By Dave Neuswanger, QLA President
On Sunday, August 13, my wife Sandy (who always out-fishes me) caught and released the biggest northern pike of her angling career — a robust 32-incher from Wilson Bay of Lost Land Lake! It was a great catch, but the story goes much deeper than that.
Sandy and I had decided to do a little “citizen science” on this calm morning by venturing to Wilson Bay, where we planned to collect any aquatic plants that may be returning to areas treated chemically in late May to control invasive Hybrid Eurasian Water Milfoil (HEWM). A lingering question was whether our treatment with Reward herbicide had simply slowed the spread of HEWM, as expected, or if treatment had unexpectedly eliminated HEWM while allowing native plants to become re-established in areas of treatment.
The results? I was unable to find a single specimen of HEWM in one of the largest areas of infestation prior to treatment. “Trolling” a garden rake 4-6 feet down from the surface through the tops of plants that had begun to regrow after treatment, I could find only native plants, including some tall specimens of clasping-leaf pondweed, which provides excellent fish habitat. This was good news, indeed.
But the biggest surprise was yet to come. As Sandy dragged a walleye jig along the bottom to collect plant species I might have missed with my rake, she hooked a large fish. A lengthy battle ensued, during which the fish bulldogged its way beneath the kayak of a friendly fellow who had stopped next to our boat to visit while we worked. Despite all circumstances, Sandy skillfully brought the fish to net. Everyone’s eyes bulged when a 32-inch northern pike emerged from the water!
Our onlooking kayaker, a vacationer named “Jim” from Plymouth, Wisconsin, remarked that he had seen many anglers catch weeds while attempting to catch fish, but he had never witnessed anyone catch a fish while attempting to catch weeds!
This was, by far, Sandy’s biggest northern pike ever. Of course, we had no camera onboard, because we had no plan to photograph “trophy” plants. So we decided to transport the pike back to our Steamboat Bay cabin to take pictures prior to release. Because the pike was caught in the pursuit of scientific knowledge regarding the effects of our chemical treatment, we thought it only fitting to photograph Sandy beneath the “Science Pike” adorning our boathouse.
After posing for a brief minute out of the water, Sandy walked her catch into the shallows of our beach for release. We like to eat pike; but the bigger, older fish (like this one) tend to have more mercury in their muscle tissue than we care to consume. Therefore, we usually keep only pike between 21 and 28 inches long, releasing bigger fish to thrill another angler, another day.
In summary, this was a banner day that produced a living Science Pike along with some good news regarding QLA’s aquatic plant management efforts. QLA’s First Lady of Fishing will be talking about the “big one that got away” (with a little help) for a long time.