This fish story just in.
Not long ago I was sent a Manitoba newspaper clipping from a March 23, 1999 edition with a most amazing fish tale.
The story’s headline says it all: THEY ATE MANITOBA’S BIGGEST PIKE.
And, yes, it’s apparently true. A resident of Easterville, Manitoba, a small aboriginal community southeast of The Pas, was fishing for food for the family table when he caught (by hook or by net is undetermined) a pretty nice northern pike out of Cedar Lake. The fisherman and his four children had a picture taken of them holding the pike.
Okay, so it was a little better than pretty nice.
According to Manitoba officials, who utilized computer scanning and imaging to determine the fish’s measurements, the pike was estimated to be 70 inches long or about 10 inches longer than Manitoba’s official pike record.
The pike’s estimated weight is more than 50 pounds.
As a fish story goes, this one is also quite short. Doug Leroux, a regional fisheries manager in The Pas, said he believes that such a fish was caught.
‘’From what I understand, the fisherman was simply out to stock the family fridge when he made the catch. From what I understand, he gave it to his grandmother. It would definitely feed a family for a while.’’
And so, the largest pike in Manitoba history ended up on the dinner table.
Sad in a way, but, if you think about it, most of the giant fish caught in the last 100 years probably ended up in somebody’s belly. It’s quite possible Minnesota’s record 45-pound pike, allegedly caught in 1929, was cooked as well.
(It’s also possible the Minnesota state record pike isn’t even the state record pike because of insufficient evidence but that’s another story awaiting a DNR decision).
Through the centuries and for as long as anglers have cast for sport, big fish have always held a special place in an angler’s heart. However, in comparison, official state record keeping or big fish awards programs are probably only decades old. In a way, that’s too bad, too. It would have been nice to know, say in 1850, if a 17-pound walleye was viewed as really big or commonplace.
Clearly, the times they are a changing, as the song goes. More of us who fish are releasing more of what we catch in the belief we’re helping the resource (and our own fishing future.)
If you would have told me 25 years ago that walleye anglers someday would willingly release perfectly good-eating walleyes, I would have told you to check your fever because you’re hallucinating.
Oddly enough, the northern pike seems to be the trophy we love to catch and keep. In my home state of Minnesota, a big pike (more than 10 pounds) may be the rarest trophy of all gamefish. On lakes that are capable of producing large pike, the rules still allow an angler to keep one pike over 40 inches or so. Under those rules, if 50 anglers all keep one big pike, the big pike will be gone eventually. The story of declining or rare pike trophy catches is found in just about every state in the country.
Fortunately, many big pike lodges in Canada have learned the ir conservation lesson and forbid killing of any 40 inch plus pike. Not every lake is capable of producing big pike (food and habitat play a major role) but we need to identify those lakes and establish complete protection if we want to restore our trophy pike angling.
In the meantime, we still must keep fishing fun without the need for an attorney in the boat seat. Fishing is also a way to have good eating. We just need to remember to eat the small fish and let the lunkers go.
Sometimes it doesn’t happen, of course.
My favorite big fish cooked story is about a Twin Cities angler who caught the fish of a lifetime in the St. Croix River. It was a beautiful smallmouth bass with dark golden sides, dashing red eyes and a bass belly that weighed more than 8-pounds. To this day, I think it was a new Minnesota record smallmouth.
But we’ll never know.
As the angler explained it to me, he was more than excited with his catch and rushed home to share his good fortune with the wife.
‘’What are you planning to do with that?,’’ the wife reportedly said, apparently not as ecstatic as he.
‘’Honey,’’ he said, softening his answer, ‘’I plan to have the fish mounted.’’
‘’It’s not hanging in our house,’’ she replied.
So--now you know why a potential Minnesota record fish---a coveted smallmouth bass--- ended up on a dinner table instead of a den wall.
This fish story just in.