Sunday, March 6, 2011

Northern Pike on the Pend Oreille River

90% Luck and the rest is all skill!

 Our trip to Eastern Washington starts with a trek over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90. Our first hint of what was to be unfolded as we crested the pass. Fall colors of gold, orange and red were giving way to the white flakes winter. Late October in Washington is a time of migration, salmon to their rivers of birth, Canadian Geese journey south,  and anxious anglers beating feet for the Pike of the Pend Oreille River. Three of us, Nate, his 8 year old son Hunter and I recanted tales of Wisconsin’s Northern Pike and a summers worth of my Tiger Muskie memories. We were off to another competition.                                                 
 The Pend Oreille is located north of Spokane about 50 miles as you enter the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. City gives way to pastures and pine trees as we near the river valley. Our eyes soon rested on a riverfront resort where a warm cabin awaited us. Near midnight, we stumbled to our beds and fell fast asleep. Dreams of warm sunny fall afternoons in our shirt sleeves were just that, dreams. Wake up call was 4:40am; reality of late fall in the Rockies was just outside the frosty cabin window.           
 When leaving our cabin at the Blue Slide Resort it had warmed to 33 degrees with fog. That was as nice as it would get. The “Pike on the Pend Oreille” tournament was to start at 6:30am. By the time we arrived at the Cusick boat launch it was 40 degrees, raining, and wind blowing 10-15 mph. Wind chill at 35. The water temperature tested out at 51, so the fish were warmer then us, ouch! We were prepared with warm some clothes just not enough for these conditions. Boats of every shape and size lined up at the dock, but one stood out from the rest. A classic wood 50’s era staple of fishing, complete with spokes on the trailer wheels. The vessel features a multi-functional live well which doubled as its bilge. The classic, owned by Doug W., earned the nickname “USS Pend Oreille”.                                                                   
  Nate, Hunter and I would buck the trend and head north where I had my best fishing earlier in the year. There would be plenty of Pike and the action was very good, but hook ups were hard to come by. The fish were not hitting hard at all. Hunter proved to be trooper as he endured the cold and rain much better than we did. He will grow to be a fine fisherman and follow the family tradition. Nate displayed his years of experience and true love of the “Power of the Pike”. You would never know he’d not fished the river before as he consistently turned fish. Nate felt bad that he was out fishing me, badly. He graciously offered me his red hot lure and being polite I accepted. One cast and it disappeared in to the wind and rain never to return, oops! Maybe some new line was in order.                                                                                   
  I went on to see the largest Pike I've ever seen. A 42-44" brut followed my “Cudaman Bucktail” right to the boat, my knees were shaking and not from the cold. It was close enough for Hunter and I to see the WDFW red tag on its back. I do believe I saw it "flip me the fin" as it slowly swam back into the comfort of a weed bed. When we finished Nate had landed 8 and I caught 5 beautiful Pike all between 22” to 30”.  We returned to the launch, stiff and cold, but happy.  Considering the conditions it was a successful tourney 35 fish in all were taken by 12 hearty contestants.  The Gades of Colville proved there is no substitute for experience as they took top honors. Chuck Gades put it in a nut shell, fishing is "90% luck and the rest is all skill". My hats off to Hunter and Nate they are true blue fisherman, literally this day.

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