THE SECOND INNING: THE TALE OF TWO TAPES
Keeping our baseball analogy as we document the season, we will make a diving catch to catch up on the fishing at Scott Lake Lodge. The first at bat in the top of the second (our third group in camp) featured some torrid hitting. It seemed like the fish had no answer for the 26 anglers and 13 guides who took to the waters of Scott and its fly out lakes starting on June 19th. These anglers pulled their rods off the rack and just started slugging. The guides measuring tapes were well used for five straight days as sunshine blessed the waters. They put their tapes on no less than 178 trophy fish, nearly all pike, an average of 6.8 trophies per angler. (Anglers and baseball fans love their stats.) There were some real scoring binges. On Day 2 there were 58 trophy fish announced at the after-dinner trophy pin ceremony, an average of 2.2 per angler. Day 4 had 47. Our trophy announcer, Mike Demyen (known here as Nuggets), could barely make it through the evening without taking a break for a drink.
Many of these trophies were not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill just over the line 40 inchers. We had some bruisers in the net this week. There were 18 pike of 45” or more, known around here as super-sized pike. Many of our players (14 in fact) played the supersized game. Pike of 45” were landed by John Sanderson, Jim MacDougal, David Thome, Steve Bandt, John Kroner, Rory Wright, Stan Gertzbein and Amy Blackstone. John, Jim and Rory added 46s to their hitting stats. Jeremy Maunus, Joe Novicki and Bill Calabresa also joined the 46 club. There was an elite group that pulled in 47s: Greg Larson, Steve Bandt and David Thome landed those fish of a lifetime. Then there was Jim MacDougal who had a Hall of Fame Fishing trip. He caught big fish wherever he went—on Scott, on the fly out lakes and probably in his sleep. On one memorable day—all on the fly rod—he brought to his guide’s net pike of 41, 42, 43, 45, 46 and yes, the biggest of the young season, a 49.5” beauty. We just don’t know how he missed getting a 44 for a Royal Flush. All of those fish were caught on a leech of his own design, making the experience even more memorable, if that’s possible. Rory Wright had a similar trip, landing three pike of 46” and many, many more of trophy size. He also became the first angler of the season to join the 100+Club, landing a trophy pike, trout and grayling whose total lengths exceeded 100 inches, not an easy task. What fueled this explosion of big fish? The secret was obvious to all. We just had to look up. We had five glorious days of sunshine. That’s all it takes. The water gets warm and the fishing gets hot.
That sunshine and warm water kept rolling into the top half of the second inning, the at bat for fourth group at the lodge. Life was good for the Mudville Nine on Day 1. With the sun on the backs of pike on Scott Lake and the 22 fly out destinations, our anglers drove their casts into fertile waters, filling up a thick stack of trophies slips for the evenings trophy announcements. There were 43 big fish announced, a great start to the inning. By the next morning though we were looking at a different world. A nasty nor’easter rolled in bringing vicious winds, rain and very cool temperatures. No, not cool—COLD. Our temps dropped about 30 degrees F in 24 hours, hitting a nighttime low of 44. Things were ugly. The big pike went into hiding, as they always do with a temperature drop of that magnitude. The trophy slip stack got pretty thin over the next four days—as low as six (that was a typical one boat total during the prior week). It brought to mind the old fishing doggerel:
“When the wind is from the west, fish bite the best.
When the wind is from the south, the fish open their mouth.
When the wind is from the north, the fish still go forth.
When the wind is from the east, the fish bite the least.”
That may not be true at all places, but it always plays out on this corner of the 60th parallel. Fishing up here is all about the wind and temperatures.
We did have a group of determined anglers (many from Minnesota where cold is part of the culture) who fished everyday despite the conditions. They beat out some ground balls, got the bloop singles, stole a few bases and scrapped out a decent fishing trip. There were some bright spots. Mike Manship landed a 47” pike. Brad Finney and Noel Rush got 48s. Luci Defouw hooked into her first ever trophy pike a 41.5″er on the first day of fishing. While the previous group had 18 pike over 45”, though this group had just those three. In this Tale of Two Tapes, the guides had their tapes in their pockets for four days. It’s wasn’t that our group lacked the skills; they just needed help from the elements. The cold weather did keep the lake trout on top though. And our guides put this group on some nice ones. Gene DeFouw, Steve Meyer and Randy Doerter caught 35” trout; Dakotah Herr got a 36 and a 38 incher; Mira Lechowicz, after a long battle, pulled in a 40.5” beauty; and, on the last day casting a small plastic pike for big pike, Mike Halloway tied into trout of 36 and 42 inches. Nearly all trout of that size are caught with deep trolling. Getting a monster like that 42 on spinning gear is a thrill of a fishing lifetime. But in summary, the story of the bottom of the second can be summarized with this paraphrasing of a famous baseball poem:
“Somewhere on favored waters, the sun is shining bright;
The loons are calling, and hearts are light;
And somewhere anglers are laughing and want to shout;
But there is no joy on Scott this week, our might Caseys struck out.”
One tough innings does not doom the game. That cold front dampened our seasonal stats but it’s still been an incredible season to date. Through four groups we have tallied 607 trophy fish with a record for this date of 50 pike hitting or exceeding the 45” mark. Of those 50, 14 were over 47 inches. Will we beat last year’s all time highest count of 141 pike over 45? With 80% of the game remaining, that’s a pretty good bet. It depends on two things—our anglers and the sun. We’ll just keep swinging.