Persistence paid off last week for an avid Idaho angler who pursues big northern pike nearly every day. On March 21, 2023, while fishing on Hayden Lake north of Coeur d’Alene, Thomas Francis landed a new state record, which tipped the scales at a whopping 40.76 pounds.

According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), Francis targets northern pike on a near daily basis, from the first thaw in the spring until the water freezes again in the winter. This year, his payoff came early. Casting from his boat to the edge of the receding ice, Francis hooked what IDFG called “a true monster a fish” on 80-pound test.

As soon as his lure hit the bottom of the lake, the pike took it and ran, he told the IDFG. “She pinned herself to the bottom and just kept going, peeling drag the whole time,” he said. “I knew that wasn’t normal, and I could tell it was something special.” 

Pike & Muskie Fishing photo
Thomas Francis caught the new Idaho state-record pike while plying the edge of receding ice from his boat on Hayden Lake. IDFG

Then the beast shifted gears and bolted for the surface. “Suddenly, I got slack line as she was coming straight up from the bottom,” he said. “She came flying out of the water, and it was obvious she was a huge fish.”

After landing the massive northern, Francis quickly realized that he was flirting with a state record. He went to the dock to find a boat with a scale and tape measure, but the fish was too big for the largest scale he could find. He visited a few more places before locating a certified scale that was up to the task. The record was certified and logged by IDFG officials late last week.

The previous Idaho record, caught by Kim Fleming in 2010 in Lower Twin Lake, weighed 40.13 pounds and was 50.75 inches long with a 22.75-inch girth. While Francis’s 49-inch fish did not surpass Fleming’s in length, it weighed 10 ounces more—thanks to a 26.6-inch girth.

Related: Wisconsin Ice Angler’s Massive Northern Pike is a New Minnesota State Record

Northern pike are native to the upper Midwest, Canada, and Alaska. According to IDFG, the species was introduced illegally to northern Idaho waters in the 1970s. In an effort to protect lake-run cutthroat trout and other native species, the IDFG periodically gill nets northern pike as they spawn in shallow waters near the mouth of tributaries that feed Lake Coeur d’Alene. The North American record for northern pike is held by Peter Dubuc, who caught a 46.13 pounder in 1940 while fishing in the Great Sacandaga Lake in New York.