Landing Idaho’s catch-and-release record northern pike wasn’t painless for Scott Kerns.
“He cut me,” the Hayden resident. “I was bleeding, but that’s OK. We got him back in the water alive.”
Kerns almost didn’t make it to chill on the frozen lake with his ice-fishing buddy Mike Nunemacher on March 3.
“I crashed my pickup on the way there,” he said. “I went home, called my insurance company. It was a bad day. But there was nothing more I could do but go fishing.”
While fish managers are waging war against northern pike in Washington and British Columbia to keep them from infesting the Columbia River and impacting native fisheries, many sportsmen in Idaho revere the predator as a trophy.
In 10 years of fishing for pike, this was one of Kerns’ worst seasons.
“It had been extremely slow,” he said, noting that he’d caught only one other pike through the winter before his tip-up flag signaled a strike that day.
“The fish made two runs and Mike was hollering for me to play out line,” said Kerns, who was wearing fingerless wool gloves. “We don’t use a reel. The line cut my fingers. It was a panic. I’m not complaining. It was exhilarating.”
The best part was his first glimpse of the fish through the 10-inch hole in the ice.
“That eye! Whoa! You see that eye and then the long length of the fish as it goes by. You think you’re going to pass out. That’s my favorite thing about ice fishing.”
Working together, the two anglers carefully gaffed the pike in the jaw, pulled it up through the hole, which is limited to 10 inches by state rules.
The fish, laden with eggs, measured 44 inches long with an unofficial weight of 33 pounds, according to their hand-held digital scale.
“Northern pike are a blast to catch and really good to eat, although the really big ones aren’t as tasty as the smaller ones,” he said.
“I didn’t have any trouble letting this one go. If anglers keep taking out the biggest fish, soon there are no more big fish.
“Besides, after crashing my pickup, I didn’t have money to pay for a mount.”
Idaho’s certified weight record northern pike weighed 40.15 pounds and measured 51.5 inches, caught in Lower Twin Lake by Kim Fleming in August 2010.
“I met the guy,” Kerns said. “He caught his while he was fishing for trout. I was targeting pike when I caught mine. We both had thrills of a lifetime.”
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