Written by Harold
- Published in The Fishing
- Read 8504 times
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While Great Bear Lake can certainly frustrate you at times, it is also capable of producing the kind of fishing experience that most of us can only dream about.
Please enjoy this story about one such experience.
If you are extremely lucky, you may, once in your life, have a day of fishing that clearly transcends any you have had, or are ever likely to experience.
Not just a day where you catch more, and bigger fish than ever before, but a day where the weather was perfect, you were in good company, and knew without a doubt, that something special was happening - perhaps never to be repeated again.
It's fair to say that over the years I have had some exceptional days on and around Great Bear Lake, but nothing – and I mean nothing - tops July 19, 1991 in MacIntosh Bay.
On that fateful day, myself, Bob Resnick, Art Ross and Rodney Harback, together with guides Andrew Flood and Noel Sinclair, flew into Mackintosh from Trophy Lodge, on what could be described as a perfect day. The weather was sunny and warm with barely a ripple on the water, and even the bugs seemed to have taken the day off.
After off loading our gear into the boats, and settling on a pick up time with our pilot, we decided to fish the massive, shallow sand flats that dominate the east side of the bay.
We had not been fishing for more that five minutes, when my partner, Bob Resnick, or "Rezzy" as he prefers to be called, uttered what was to become a familiar refrain that day – "fish on!"
Because we were fishing in no more than 10 to 15 feet of perfectly clear water, I could actually see his trout swim by the boat.
While watching him play his fish, I heard Andrew quietly say, "holy shit," and when I looked up, he was pointing to a spot about 15 feet behind Rezzy's fish, where swimming lazily along, were 3 very big trout.
I made a cast just ahead of the grouping, and all 3 fish immediately rushed, but unfortunately missed the lure. It was obvious that they were attracted by all of the commotion that Rezzy's fish was making, so I asked him to take his time bringing it in. I then made another cast, and this time one of the 3 hit my T60 Flatfish.
When we finally netted, weighed and released both fish, we tallied a 20 and 26 pound double header. Not a bad start, but I was anxious to get back at it, because the 26 I caught was the smallest of the 3, so there were at least 2 bigger ones still out there.
After that it was just one 20 pound plus fish after another, including several more double-headers. Whenever one of us brought a fish in, there were invariably 2 or 3 others of equal or greater size in pursuit.
The other boat was having almost as much fun – at least Art was, because Rodney was having reel problems - and we gave each other constant updates over our two-way radios every time someone landed a fish over 20 pounds.
I had already caught several over 20, including a 40 and 41 pounder, when I got what felt very much like a snag.
That seemed odd, because the bottom was comprised of sand for the most part, with only a few small rocks scattered here and there. "Snag," I said to Andrew, and once he slipped the motor into neutral, I noticed that we appeared to be moving backwards. I looked over at Andrew, who, in a matter of fact sort of way said, "That's no snag, it's towing us backwards."
Andrew slipped the motor back in gear and turned the boat 180 degrees, so that what we assumed must be a very big trout, could tow us along a bit more easily.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to turn the fish towards us, when suddenly, the line went slack. My heart began to sink, and while I was describing my thoughts on the matter using a number of well chosen expletives, Andrew suddenly yelled, "Take up the slack, it's running towards us!"
I bore down and cranked for all I was worth, and sure enough, in a few moments I regained the tension on my line. We then watched as it slowly swam by the side of the boat, and seeing that fish, which in the water looked to be about half the size of our 16-foot boat, casually swim by, was a moment of both pure ecstasy and absolute terror.
All I could think about, now that I had seen it, was how much I was going to hate myself, and probably everyone else around me if I lost that fish. But today was going to be my day, and after what seemed like several hours – in reality it was about 20 minutes - we had the big trout in the net.
After attaching the scale to the net, it was all Andrew could do to lift it out of the water, but he managed to grunt through clenched teeth, "49 pounds."
Once the fish was released, I immediately grabbed the radio to transmit the good news to Art and Rodney. Truth be told, I fully intended to rub it in, because until then, we had been out fishing them. Despite trying to raise them several times, and although we could clearly see the other boat, no response was forthcoming.
Art finally radioed back and said, "Can't talk now, Rodney's fighting a fish." Knowing Art, the reason he couldn't, or more particularly wouldn't talk is that he was likely filming whatever it was that Rodney had on the line. When it came to taking pictures and/or videos, it didn't matter to Art if it was 1 or 100 pounds, he was going to record every infinitesimal moment of it for posterity.
Not letting Art's attempt at invoking radio silence deter me, I called back and said, in a matter of fact sort of way, "We just landed a 49 pounder."
About a minute later, Art and Rodney's guide Noel radioed back, "It's in the net and bottomed out the 50 pound scale! – It's a monster! – It's Moby Trout!"
We followed their boat into shore, and by using 2 - 50 pound hand held spring scales in order to get the actual weight (see the "Note" below), Rodney's fish – which just happened to be his first of the day - came in at a rather astonishing 66 ½ pounds.
Several months, and tons of paper work later, his fish was certified as the new IGFA All Tackle World Record for Lake Trout, and, if you will allow me to climb up onto my soap box for a moment, in my opinion Rodney should continue to hold the record, Lloyd Bull's questionable submission and unfathomable IGFA certification notwithstanding.
While we were chatting and taking pictures, Noel called us over, and pointing to the fish's mouth said, "You guys have got to see this."
Just inside the mouth of this monster of a fish was the tail of another rather large trout. By measuring the width of the fork, we estimated that the partially ingested fish would have weighed between 12 and 14 pounds. It was rather sobering once we came to realize that all of those "teenagers" we had been catching were nothing more than bait.
Not letting a mere world record deter us, Rezzy and I went right back at it, and the fishing picked up pretty much where it had left off. We had another dozen or more double headers, which included several fish in the 20 to 30 pound range, together with the occasional 15 to 18 pounder to fill in the gaps between the bigger ones.
Around 3 pm things had started to slowed down some, so I switched over to a different coloured flatfish to see if that might stir things up a bit. Rezzy and I had been using T-60 Flatfish throughout the day, with the most productive colour being Chartreuse, with black and red spots.
After dragging it around for about 45 minutes with not so much as a hit, I decided to haul it in and change back to the one I had been using earlier. As the Flatfish was coming up to the back of the boat, I slowed my retrieve down, knowing that it was not unusual for trout to follow a lure right up to the boat.
As I peered over the transom, there was "troutzilla" casually following my lure, with its nose not more than 2 inches from the rear treble.
So now what? Should I speed up the retrieve – slow it down – let out some line – what? The fish was not more than 6 feet behind the boat, and the prospect of "short lining" a fish of that size was not all that attractive. I should mention that both Andrew and Rezzy were unaware of my predicament, because I decided to keep things to myself, until I figured out what my next move would be.
If I reeled in a little, the fish followed – if I let the lure drift back a bit, so did the fish. Realizing that it was unlikely I could coax the big trout into our net by simply leaving the lure in the water, I quickly reeled in a couple of feet of line, then put my reel into free spool, and dropped the Flatfish back, right on to it's nose.
The fish reacted just as I had hoped, and engulfed my lure. I clamped down on the spool with both thumbs, set the hook, and yelled at Andrew, "Big fish, right at the boat, neutral!"
Fortunately, Andrew was one of those act now, ask questions later sort of guys, because the moment he took the motor out of gear, the fish took off with a vengeance. It put up one hell of a fight, and weighed in at a hefty 51 pounds.
By the end of the day, not including the countless "teenagers," between our 2 boats we caught 30 fish that weighed a total of 901 pounds – or just over 30 pounds per fish on average.
I managed to catch and release a 20, 22, 23, 26, 28, 28, 28, 40, 41, 49 and 51. Rezzy contributed a 20, 20, 21, 24, 27, 34 and 38. Art added a 20, 24, 32, 32, 36 and 42, and Rodney, in addition to his new World Record, chipped in with a 20, 21, 23, 25 and 30.
It truly was an amazing day in every respect. We fished in what could be best described as a giant aquarium, and saw huge trout swimming beside the boat just about every time we looked down into the crystal clear water. The weather remained perfect throughout the day, and with Rodney's fish, we witnessed the making of some angling history.
There is a postscript of sorts to this story.
We were just about to head back to our pick up spot, when I got a really solid hit. I played the fish for a while, and from my previous experience that day there was little doubt that it was another good one.
When it came up beside the boat, the three of us just stared. While it may not have gone 66 ½ pounds, it had my 51 beat by a country mile.
Andrew had just dipped the net when the fish suddenly turned, catching the lure on the rim of the net, rolled, and in doing so dislodged the hook, then slowly swam away.
I looked over at Andrew, and while there were a number of things I probably could have said, what came out, as I shook his hand was, "Thanks buddy, that was my best day - ever."
You may be wondering how we managed to accurately weigh Rodney's fish using two hand held spring scales.
As mentioned, his fish bottomed out a 50 - pound scale, or in other words, the pointer was resting below the 50 - pound mark.
By attaching a second scale to the fish, and lifting it until the pointer on the first scale was now reading 50 pounds, all we had to do to get the actual weight was add the reading on the second scale to the reading on the first.
In this case the second scale read 16 ½ pounds, so by adding that to the 50 pounds now showing on the first scale, we came up with 66 ½ pounds – which was confirmed when his fish was subsequently weighed on a 100 pound certified scale upon returning to the lodge.