fifty miles north of Lake Superior. I've been aware that the area is well known as a regular destination for several well established fly-in services. However, instead of flying in to the lake, the suggestion was made that we take in the 'change of season' scenery, take the time to "smell the roses", and drive in to the destination. RIGHT! I should have smelled something wrong, right from the start. Since I haven't had a vacation in the last five years, that didn't include testing or selling fishing lures, I was eager for the opportunity to just have some fun for a change. So, bright & early on the first Friday morning in September, we finished packing the 'Crown Vic', and headed north for some great Canadian fishing.

I drove for ten hours from our homes in NW Ohio, north, up I-23, to finally reach the Canadian border crossing at Sault Ste. Marie. Then it was only another eight-hour drive, on two-lane highway, to the camp. It probably wouldn't have been too bad of a drive if it weren't so unseasonably cold, windy, & rainy most of the way. Of course, having those twenty-five miles of Canadian road reconstruction, just north of Lake Superior, didn't help much either. Anyway, after I'd just driven eighteen hours (ten of those hours were in the dark, with a pouring rain) to get us to our destination, we finally arrived! My friend arrived well rested, and ready to fish! I just arrived!

We registered, purchased our fishing licenses, learned about the slot-limits on the lakes (27" to 36" Pike & Walleye, had to be returned to the lake, 1 fish over 36" allowed to be kept as a trophy, and only fish less than 27" allowed to be kept for consumption), received directions to our "cottage", and immediately headed for it. Like a couple of young schoolboys, we quickly threw all our gear into a heap, right in the middle of the floor of the 2-man "cottage" he had reserved for us. We rushed to the dock, in the still drizzling rain, to install motors (his trusty Ol' 9.9hp four-cycle Honda, and my 12-Volt, tournament-emergency Minn Kota) onto our 14-foot long, aluminum, two-seater, rented fishing vessel. (He promised he'd soon show me why we had rented a boat, rather than bring one of our own along with us.)

Before I go any further, please, let me describe our "cozy traditional cottage" in more detail for you. For some reason, to me, it just didn't look like the place that was described in the brochure he'd shown at home!

The "BEAR" cabin, (I know that it's the right name, it was painted right over the door) sloped slightly downhill to the rear. It was a recently repainted, 12-foot wide x 14-foot long, sixty year old, single room, 2-bed, "efficiency-type" (by efficiency, I mean; it was right next door to the shower, bathroom, and drinking water spigot, and only 500 feet from the camp store!), and wood frame building.

The front door of the cottage was held closed by a screen-door hook and eyebolt! It had a refrigerator (the main door to it was held closed by a bungee-cord, hooked to the cooling coils in the rear); a sink (loosely positioned into an oversized hole in the 6' long, shared countertop, and somewhat leveled by the use of a paper Dixie Cup, precisely folded, and placed under the down-hill edge by a prior tenant); water was supplied by a 5-gallon Plastic jug (filled at the drinking-water spigot next door); and a 'counter-top cook-stove' (three 'Coleman' camp-stove type burners that had only two flame levels each ~ on or off ~ no oven) that shared the counter-top with the sink and our battery charger. We had a table with three chairs (one for company of course ~ or wet clothes) placed right next to the door, and in front of one side of the wrap-around picture window! (8 panes of 2' x 2' glass, backed by screens. The gaping holes in the screens didn't really matter much, 'cause the darned thing wouldn't open anyway!) The room also had two "full-sized" 'youth beds' (about 5 ½' long each), and a gas space-heater that had the same type temperature controls as the cook-stove (after being manually lit, it provided temperatures of either 98 degrees in the cabin, or 35 degrees ~ nothing in between! It was great if you needed a little extra exercise, usually around midnight, 1 am, 2am, 3am, 4 am, and 5am, on a cold rainy night!). Oops! I almost forgot! 10-penny nails that were spaced all around the remaining walls provided the hanging-wardrobe space. For lighting, you had your choice of either a single-mantle gaslight, or a single, un-shaded, 60-watt light bulb. Both provided eerie but stark illumination for the room! Two duplex receptacles (one behind the 'fridge, and the other, right next to the light switch at the door) were held in place to the walls with recently painted masking tape, provided the electrical supply outlets for the refrigerator, coffee pot, toaster, and battery charger, (though only one appliance could be used at a single time, without blowing a fuse). The cottage did have a full set of clean bed linens, clean curtains, and an assortment of 'garage-sale' pots, pans, dishes, cups, and silverware.

Did I mention that there was no cellular service, TV, or radio reception, available up there without a satellite dish? There was only one working telephone within 35 miles in any direction. It was on the table of the camp storeowner's house! The nearest neighbor was only fifteen miles away. The nearest hospital was only a hundred and twenty miles away. The camp was isolated! It was definitely quiet! Moose, Bear, and Loons were everywhere ~ people and places weren't! The only thing really missing was ~~~~ well, maybe we shouldn't go there!

Back to the FISHING! Saturday afternoon, after we dumped off our gear, climbed into our rain suits, and bailed out the boat, we headed out into the lake to look it over! According to the map we'd obtained, the first lake was "L" shaped, and seven miles long, by a mile wide. The second lake was three times the size of the first, and was attached to it by a mile-long stream. It could be reached by portaging your boat across two sets of rapids and a beaver dam. However, as soon as we'd left the dock, it began raining so hard that you couldn't see the shoreline twenty feet in front of you. The temperature dropped twenty-five degrees in less than fifteen minutes! The wind switched from the West to due north, and came straight at us, at about 35 mph, causing two-foot high whitecaps on the lake. It doesn't take much of that to make even the most avid tournament fisherman cry! OK, so I'm no longer an avid tournament fisherman! But, I'd just spent 18 hours on the road, and I was "dog-tired', wet, cold, and, well; not in the mood to abuse my body any longer! We headed back for the "suite" to unpack, take a hot shower, make dinner, and get some sleep!

I'd set the alarm for 5 AM so we could eat breakfast & hit the water by sunrise! Boy did it get cold & hot & cold that night!

Sunday morning it was tough to get out of bed! My friend Don, had decided to head to the closest town (35 miles west of where we were staying) to attend church services at eight. I decided to attack the lake before it got crowded, instead of joining him for the church services! So, I headed out "at the crack of dawn", to try my luck! The rain had diminished to a steady drizzle, the temperature hadn't raised much, but the wind had died down to an almost steady 20 mph out of the southeast by then. Since the lake was situated just about due East/West, I thought fishing conditions for someone new to a body of water were nearly perfect! I headed for the southeast corner of the lake, and let the wind help push the boat down the reed-filled, extremely rocky, shoreline.

For some reason, the thought just never occurred to me that Bass just don't exist in the Arctic Watershed! There I was, spinnerbaiting the outer edges of the 'pencil reeds' in search of some aggressive, early morning, Smallmouth Bass, (I thought) when I nearly had my rod ripped from my hands! I thought I'd hooked into the granddaddy-bass of all time, when the tussle began! There were none of the tail-walking acrobatics that the Smallies are so famous for; so, what was it I'd hooked? It became obvious a few minutes later, when I finally pulled the 35" Northern to the side of the boat. (NO! I didn't lip him! Those critters have teeth the size of a tomcat's, twice as many, and twice as sharp!) I released him, and went back to work on the Smallies that I just knew, had to be abundant on this rocky, glacial lake! Two casts later, I hooked that first Northern's cousin! Same size ~ same nasty attitude! During the next three hours I'd hooked a total of more than two dozen of the "toothy critters", from a single, quarter-mile stretch of that same shore, before heading back to the dock for lunch, and to pick up my friend.

Don arrived at the dock just as I was tying up the boat. We discussed my morning's fishing experiences a bit, and decided to forgo lunch, and head right back to the spot where I'd left off. (He didn't want to fish any "used water"!) During the next four hours we'd each boated another 20 or so pike, from the same pencil-reed covered shoreline, using nothing but spinnerbaits. We headed back to the "suite" for supper. After a hot meal, we headed to the camp store (a full service; post office, carry-out, gas station, souvenir store, phone booth, and bait shop) to talk with the owner about what we'd experienced so far, and get some input from him and the other anglers in camp. It seemed as though none of the other Walleye and Pike anglers had done nearly as well as we had that day. They'd fished the submerged weed-beds and deeper waters all day, and only picked up a couple of small fish each. Several of them had passed by us during the day, and saw us pulling fish out of the middle of the reeds. They couldn't imagine what in the world we were doing in there or what in the heck we were using that could penetrate the weeds in the first place! When we told them what we were doing, they wouldn't believe us. They all had their laughs, and we just smiled back at them! To them, it was totally unheard of to use Bass-baits to catch Northern Pike! They couldn't imagine using spinnerbaits, and ten-pound test line, to 'horse' three-foot long Pike out of the weeds. We walked out, and went back to the cabin to play a serious game of 'Gin Rummy', and call it a night.

Morning came with a roar, a roar of thunder that is! We dressed and ate breakfast while we waited for the rain to let up. Then pulled on our still-damp rain suits, and headed back to the boat with a fresh charge on the trolling-motor battery. It looked as if the light rain and cold northwest wind had returned to spend another day with us. After bailing out the boat again, and hooking everything up, we headed for the west end of the lake. This time we had company! Three of the boats from camp had decided to keep an eye on those storytellers from Ohio. They followed us out, and just sort of sat around in the middle of the lake about a hundred feet from us. They were talking to one another, with a cup of coffee in one hand, and occasionally pointing over to us. About two casts later, we had our first fish at the side of the boat. The loud talking stopped. A few casts later and we had a second fish, then a third. Within fifteen minutes from the first cast, we had caught six fish. One of the boats started up, and came over to us. The man at the front of the boat hollered over and asked if we were still using the Bass-baits he'd heard about the night before. I lobbed my lure to the inside of his boat, so that he could get a better look at what I was using. He picked it up, turned around, and showed the 1/8 oz. Gold spinnerbait to his partner. They both just shook their heads, and dropped the lure into the water, not saying a word.

A single crank on the reel to return the bait, met with instant resistance! With a roaring laugh, I had to set the hook on still another fish! It was just TOO MUCH to tolerate, for the hecklers from the previous night! Without saying another word, all three boats went their separate ways, leaving us to fend for ourselves again. By the time we'd headed to the dock for lunch, the entire camp had heard about the start of our day! You'd have thought that the 'Bass Masters Classic Weigh-In' was going on, when we finally tied up at noon. Everyone had to see what those bass fisherman were using to catch so many fish. For the next half-hour, we were treated to real celebrity status. We sold them every extra spinnerbait that we had on-board. In a FLASH, the weather turned extremely bad! Everyone ran for the shelter of their cabins, and watched 'mother nature' display her worst, for the next couple of hours. About four o'clock, as quickly as it had started, the wind died down, it stopped raining, and the sun came out! Now I was ready to really "strut my stuff"! I reloaded the tackle-box with new spinnerbaits, and back to the boats, we all went! We fished until nearly dark, and neither Don nor I could, beg, borrow, or steal, another hit all evening! We later found out that no one else had caught a single fish of any kind that evening! Little consolation! We ate dinner, joined in on the cracker-barrel discussion at the store for a while, and then turned in for the night.

The things we learned at the dock that morning when we came in, were not what we could ever have expected!

LURES & METHODS SUCCESSFULLY USED:

1/8 oz., Single, Colorado-Blade, ZAP Custom-Style Spinnerbaitsİ

*Old Gold/gold glitter head, #3 D.C. hammered Gold Colorado blade, metallic gold 120-tail living rubber skirt

*Old Silver/silver glitter head, #3 D.C. hammered Nickel Colorado blade, metallic silver 120-tail living rubber skirt

Used solely by the author as his lure of preference for all around success! Slow, steady, pulsing retrieve was used in all conditions. Used effectively deep inside heavy pencil weeds, along weed edges, through hyacinth and lily patches, and on heavily weeded shallow flats. A single gold spinnerbait accounted for 47 Northern Pike (25" to 38" each) before it was lost to a fish in heavy cover. Including the one lost to a fish, a total of three lures were used to catch 92 Northern Pike.(24" to 38") Two lures still remain in service. Gold was most effective during overcast/rainy periods. Silver was used with the sun out.

1/4 oz., Tandem, Willow-Blades, ZAP Custom-Style Spinnerbaitsİ

*Brite Gold/Mino-Flashİ head, #3.5 Gold Willow fore-blade #4 Gold Willow trailing-blade, metallic gold 120-tail living rubber skirt

*Yellow Chartreuse/silver glitter head, #3.5 hammered nickel Willow fore-blade #4 painted White glitter Willow trailing-blade, Yellow Chartreuse/White120-tail living rubber skirt

Used primarily deep inside the pencil weeds. A faster, straight-line retrieve brought best results. Gold Mino-Flashİ was most effective during overcast/rainy periods. Yellow Chartreuse was used when the sun came out. 1 of each color lure were used. This pair of lures accounted for 61 Northern Pike and 1 Walleye (14" to 36"). Both remain in service.

3/8 oz., Tandem, Colorado/Willow-Blades, ZAP Pro-Style Spinnerbaitsİ

*Green Chartreuse/gold glitter head, #4 hammered Brass Colorado fore-blade #5 Chartreuse glitter Willow trailing-blade, Lime/Yellow Chartreuse 120-tail living rubber skirt

*Brite White/silver glitter head, #4 hammered Nickel Colorado fore-blade #5 White glitter Willow trailing-blade, White 120-tail living rubber skirt

Used primarily for outside edges of pencil reeds, heavily weeded flats, and drops. A faster, pulsing, straight-line retrieve, brought best results. Green Chartreuse was most effective during overcast/rainy periods. White was used when the sun came out. 1 White lure, and three Green Chartreuse lures were used. The four lures accounted for 26 Northern Pike (20" to 32"). 1 lure of each color remain in service. 1 Green Chartreuse lure was lost to a Pike in heavy pencil weed cover. The other was lost during a cast, because of failure to retie after a catch.

TRIP OBSERVATIONS:

If your fishing destination is 250 miles due north of Lake Superior ~ FLY-IN ~ don't drive-in!
Never drive Canadian Hwy. 17, north of Lake Superior, after dark!
Moose are much bigger than automobiles! They seem uniquely HUGE after dark!
Always heed the 'Moose Warning' signs in northern Canada after dark!
Always ask for a current picture (not a 10-year-old brochure) of any cabin accommodations in northern Canada!
Never pack summer clothing for a trip to northern Canada after September 1st!
-2°C is cold! If it's raining & windy, -2°C is VERY COLD!
There are no Bass of any species that exist in the Arctic Watershed!
There are absolutely no, none, zip, nada, timid Northern Pike!
There are no "small" Northern Pike over thirty-six inches long!
There are "zillions" of very sharp teeth in the mouths of all Northern Pike over thirty inches long!
There is no way to safely "lip" a Northern Pike without serious injury to the person doing the "lipping" barehanded!
There are about ten thousand, six hundred, and fifty-seven, known ways to catch Northern Pike!
There are about twenty-one thousand, one hundred, and fourteen, different kinds of lures that can be used to catch Northerns!
There are only a little bit over two million possible color combinations that can be considered effective to catch Northern Pike!
There are less than ten lure styles available on the market today, to catch Northern Pike in heavy weeds!
There is only one type of lure that can consistently catch Northern Pike in heavily emerged shoreline weeds, emerged floating weeds, and submerged aquatic weeds of all types ~ a spinnerbait!
179 Northern Pike and 1 Walleye were brought to the boat and released during three days of non-competitive fishing.
A total of nine spinnerbaits were placed in service during the three days of fishing. Six spinnerbaits remain in service.
Two spinnerbaits were lost to fish in heavy cover because of line breakage, and one was lost due to human error.


Things had happened on that morning of September 11th, 2001! At about eleven AM on that morning, we were informed by our Canadian host, that unbelievably dreadful events had taken place in our American homeland!
Incomprehensible, disgusting, vile events, had been forced upon an unknowing, non-suspecting, America!
Things happened that day that none of us could, should, nor ever will, forget or forgive!
Our country, and our lives as we knew them, had changed in the blink of an eye on that fateful morning!

All our vacations had ended on that Tuesday morning ~ 1,750 miles and more, from our homes and families!

For the next eight hours, all twenty-three men from that Canadian wilderness camp's ten cottages, quietly watched the events of the day unfold on a single TV screen, and attempted to complete calls to their families back home.

By noon the US/Canadian border had been closed for an indefinite period.

At nightfall, at least one person from each cabin had been able to reach a family member, and asked that messages be delivered to the families of the remaining members of their group.

The next two days; before we were all finally allowed to cross the border to return home to our own country, our wives, and our families; were a blur of loss, anxiety, loneliness, personal pain, and quiet personal reflections.

We were told by the camp's owner at 8 AM on Friday morning, September 14th, that according to his radio, the Canadian/US border was again open, and we could expect at least a 12 to 14 hour delay at customs.

The camp was empty by 8:15 AM.
We crossed the American border at 6PM.

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Good Fishin'!
Dennis Bryant ( The Fishin' Professor )

- Contact Dennis with your questions or comments at TheFishingProfessor@bassonhook.com

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