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Fish Head

Best Trophy Northern Lake

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I'm tired of the unseasonable cold weather and I have the itch to fish, so I thought I would start a conversation about a trophy northern trip. I don't think I'll be taking one this year, but maybe next year.

I'm in search of a 45" Northern for my wall (replica of course). I've caught several 42's but never that illusive 45 yet. Where do you think would be the #1 place in North America to catch a northern over 45"?

My best spots have been Last Mountain Lake Saskatchewan, Lac Seul, and the Canadian side of Rainy Lake. There must be some Canadian lake out there with a high probablility of a 45.

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Northwest Territory.

There's a chance in places like Rainy, but if you want a sure thing it will either cost you or you will have to find a hidden gem, even for backwoods Ontario standards.

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Will this winter ever end? Nailing down the #1 best pike water in North America is one tough question. There is a lot of water to be considered. Certain areas in Alaska would have to be considered as top contenders. Then there is Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. Manitoba and Ontario both have prime spots too. But these are all pretty common knowledge locations. The surprise in the last decade has been Idaho. There have been at least 2 pike caught there that surpass any pike I've heard about being caught in the last 50 years. One was 39 and the other just a tad over 40. And that's in pounds! Those are seriously huge pike anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the odds of hooking one is not very high. There is no protection offered pike there and the DNR wants all pike eradicated. So much for that. I did quite a bit of research this year when planning my schedule. After looking at snow fall amounts and a few other considerations, we booked into Lake Athabasca in Saskatchewan. Laker's Unlimited has a camp there we like a lot and have caught some pretty big pike at. The upper Taltson River in the Northwest Territories is the other camp we're booked into so far this year. In my personal opinion, I believe you have the best shot at huge pike here. The Aurora Nights Lodge is the only camp on the stretch of river I like to fish. Last fall, Mary and I had a great trip there. Our biggest were two 48's and a 49 incher. But we caught a boatload of big fish with quite a few over 45". I'm looking forward to see the other replies.

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I've got a 52 rep on my wall... If I was after one I'd say Alaska.

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"Where do you think would be the #1 place in North America to catch a northern over 45"?"

Tough one. Over 50" would narrow it down considerably, but I can't afford those trips. My pike-focused trips have been to Reed Lake, Manitoba. It's a drive-to camping expedition, so relatively cheap. The lake is managed for trophy fish. All pike over 75 cm (29.52") must be released. My best over 5 years is 47.5". We can't pull the trip off this spring, but hopefully next year.

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Thanks for those kind words Fish Head. I caught this pike bug (obsession) at an early age and it never went away. Luckily, my bride caught it too and we've put a lot of water under the transome chasing these critters for nearly 40 years now. Come to think of it, today is our 32nd anniversary! (glad I remembered that before Mary woke up!)

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If I wanted to know where to go catch big pike, I'd call Jack. Having read and edited his articles and seen the photos...he knows what he's talking about.

One option that's very accessible and pretty under the radar is Upper Red Lake. Good numbers of fish and a legitimate shot at a fish in the mid-40s. Odds are certainly not as good as Canada or Alaska, but certainly cheaper and easy to get to.

Jack - Happy Anniversary smile

RK

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Did pretty well last year up at Lake of the Woods out of the NW angle side. 40 incher are fairly certain. Good chance at a 42, and a 45 is doable. The one lake I always wanted to go to for northerns is the Winnipeg river.

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Great replies. It's a fun conversation. 52" is off the hook! I've been to Alaska fishing, but I didn't fish pike. I spent my time on Salmon, Halibut and rock fish. I should have mentioned that I've caught 40+ northers on the canadian side of LOTW also. But I'm still looking for that 45+.

I've looked at some of the prices for these northern territory trips... ouch! With 2 boys in college, I don't see another Alaska trip or a northern territories trip in my near future (unfortunately). I'll have to explore some more reasonably priced options. Drive to options are good.

Happy Anniversary Jack! It's been 30 years for my wife and I.

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I'll have to explore some more reasonably priced options. Drive to options are good.

Some other drive to options can be found north of Lake Superior on Lake Nipigon. For some reason people tend to head straight north of home when they think of Canada, but Nipigon and the Onaman river area have some big pike, world class brookies and lakers, and it's rotten with walleyes. They're also amazingly economical ($270/week/person). Look around that region in general and there are some very solid drive-to fisheries that are pretty off the radar.

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I'll throw this name out their....never been there but I heard its a great spot for huge northerns. Its a river called "War path". Use to be a hotspot that was only accessible by traveling on water on lake Winnipeg. The mouth of the river flow into the big lake. The stories I heard of that place is as good as it gets. Part of the fun was getting there, depending on what you call fun. One of these days I might have to go see it for myself.

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Manitoba has a Master Angler program. I remember looking at the listing for 2011 pike before our Reed Lake trip last spring, so I got it out again tonight. There are 246 entries of 45" and over. 37 are from Utik Lake. I'd guess the resort makes it a point to have their guests submit entries to the Master Angler program for the publicity. Still, that's a lot of big pike from one lake.

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Thanks for the anniversary wishes Rob and Fish Head. Seems like it was only yesterday.....

The Warpath River. Man, I haven't heard that name in 25 years. Never investigated it but always wanted to. Back then I heard great things about that spot too.

I believe there may still be affordable big pike fishing on the Winnipeg river too, but it will take some homework to find. We fished it many moons ago with Ted Jowett and there were cabins for rent that were a bargain. And that river is full of fish of nearly every species.

OK, I was going to keep this story under my cap as for some it may be hard to believe. But you want to hear about numbers of big pike? Last fall, Mary and I were joined by Peter Graff (the grand master of pike) and Mark McCauley on the Taltson river for a week of pike fishing. By the end of the week, we had caught an amazing number of huge gators. In excess of 60 pike over 20lbs for 4 anglers in one week! That is the highest number I can ever remember being a part of.

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Oh good now I'm drooling over the Taltson River, knowing well that I wont be able to afford it for at least 5 more years. cry

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Yes, I wrote of the Taltson a couple of times in the pages of Esox Angler. I think a bit of explaination of the Taltson scene is in order here. There are 2 camps there, owned by different outfitters. One is in the bay and one is upriver. I've been to both and caught big fish at both. But I much prefer the camp upriver as does almost everyone I've met who has fished both.

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I need to save this thread for a couple years. My son is 6 now, but when he's in high school I'll be taking him on some trips to the lakes listed. I've had a few BWCA trips where my arms hurt from catching big pike but they were nothing like you mentioned Jack! Can't wait!!!

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Just for giggles, do you mind sharing what you normally spend on a trip to the taltson river? I noticed the HSOforum lists a package deal of $2100 and $2700. I assume this can be for a group for a week, but it also includes other activities. If I just wanted food, shelter, and a boat (guide apparently required) what could I expect?

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I fish Savant Lake every year in July, usually for walleye and lakers, but started chasing pike the last couple. Caught two over 40 so far, and lost one boatside that would have pushed 48-50.".

Last year a group of old Iowegians were in the next cabin over, and we started talking about experiences on Savant (they have been going there for 20+ years). They exclusively fish for pike, and they fish areas so far from camp, passing through some scary skinny water, that they might be the only ones to ever throw there. They claimed that they caught at least one 50 incher every year, which I kind of doubted. They must have sensed my skepticism, because the leaderof thr group told me he would bring one back the next day to show me.

Sure enough, when they pulled up to the dock that evening, they had a 51" pike for the wall. They said they had caught and released about 20 fish over 38" that day.

So this year, I'm thinking I may slowly...carefully...pick my way around the rocks and fish the shallow bays on the NE arm where they find tose gators every year.

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A buddy of mine was at the sports show today and ended up booking a trip to Kasba Lake in 2015. I've seen several shows where they fly fish for pike up there, and have seen some big boys! I think the lake is more famous for huge lake trout and grayling, but it has quite the reputation for giant pike as well. After visiting their HSOforum, it seemed like all the pike had a skinny look to them...their lake record was 53 inches, but only 36 pounds...shouldn't a pike that long weigh more than that?

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Fishuhalik, A lot of people envy my position. I envy yours. I sincerely hope you do get to take that boy up North some day. Until then, enjoy your time with him. These will be some of the best days of your life.

20lbsloughshark, When you see a price on a camp, almost always that price is per person. Not for a group. For that price you get a guide, boat & motor, and food. And if you are figuring the price of the entire trip, don't forget to include the guides tip. We usually figure the tip to be 15% of the package price and adjust from there. If the guide is exceptional and we catch a bunch of trophies, the tip amount goes up. If not, it goes down.

JB, Your buddy will enjoy Kasba. I was there about 20 years ago. And you are spot on in your description. Like many lake trout lakes, the water is clear and there are pockets that contain some huge pike. A 53" pike is a monster! A normally proportioned pike of 50" will go right around 30lbs. 36lbs for a 53"er sounds feasible for sure. Photos can many times be misleading, as can an outfitters claims.

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As previously mentioned, and I would simply reiterate, Lake of the Woods, even on the southern shore, has numerous pike between 40-45 inches. I'm confident there are much bigger pike in there, but they're likely pretty educated. Of course, the northern stretches of water are phenomenal. There are almost certainly huge stretches of water up in the islands that virtually never get touched.

Upper Red Lake has produced a few fish pushing 50 inches over the last few years. They are typically kept pretty quiet, but these fish are in there, and when and if you "target" big pike in Upper Red, you usually won't be disappointed.

Rainy Lake is another huge pike factory. And again, gigantic sections of water that rarely see any significant fishing pressure.

Lake Winnipeg undoubtedly holds some of the largest pike man have ever seen. Finding them is another story completely. They are there. 50+ inch fish show up in and around the river near Selkirk every year, but again, these catches are typically kept pretty quiet. It's such a different world there. 10 lb. walleyes and 20 lb. pike are so common they're almost a nuisance fish!?!? crazy

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Has anyone been to Nungesser Lake for pike? I was looking at some resorts on the lake and it looks like they have large pike for a good price.

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