Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In my early childhood I grew up learning how to fish the many different species of fish in the upper Midwest. Two of my favorite types to catch were muskies and northern pike. These are the top two predatory fish found in west central Wisconsin, and perhaps throughout most of the world. In most of the rivers, lakes and streams of the Midwestern U.S., you will find muskies or pike and they co-exist with all other species of fish. These fish bite on almost anything, are fun to catch. They are also great on the table once you learn to master boning them out to prepare boneless.

I feel that Fish & Game has given these fish a bad name by spreading negative publicity about the northern pike. These fish co-exist naturally with every salmon run in most of the northern lakes rivers and streams of Alaska. Nome has monster pike, and salmon runs too, as does the Yukon River and its tributaries and they all co-exist.

Pike do not want small fish like salmon smote or minnows they want bigger fish to eat. I have cleaned a hundred times more eels, mice and smaller pike from the bellies of pike here in Alaska then I have salmon smote. No doubt in my mind, that rainbows and dollies are a much bigger threat to salmon fishing then pike are. Wherever you see spawning salmon, you can be guaranteed that there are also rainbows and Dolly Varden trout gobbling up the eggs.

So why have pike been given such a bad rap you ask? Good question maybe it is because some people simply do not understand Pike. Personally if I had to choose between pike, trout or salmon, I would take pike any day. Tell me one other species of fish that you can fish year-round here on the peninsula that offers you the chance to catch a fish ten pounds or bigger? Yes, salmon fishing is great, but basically it is for only a few months of the year. Rainbow fishing has become so restricted that it is difficult to legally be able to catch enough fish to feed your family. Pike fishing is year-round and it also gives you or your children the opportunity to catch the biggest fresh water fish you ever caught.

I had the opportunity to take two young boys that had never even seen a pike, let alone caught one, to a remote fishing lake. These two boys, Colt and Harley McDonald, were not sure what to expect, as this was their first fly-in fishing trip of any kind. They were somewhat in awe at the amount of tackle we brought along, as well as the size of some of the lures we took with us. I had them put new 12-lb test fishing line on their poles and a good wire leader.

On our first day the fishing was slow, but we still caught at least a dozen pike before quitting that evening. The second day was more productive as we put another 25 to 30 fish in the boat, using a wide variety of different lures and techniques. I then realized why the fish were biting as timidly. They were in the process of losing their teeth, which they do each summer. Their mouths were sore, and on several occasions they were simply mouthing the bait instead of actually trying to destroy it and eat it like they do normally.

The third day was our most effective day of fishing, as we raised our trip totals for three days to 85 fish. We were on our way back to the boat landing on day 4 when the boys hooked our final fish. Fish number 100 was in the boat! I asked them both if they were ready to go home and they both replied "No we want to stay here!" Colt caught a very unusual fish - a hump backed pike about 26 inches long, but very fat for a fish of this length. We are already planning on a return trip to this lake, despite the fact that a bear chewed about nine holes through the plastic gas can from our boat!

If you have never fished pike, or eaten them, don't knock them. Canada has taken in a ton of money promoting trophy pike for years, and people from all over the world go there to fish pike. How about it Fish & Game? Can we, the year-round residents of the Kenai Peninsula, have a few year-round trophy pike fishing lakes? I would even buy the feed for them out of my own pocket, just so we have another species we can fish when the salmon aren't here. Think about the option instead of killing pike, to give us a few pike lakes to fish. Are our salmon here on the Kenai Peninsula dumber than those from northern Alaska that co-exist with pike? If they ate a few rainbows, so what? You don't let us take them home to eat anyway, and that way you would be doing something to help protect the salmon eggs.

I also propose increasing the daily limit on rainbows back to 5 like it used to be, so we fish-eaters can take enough home to eat. Why was it lowered to 2 anyway, are rainbow fishing numbers any lower today than they were 30 years ago? If not, what information was used to lower our daily limits? Are we creating a trophy rainbow fishery by protecting the rainbows from our dinner table? How much feed is there available for fish to grow if we never harvest any? I know, it has become another Alaska viewing area......

Another thing that has upset me is the greed displayed by the City of Kenai over boat launch fees and parking to go dip netting on the Kenai River. Personal-use gives many poor people the chance to get their year's supply of salmon from the river. A few nights ago, I was charged $25 to launch my boat and park our two vehicles of our dip netting crew! If you don't hit things right you might have to go there 6 to 10 times to get your fish, which adds up to a lot of money for poor families. I am happy I have alternate means of getting on the river without having to deal with this situation every year!

See you next week!

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