On Friday, August 6, 2010, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho resident Kim Fleming landed the state's largest northern pike ever recorded. The giant weighed 40 pounds, 2 ounces, beating the previous record by five ounces. Fleming was fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout on Lower Twin Lake when the behemoth ate his offering, instead. All photos courtesy of Kim Fleming.
Pike are newcomers to the state’s waters and are growing at astonishing rates on a diet of trout and salmon. Fleming’s fish (shown here lying on a 10-inch-wide board) measured 51 and 1/2 inches long and had a and girth of 22 and 3/4 inches is. Note how the bottom portion of the fish’s tail was broken off as it flopped around in the boat. “Without thinking I threw the tail chunk back into the lake. It would probably have been another ounce heavier with it still attached,” Fleming said.
Fleming was trolling with his best friend, Randy Whalen (pictured), aboard Whalen’s 21-foot pontoon boat. The fish hit at 11 a.m. “It came on the first bite of the day… And the last,” says Fleming, who, at first, had trouble convincing his buddy to call it quits to get the fish officially weighed. Landing the fish was not an easy task. The battle took nearly half an hour, and the two anglers didn’t have a large enough landing net, so Fleming had to hook the fish’s gill plate with the bow hook you see Whalen holding here.
Fleming was using a medium-action spinning rig, a Silstar FX 40 reel and 6-foot, 6-six-inch Silstar rod he’s been using since he purchased it back in ’80’s. The reel was spooled with 10-pound-test Stren Super Tough, with a 6-pound-test Berkley Trilene Maxx leader.
Between the main line and the 3-foot leader, Fleming had tied a Hildebrandt size-5 double-bladed nickel Slim Eli spinner as a flasher. To the end of the leader he used a Mack’s Wedding Ring and beads and a size-2 hammered gold Indiana blade, which were held in place by a size-8 Danielson baitholder single hook. A chunk of live night crawler was skewered onto the hook.
A pike’s mouth is loaded with razor-sharp teeth, which are notorious for slicing line to shreds. But in the case of this catch the rig was hooked in the fish’s outer lip, thus the line never touched its teeth.
“We were hoopin’ and hollerin’ after I got the fish into the boat and another guy came by in his boat to check it out; good thing he did, too, as we had no way to keep the fish alive during the 30-miute ride back to the ramp,” says Fleming. The other angler disappeared to shore and then showed up a short time later with a length of rope. They tied a metal stringer to it and then hooked the fish with multiple clasps. Once the fish was secured, they placed it over the side and towed it back to the ramp, reminiscent of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.”
The anglers wrapped the fish in a wet towel and drove 20 miles to Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop and Guide Service in Coeur d’Alene, where it was weighed on their certified scale.
After weighing it they drove to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game office in Coeur d’Alene for the catch to be verified, which is where this photo was taken. “The biologist told me the fish could have weighed 7 pounds more if it were spring and she were full of eggs,” says Fleming.
“Pike are a great fish, but considered an exotic species here because they were transported here illegally,” said Idaho Fish and Game regional fisheries biologist Melo Maiolie. “And they grow fast in Idaho lakes, especially ones stocked with trout and salmon.” On average, the state’s Esox lucius reach 36 inches in three years, with studies showing them growing to 40 inches in seven years in nearby Coeur d’Alene Lake. “I’d guess Fleming’s fish to be about 10 years old,” said Maiolie.
At left: the head a 10-year-old 40-pound 2-ounce trout and salmon eating machine. The pold state record, a 39-pound 13-ouncer caught by Bob Ringer in Coeur d’Alene Lake in 2007, would have had a similar look.
Lower Twin Lake is a natural lake located in the pan handle of Idaho. It is 60 feet deep at its deepest and is stocked annually with rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and kokanee salmon by the Idaho Fish and Game. Maiolie says pike more than likely arrived here illegally via “bucket biologist” (fish kept alive in a bucket and then dumped into a waterway).