Great Slave Lake 8/22/07-9/1/07 " A Rookie's Tail"
The report you are about to read is multiple chapters and tons of pictures. If you are concerned with band-width or loading times please leave the window open, grab some coffee or make a sandwich and come back to the fully loaded page. You wont want to miss anything that we're putting up. Thank you.
Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge report for August 22-September1, 2007
Hi everyone! Jamie here from www.customfish.com! I'm the webmaster for Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge. The next couple of reports are going to be done by yours truly; a rookie at Taltson Bay on Great Slave. Although I'm a veteran angler with several merits to my credit, I wasn't sure if I would be up to the task of going after the largest northern pike in North American Waters. What you'll be reading and seeing in the next couple of days are pages taken out of the www.customfish.com website fishing report. So sit back and enjoy.....because I aint the "normal" fisherman".
You've all been waiting. I hear ya. But you gotta understand that there's alot to write. There's a ton of pictures....probably 300. There's 15 different videos. I mean, we caught over 1,040 pike! 123 of those were between 41-50" long! I did surgery on John! Art got impaled!! Steve almost killed the lady at the airport! Jimmy made up words that haven't even been invented yet! I soiled myself when that bear was 20' while I was taking a leak!!! Good GOD people, It was mayhem!!!!!
So.. consider this the movie trailer. And come on back soon and I'll give you another taste.
OK..ok...I can hear you pitching a fit over there. "NO FISH?? All we get is scenery and a couple of dorks on a plane??!! WHAT A SCAM!!!"
Relax, people. I'll give ya one more to set the mood. Trust me...it'll be worth it. What I'm going to put up in the next couple of days borders on insanity.
So...smile....and say "cheeeese".
-Tools of the trade-
As I started packing for the trip to Great Slave I asked alot of questions regarding what I should bring, especially where lures were concerned.
It became apparent to me quickly that I really had no clue what I was doing. Even being a seasoned 20 year muskie angler I was way over my skis. I had 3 boxes of lures which John Mich, Art Rothblatt, Steve Schmitt, Mike Warnick and Rob Kolar went thru and tore apart. What I was left with was basically 2 trays out of 10 that would make the cut. At first I had my reservations about their deselection of a couple grand worth of my lures, but I now have to admit they were right. These guys have logged in more time up there than some of the guides, especially John who is a 16 trip veteran to Taltson Bay.
So...being the outdoor reporter that I am I feel it is my duty to share some of our best-of-the-best lures that are proven on Great Slave. I'm sure the group will feel it their duty to shoot me for giving away the secrets. But after all, as webmaster for the site it's my obligation to keep you informed so that you too may have a trip of a lifetime.
Sit back. Grab some coffee. And do a little window shopping. These are the weapons of choice.
A couple other recommended items to have in your tackle bag would be bolt cutters, a towel, a medical kit that includes hockey tape and Krazy Glue (more on that later), a headlamp for night fishing, jaw spreaders (tie them to the boat please), bug spray, and a good digital camera so that you can send pictures to email@example.com and also get yourself a Life Size Trophy Print! (How's THAT for a plug?!)
There's one more lure that isn't pictured. It's the nuclear missile in the arsenal. It's the King of Sting. The Master Of Disaster.
Our favorite colors are pink/purple, black/orange, and chartruese/white/silver.
Want to know what it is? You have to watch this video.
The Dick Pearson's Grinder is unbeatable out there during the day, as Mr. Mich just showed you.
-Humiliation is a dish best served cold-
I arrived back home on the morning of sunday, September 2nd and as I sat in my favorite chair with my son we flipped thru a few channels on the TV. We came across a fishing show or two and my 2 year old said to me "Dada..that's a BIG fish!" when he saw one of the famous TV anglers catch a pike of about 36" somewhere in Wisconsin. I didn't even think about my answer. I said it in such a matter-of-fact way after spending a week on Great Slave.
"No it's not. Those guys have no idea what a big pike is."
Cocky, right? Yes. Cocky indeed. There's a transformation that happens when you fish Great Slave. You earn the right to be cocky. You come back home knowing that you've been to the best waters in North America and you've fought some of the biggest pike on the planet...and a few times you've even won. After spending a week being beat up by hundreds of pike that are bigger than anything else in the water, you earn the right to tell anyone holding a 36" pike " You don't know what a big pike is." And you earn the right to smile and walk away from any other lodge owner that boasts about his entire camp getting 5 trophies that week.....Taltson fishermen often get that in a day, per person.
Let me put it to you this way; I've been pike fishing in Wisconsin for 30 years. I think I cracked the 40" mark exactly ONCE. At Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge we did it 231 times in a few days. Heck, my SECOND cast from the dock granted me my 2nd largest pike of my life. We hadn't even unpacked yet! I hadn't even stepped into a boat yet! Jimmy grabbed it, unhooked it and let it go back in the water. He smiled at me and said "That's just a baby. You'll catch a ton of those this week." It was at that point that I knew the stories I had been hearing for years were indeed possible.
The stories that I'd been told ranged anywhere from 312 trophy pike 41"-50" in a single week, to a trophy caught on a sock and another on an apple core, to fighting 2 20lb pike at the same time in the same boat. These are stories that I thought HAD to be embellished a little. They couldn't be all true! A pike on a sock?? An apple? 2 huge pike at once?? I was even told that when I see a 36" pike following I'll be ripping my lure out of the water because there'll be a 42" in back of it! It all sounded impossible! And as I sit here on my computer with a 5 foot tall lifesize Trophy Print of me and my 45" pike next to my desk I think to myself " God d--m...it's all true. It really IS that insane. It really IS the best of the best."
What we hear from people once in a while is this " is it a drive-to lodge?"
Answer: No. You'll be flying to Yellowknife and then to camp.
BUT...here's the good part! Our crew takes an annual trip to Pipestone Lake, Ontario which is 1 hour north of International Fall, MN. We drive. IT TAKES US LESS TIME TO GET TO TALTSON BAY BIG PIKE LODGE. The flights are great and it's way more comfortable watching a movie on a plane than watching the entire states of Wisconsin and Minnesota go by. It is a bit more expensive to fly than drive, but as with most things in life 'You get what you pay for'. You can catch snakes in Ontario or serpents in the Northwest Territories.
There was one downside to my trip. As webmaster for Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge I was "working" while fishing. It's my duty to let the cat out of the bag about this little secret. I have been assigned the task of letting the rest of the world know that there is a place where the elite can be challenged and the average fisherman can be a part of an angling experience that is unmatched. I had to take a few hundred pictures, a couple dozen videos, and alot of notes so that you'll be as well informed as possible. That all being said, if I wasn't "working" I would have caught a thousand! But as it turned out I did just fine with that pot of gold at the end of the pike fishing rainbow.
So...here we go. On with the show!
I'll start out with a few of my favorite shots. Hopefully they'll help to tell the story that is Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge in better visual detail.
We'll start out with a couple shots of your arrival:
How big is too big of a bait? We don't know the answer to that. Look at what this pike just ate. Got anything that big?
Shots of doubles are always entertaining. We had a few instances during the week. Here's a couple prime examples. I'll even toss in a video.
Seeing as how Customfish.com is a company founded on the principle of catch & release. Here's john with one of over a thousand that will fight another day.
Speaking of catch and release and how well it works; take a look at these two shots. Same 42" trophy. Caught 2 days apart. John got her on tuesday and I got her on thursday. How's THAT for some aggresive pike?!
We have a couple of fish that we caught that I think are just cool shots because the fish ate alot.
I want to know just how much can a pike eat and STILL want to hit a 12" bait.
-The Usual Suspects-
"And poof. Just like that, he's gone." -Kaiser Sose-
We missed a few fish during the trip. Actually we missed more than a few. On trolling runs we had fish hit so hard that they'd knock the bait out of the park and not get hooked. We pulled in more than one Musky Innovations Bulldawg that was literally bent in half with no fish on the end to show for it. Other fish got off mid fight, probably due to barbless hooks being manditory in the Territories. Others would follow a bait to the boat like ghosts and try to hit it as it was being pulled out of the water for another cast (those usually got caught on a short follow up cast). But even with the missed fish we still cracked a thousand.
The following photos are slideshows of the individual team members with some of their finest catches. There's more of a couple of us than others, but that's because John and I were making sure we had enough for the site, articles, etc. Ok..ok..so John and I got carried away like paparazzi following Pam Anderson. But hey...it was my first trip there.
We'll start out with Steve Schmitt.
Steve is a multi-trip veteran at Taltson Bay and he really knows the lake. He has caught literally thousands of pike on Great Slave and has taken dozens of trips elsewhere around North America in search of big fish. He takes great pride in being able to tell people honestly that there is not another camp in North America that equals Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge for numbers and size of pike. You can contact him as well as John Mich on the homepage www.taltsonbaypike.com if you'd like to ask him specifics.
Stever! Take it away!
Up next we have Jimmy Z.
We don't list a last name for Jimmy because when you steal as many hearts as Jimmy does, you border on criminal. He also stole the Big Fish Of The Week with a mammoth 50" monster! You'd think a retired Chicago cop wouldn't steal so much. But he's earned the right, being another mutli-trip veteran angler on Great Slave. His weapon of choice is the in-line spinner and he wields it like a semi-auto with a hair trigger. There's not many people that are beating Jimmy when it comes to trophy pike on a Mepp's.
Jimmy...It's all you baby. Take it away!
This next character is an enigma.
Art Rothblatt is a mild mannered accountant by day and a cigar totin' pike slayin' madman by night who'd fit in perfectly in a Tarantino film....If Tarantino made a movie about fishing. He's the silent giant of trophy pike fishing, following Teddy Roosevelt's advise to "Speak softly and carry a big stick". If it came down to Art Vs. Babe Winkleman...I'm taking Art. But if you throw in Ernest Hemmingway into the mix I might go Hemmingway....but only if Art got impaled with another 5/0 hook thru the hand. ( a little inside humor there. But yes, Art did take one thru the hand and had to bow out a day.)
Art also has dozens of trips across Canada and the U.S. under his belt. He has called Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge his primary trip for several years now due to the promise of monster pike that Great Slave always delivers.
Oh...and his wallet is the one that says " Bad Mother ...... " (Again...inside humor for all you Tarantino fans.)
Arte', swing that big stick Roosevelt!
Then there's me. Jamie Riani.
I'm a veteran angler who spends alot of time on the water around home, in Wisconsin and on annual trips to Ontario. I own Customfish.com and have dedicated a big portion of my life to angling. I'm first and foremost a smallmouth bass fisherman, which actually helped alot on this trip. Ya see, these pike don't really act like your traditional pike. They are much more like smallies with a touch of walleye and a hint of muskie. They love rocks. They make a fast moving river channel a primary home and nice comfortable weeds a secondary dwelling. They often times school up. They suspend 2 feet off the bottom in strong current. And they basically used every kind of spot/structure that I fish for smallies in. So in that respect I got lucky. I was able to pick of a 44" monster from a spot that in my mind screamed "SMALLIE EDDY IN FAST CURRENT!"
I have several smallies to my credit over 20" and one at 23". I'm also a halfway decent walleye angler with a 28"er to my credit. I fished muskies for a couple decades and got pretty good at that. And as far as largemouth bass go...fugetaboutit! I've got more big largemouth than I can count. And my pike skills before this trip? I thought I had that in check.
I was wrong.
I'll be the first to admit that the first day of this trip will put you in your place as far as pike fishing goes. You DON'T win all the time. There ARE some fish that you just won't bring in. You'll get your heart broken 10 times a day. You'll see fish up to 50" follow that hooked 38"er and then lazily swim off in disgust. And I, ladies and gentlemen, wasn't quite ready to get my butt handed to me like that by a fish. I was humbled in the first couple of hours. Plus...there's the whole hand landing thing. John Mich has it down to a science. I, being of the muskie-mind, am used to a net and a longer process. Here you've got about 1 minute to secure a 41"+ pike, get him unhooked safely, measrue it, take a picture, and release it. Needless to say John hand landed 90% of my fish for the first two days until I re-learned how to safely and effectively land a monster pike without hurting myself and/or the fish.
I was humiliated. Humbled. Put in my place by a fish. And I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China.
So...here goes. My own photo gallery of battles that I won. ladies and gentlemen, I give you...well...me!
And that brings us to John Mich.
No one has spent more time at Taltson Bay Big Pike Lodge other than the owner and staff. John doesn't use a guide...he IS a guide. He's cocky....because he can be. He's logged in more hours, guided more trips, outfitted more groups and caught more pike than even he can count at this point. He's a 16 time trip veteran. And he's one hell of a guy to have in the boat. His main concern on this trip was my success as a rookie, and that's something that you just don't find too often. I myself do the same on smallie trips that I outfit and I can tell you that it takes patience and alot of giving of one's self. There isn't anyone more knowledgeable about the waters of Taltson Bay. Up there he is "The Man" to beat. It was a pleasure to be in the boat with him...and even more of a pleasure to Krazy Glue his finger back together after taking a 5/0 hook courtesy of one pi**ed off trophy pike. Ah..Now you see why you need Krazy Glue and hockey tape. ( *Hint.. go back to the customfish site and you might just see that video. )
OK..so let's get on to the John Mich Show. First I'll give you one video just to show you how smooth this guy is. Keep in mind he's got a pike on that's bigger than most people will catch in a lifetime.
We have alot of pictures for John as I felt it was needed to take a lot of shots. Again...I was working. So instead of putting up a dozen or so I'm gonna let most of them roll. After all, John is the guy who is almost single handedly responsible for bringing this place into the known universe for the benefit of us. Before he found it you would have never had known there was a camp on the Taltson River at all. If you have any questions about anything regarding plans for a trip please contact John via the homepage. www.talstsonbaypike.com ( 1-630-710-1777 to book thru John).
-" Great Slave 2007. Behind the scenes. "-
If you've made it this far you now get to the fun stuff. The Stories.
Every trip has stories. Chances are that if you are looking at this site you're either a serious fisherman who has been on trips or you know us...either way you've surely got some stories as well. So I know you know what I mean.
I mentioned a bear before. Remember? Well, I'd been expecting to see a bear all week and hadn't. So on the morning of our departure to come home I woke up before anyone else at aboout 7am. The coffee wasn't on yet. Everything was dead silent. It was a nice moment for me to just go for a little walk.
If there was ever a time to see a moose or a bear down by the water's edge I figured that 7am would be a good time. So I quietly got another layer of clothes on and went for a stroll down the glacial rocks to the dock. Standing at the water I looked around, seeing no bear or moose. I listened to silence, hearing no bear or moose.
oh...wait...did I mention I had to take a leak?
Yeah. By the way I had to take a leak.
Like I said, everyone was still asleep. I didn't want to go walking all the way up to the lodge washroom and wake everyone up by opening a couple doors nor did I want to go to the old outhouses because...well...when you get there you'll know what I mean. They're fine facilities for the purpose but they're also kinda in the woods. And at 7am it's probably not the best place to have a one on one with a moose. So I just kinda did my thing near water's edge in back of the shed. Kinda....
Ya see, I decided to stop when I looked over to my left and saw a bear silently come thru the bushes to check out who was markin' territory on his trail. Oh...and did I mention he was about 20' away??! Scared the..well...pi## out of me!
I guess it was just Taltson Bay's way of letting me know that I didn't conquer anything on my visit. I was just a guest. And I stayed and left on their terms. I tell ya what, there's nothing like a bear next to yer a$$ to let ya know that you aren't all that, Jack.
Did I mention that Art and John got hooked? No..not on drugs! By fish.
Art took one straight thru mid-hand. Nice and clean. It was out as fast as it went in. Thank God for the barbless hook rule up there! That little injury was so clean that it didn't really seem to effect him all that much. What DID take him out for a day was the monster pike that spun on his grip and probably did a litlle ligament damage to a finger. It's a typical sports injury but it'll take you out of fishing as fast as it'll take you off a pitcher's mound. Still, Art got back in the boat a day later with said finger taped up to the one next to it. He STILL caught trophy pike post injury. I think both injuries made him more aggrivated than anything. I seem to recall him walking back to the boats muttering something like " Ok...Now I'm gonna get medevil on their a$$..."
John's incident was a little more...um..graphic. He was unhooking a particularly nasty 42" monster when she decided that she had had just about enough of him. And folks, there's not a whole lot you can do except hold on for the ride when a 42 decides to go mental and invoke it's psychostrength while in your hands. Unfortunately for John that ride included a 5/0 going in one side, out the other and then being taken out..um...sideways by a really pi##ed off fish in about 1/100th of a second. All I can say is thank god it happened in a too-fast-to-think-about-it-way. Hell...in the pictures John is smiling for the camera.
It's been a week now and from what I saw of John's finger today it looks pretty darn good. What I had learned as a mixed martial arts trick came in pretty useful in the Territories.
My Krazy Glue surgical expertise can be rented out for your trip. Think of me as a doctor on call.
*Tip. Don't wear gloves unless they are 100% punture proof Kevlar or chain-male. Art and John both got hooked because the hook caught the glove. If you are going to wear a glove please test it first by putting a hook on it and attaching a 20lb weight to the hook. Drop the weight a few feet to duplicate the force of the fish going mental. If the hook didn't go thru, wear them. If it did, leave them at home.*
You have to give it up to John and Art. They got tagged by the opponent and stayed in the ring and kept fighting. I know alot of other grown men that would have been calling a float plane to go home. Just remember, if you do happen to get hooked it's not too bad. There's no barbs so backing it out is reletively painless. Bring hook cutters just in case. Some aniceptic should be in you tackle box anyway along with a first aid kit. Plus, now you know my Krazy Glue trick coupled with John's hockey tape trick. Remember to only use Krazy Glue OVER the skin..not IN the wound. The locals can alsos help you out with local remedies which work. And...oh...by the way, if you feel like you HAVE to call in a float plane for a hook injury to your hand just keep this in mind: When you do get back into Yellowknife they'll use a now-standard hospital method on your injury. That method includes 1) anticeptic 2) Krazy Glue and 3) tape. That method also applies in the states too. So basicaly..don't freak out. You're gonna be ok. And I just saved you about $5,000.
John and I are big guys. We're what you may call "neighborhood" types from the Chicago area. John is a veteran cop and my favorite thing to do other than fishing is boning up on fight related sports. So basically it takes alot to get to us. We laughed about having to do "lodge surgery" and even put some of it on video ( you know where to find it).
BUT.....a man's got to know his limitations.
Have you seen Jaws? Do you remember the scene when they first see the shark from the boat?
Hooper says " That;s a 20 footer."
To which Quint replies " 25. 3 tons of 'em." as the shark slips under the boat.
Ok...keep that scene in your head.
John and I were doing quite well during our nightly trolling passes in the river channel where it spills into the delta. We had continuously scored with trophies as did the rest of the crew in this particular area after dark. So when John had a 40+ next to the boat in the darkness it was nothing unusual. We had our routine down for each fish. Turn on the headlapms on our hats and both of us would have them spotted on the fish to make is as light and safe as possible.
Well...we had our lamps trained on John's fish. Like tunnel vision. Everything was going smoothly while John calmly worked on his fish in the water boatside.
I said everything was going smoothly, right? Ok...well that all ended when one of us moved our spotlight out a few feet and saw a HUGE pike lurking just under the surface making a direct path to John's hands in the water. It was at that moment when it looked just like the shark in Jaws as it passed under The Orca. John dropped his fish and sent himself reeling back into the boat in a hurry. I, being the kind of person I am, excalimed in an excited laughter tone "HOLY S###!! DID YOU SEE THAT THING!! IT WAS GONNA TAKE YOUR HAND LIKE A LURE!"
I've seen alot of weird things in fishing. But I have NEVER seen a mid-high 40's pike deliberately come to the boat to try to "steal" something (John's fingers) from a low 40's pike that's being unhooked. Nothing bothered this thing. Not the lights. Not the boat. Not me. Not John. Not all the noise. It didn't care...it saw something (John's hands) moving and was well on it's way to getting it's way. And I was almost out of Krazy Glue.
Well, That about wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed the stories, the pictures, and me soiling myself due to a bear. Hopefully everything that I've put up here will make you want to experience everything that Taltson Bay on Great Slave is. It sounds a little intimidating. Possibly even a little scary. You'll get humiliated a few times by a fish. You'll lose some fights and get your heart broken. You'll see some fish that you didn't think even existed at that size. But you'll also have the time of your life and you'll leave as one of the best fishermen on the planet. You'll be able to judge any other camp and any other fisherman in North America because you will have fought the best and made it back home with a smile.
It aint Everest, but for trophy northern pike fishing.....yeah, it's Everest.
Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think. Also feel free to fire off any questions and I'll get them answered by John and Steve.
Don't forget to bokmark this site and customfish.com. We add stories and pictures on a pretty regular basis.
Ok...ok..I'll give you the video of John getting Krazy Glued just because it cracks us up.
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