Downhome Magazine

The big one that got away - and lost its lunch in the process.

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I grew up in a small fishing community on the east coast of Newfoundland. St. Jones Within was home till I moved away in search of work in 1994. Being a young fellow growing up in Newfoundland, fishing was always a great way to pass time. It is also a wonderful way to connect to our heritage, as well as a chance to provide a healthy meal for our family to enjoy.

After moving away and settling down in Orangeville, Ontario, I started a family of my own. My wonderful wife Abby and daughter Leslie started to share this passion as well. Often fishing during the winter months became a great way to bond and pass some time. Our daughter Leslie started fishing when she was big enough to hold a rod. Ok, maybe with a little help. Although we aim to go fishing several times a year; work, school and other commitments sometimes get in the way.

Here in Ontario we get a weekend in February called "family day weekend". This holiday usually falls on the Monday in the middle of the month around the 15th. It was introduced by the government to get families out during the mid winter. This weekend Ontario residents don't need a license to fish either. Although we all think having fishing license is just as important as having air in your tires.

This year on family day weekend our daughter and I left at 0400 hrs to drive just over 2 hours to be at our special lake around sunrise. Abby decided to sleep in and stay home cause her mom Yvonne was visiting from the rock.

It was also the opener for lake trout on this particular lake. So the fish tend to be less pressured there, compared to some of the other lakes near by. When we got to the lake, we had to drive on snowmobiles for a few kilometers before finally getting to our favorite spot. I had my global position satellite (GPS) unit with me, so I turned it on and walked the full 25 feet I was off.

Just after drilling through 18-20 inches of solid ice I put some bait (minnows) on the hook and dropped the lure in the hole. It went down about 40 feet and didn't seem to stop as usual. I stopped the line and pull back slightly. Boom fish on. I gave Leslie the rod and said "you got a fish on, I'll grab the gaff." When I returned my daughter already had the fish at the opening of the hole. I reached down and carefully guided the beautiful laker to the surface. A wonderful 4lb lake trout was harvested and laying on the fresh snowy ice.

We quickly put some fresh bait on the hook and dropped it back in the hole. Boom. Another fish just as quick. Within no time another beautiful trout laid on the ice. Although it wasn't big as the first it was still a wonderful specimen. So we repeated the process and boom another fish. This time the fish just stole our bait and swam away. Maybe our paths may cross again I thought.

The limit for lake trout on this particular lake is 2 each. So sometimes catching 2 each can happen quickly or not at all. That's fishing and we have to learn to appreciate the good days equally with the slow days. It's the memories we share good or bad that keeps us going. I have watched the sunrise in the east and set in the west on this wonderful lake without seeing my rod so much as twitch. I still drove home empty handed but refreshed and recharged. Although, maybe stopping for a burger on the drive.

Near mid morning I was watching my rod tip and it was bouncing in an abnormal fashion. Usually the tip will vibrate gently when a fresh minnow is attached. When a lake trout hits, the rod tip will just slam down towards the hole. Lake trout can be very aggressive at times. As I watched my rod go up and down I knew something was different. I walked to the hole and gave a little tug to set the hook. Boom, fish on. This time it was a much bigger fish. I had a struggle getting this fish to move but after a few minutes it started to comply. It was big and heavy and with much resistance starting it's travel toward the ice. When it came close to the surface the tension changed. It was now coming up much easier. My daughter was now standing near the hole watching this situation unfold. Finally my hook came out of the hole and we were both standing there in shock. We were both staring at a half decomposed herring. It was in the monster lake trout so long that the fins, belly and head was gone. I actually took the fish's last meal from out of its stomach. It measured 10 inches headless. I'm assuming it was about a 12 inch herring before it became a quick lunch. So although the big fish did get away, we had quite the story to share. I'm sure the fish was left just as confused, when its last weeks meal abruptly disappeared from its belly. Now, we are left with another fishing story to add to our fishing memory bank.

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