Memories of early pike
The place was called George’s Landing on the west side of Jamestown Reservoir, and I have no idea if it exists today. But it was an access point to the reservoir for shore fishermen and that is what we were in the 1950s — shore fishermen — my brother, father and mother, Ed and Edna Koenig and me.
I was a grade-schooler at the time, equipped with a solid fiberglass rod capable of beating a lion to death, a Plueger bait-casting reel with no drag or spool disengagement, and a black line manufactured from I do not know what. This was before the days of monofilament.
Early May is usually chilly in the early morning, dew still on the grass, but I was very happy to be there on the west side of the reservoir. Like any kid who was a born hunter and fishermen, a little cold did not dissuade me from having a good time.
We had a technique for fishing at the reservoir in those days. Jake had some metal tubes probably 1-1/2-inches in diameter that he cut to about 18 inches and at a bevel at one end. This was a rod-holder, and the bevel enabled him to push the device into the ground at an angle facing the reservoir. We’d bait one outfit per person with either a live minnow or a frozen smelt, cast it out into the water, and set each outfit into Jake’s rod-holders.
The other half of the operation was more fun. I’d tie a 12-inch leader to my line and attach a Marathon spoon to the snap to cast and retrieve. Jake usually clipped a red-and-white bobber about three feet head of the spoon to keep me from snagging and losing the spoon. It was all great fun and a wonderful bit of excitement for a youngster.
Now, I have caught several dozen northern pike over the decades that weighed between 12 and 27 pounds, but the pike I remember best weighed a fraction of that. I honestly don’t know how much it weighed — maybe four or five pounds — but I do remember that it slammed that Marathon spoon while I was retrieving it, the handle of the old Plueger spun out of control, smashing my fingers and knuckles. I managed to grab the reel handle and hang on. My heart was pounding.
Dad shouted something, the message was to hang on and walk slowly back up the shoreline, which I did. Not a romantic way to land a fish. But before long the pike was flopping on the grass. It was my first northern pike, and my hands were shaking with the excitement of it all. Jake put it on a stringer, tied to a good-sized cottonwood limb, and I looked at the pike for the rest of the morning as it finned in the shallows. It was my fish, my first pike and it was a very important occasion.
I probably have caught a couple thousand pike over the years, and as I said, lots of big ones. I have caught halibut up to 108 pounds, king salmon to 43 pounds, coho salmon to 18 pounds, and hundreds of fish of numerous species in every province of Canada west of Quebec and in Alaska and other states. But I will never forget that first pike on a chilly morning in early May, the dreadful Plueger fishing reel with no drag and the inexplicable excitement of fishing and being nine years old.
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974