My Big Fish at Northwind Lodge

This is a true fish story by Terry Rose, a longtime guest of Northwind Lodge.  Terry had a really great day a few summers ago and told this incredible story to me – and a lot of other people from what I can tell.  It’s a heck of a good story about how everything went right for once.    

Sheila and I just finished cleaning up after a great fish dinner in the cabin and I was kind of tired and thought I would just stay in and relax.  Todd and Ali went out past the narrows and it was so nice and calm on the water that I  thought, “What the heck?” – I will go out and throw the Spook around a little before it gets dark.  I went to my spot across from the cabin in the big lilly pad area.  I was in about 4 feet of water and working the Zara Spook across the top when there was a huge swell in the water behind it.  It looked like a submarine rising to a breach and then it’s mouth opened and the Spook was gone!   Before you knew it I was hanging on as I lost my grip on the reel handle and the turning handle spun over my knuckles, beating them up.  Keep in mind,  there was no real splash or anything in the water.   I could not see the fish but knew there was something really big on the line.  At first I thought it was just a good sized small mouth bass, but it just did not budge when I pulled on the rod, so I just maintained pressure with not even a millisecond of slack line.  The fish shot out in one direction taking my line around a lily pad stem and then line would cut through it like a hot knife through butter with the pad floating free.  Then, this unseen monster would shoot off to another pad and saw it off as well while lots of other weeds rose up from their tethers not surviving the strength of this gargantuan fish and the line he towed.

After shearing off weeds in various directions,  the fish finally found a clearing and actually started dragging the entire boat towards the north shore of the island on Jasper.    At this point, I just hung on some more hoping the line wouldn’t break and my reel’s drag would not fail.  About 15-20 minutes passed.  I finally got a look at him as he passed by the boat on another shorter run.   It was one of those looks where you take a big breath and then forget to breathe as the monster surfaced for the first time in many long, arduous minutes.  A thousand thoughts flew through my mind including “How am I going to net this?”, among others including, but not limited to, “OMG!”

On the shorter pass, I could tell he was about as tired as I was, but I was still able to get his head into my very small landing net.   It was really only his head up to the end of his gill covers that actually fit in the net.  I somehow managed to flip him over the gunwale into the boat and realized I had more than I could handle by myself!    At this point, I thought about just cutting the line and letting him go, but I knew that no one would believe me and it would just be another fish story.   Keeping my foot on the net to keep him from jumping out, I reached back and started the motor.  After going as fast as a 5 HP Honda four-stroke outboard would go, I arrived at the piers at Northwind Lodge.   Wouldn’t you know it?   There was not a soul around.  Nobody!!!!   I just wanted to get that monster back in the water before he croaked and, to my amazement, there was nobody at the beach on this beautiful day!   Not knowing the next move to make, I stood on the pier and yelled at the top of my lungs for help.

The man in the cottage across the lake road, Pat Webb  came down the hill as quick as he could.   He helped me measure and weigh my fish.  My major concern at this point was to get the hook out and release him.  As Pat held the mouth open, I looked inside and saw the lure just laying there in that big white cavern of a thousand, razor sharp teeth with those white and blood red gill edges at the bottom.   It appeared – to my surprise-  that the Spook was just laying in his mouth on the top of the gills and throat opening!    None, not even one,  of the big treble hooks on that good-sized Zara Spook were actually stuck in the fish!  After all that fighting, all that pulling and towing and slicing off lily pads and weeds with the Sufix 832 braided line on my reel not to mention the fish also actually towing me in my 14 foot aluminum boat out to deeper water, the fish was not hooked!  He simply would not let go of the lure.  It was a fight of him vs. me and the most stubborn won, apparently.

Wanting to get it back into the water,  I was forced to actually reach down inside with a 9″ Baker Hook-out tool and my hand had to cross the boundary of the fish’s outer most lips and into the “forbidden zone”  of its mouth.   Full knowing that touching any part of a northern pike’s mouth would result in a sudden, overriding “clamp-down” like an alligator snapping shut on a baby sheep, I was very careful to not touch anything as I gingerly reached in for that Spook.  It was very intense and felt like I was  diffusing the detonator on a nuke knowing that while extracting the device, touching any of the side would make the bomb blow taking out half of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area and all of Northwind Lodge. The intensity of focus along with the adrenaline rush of seeing a fish THAT big that I managed to get in the boat when I was all alone was immense.   Amazingly to me, I was able to get the lure out without “setting off the veritable nuke” on my hand thereby not needing a trip to the ER for extreme, slime-infused, lacerations.

After I got the Spook out, we quickly placed the fish back in the water and with a little back and forth motion to get the water across his gills he perked right up and swam away with a big flick of his big tail.  Of course, Todd and Ali missed the whole thing.  The fish measured 46 inches and weighed approximately 28 pounds.  This was certainly an experience I will never forget.   My grandson Dylan always talks about it because he was only 48 inches tall at the time.

And, that big northern is still marauding fish much smaller than himself to this day in Jasper.  That was quite a day!