Laker Love

The line wrapped around the sonar unit and bit in, the euphoric feeling I had moments ago vanished and in crept a new emotion, despair. Meanwhile the fish kept pulling line from my reel, the pings that line made under pressure will be forever ingrained in my memory.
Today I awoke to the sun which normally would give me joy as who doesn’t like waking to the warmth of the sun’s rays on their face. However, I was supposed to wake up at zero dark thirty today in order to get on the ice in time to ambush trout at their breakfast tables. This realization made me shoot up out of bed. I quickly stepped into my long johns rushing to the bathroom to relieve the growing fury in my bladder. I brushed my teeth as fast as I could and struggled to find the rest of my winter gear without waking my wife or daughter. I finally found my thermal top and wool pants and rushed down stairs to make coffee. My thermos full, I donned my boots, flannel, and jacket then I headed out the door. “I guess I’m skipping breakfast,” I grumbled to myself as I dragged my sled full of gear towards the truck. With gear loaded, and the truck running; I slid the transmission into drive, easing the poor girl out of my icy driveway.
The destination of this outing was a small, deep, glacier carved pond in southwestern Maine called Colcord Pond. I have been itching to explore this pond for months now since I found out that it once was stocked with Lake Trout and Splake. These two fish are on my 2019 hit list. For the last two weeks I scoured the internet for information on chat sites and blogs, as well as talking to locals. All of the information that I received was negative in the realm of “don’t go there its slow, and why don’t you try Long Pond instead”. Being the stubborn person that I am all the information did was tighten my resolve in exploring this mysterious pond. And so here I was driving along an icy trail that ran alongside a brook that I could only guess was the outlet to Colcord.
The cold kicked me in the face as soon as I stepped out onto the ice. My breath came in raspy gulps as my lungs transformed into an icy exhaust for my decrepit body. To my left rose a ridge filled with hardwood trees, their spindly branches clawing at the sky as if they were trying to pull themselves closer to the warmth of the sun. Ahead of me lay fresh snowmobile tracks, which gave my anxious mind relief from the fear of thin ice. I followed these tracks until the bay I was in, spilled out into the vast expanse of Colcord proper.
Ice shelters peppered the left shoreline, which was fine because according to my google research there was a finger of shallow water that jutted out along the right bank, and this was where I wanted to fish. I walked out to where I thought was a good spot and punched a hole in the ice with my hand auger. My Garmin portable fish finder told me that the depth was 14 ft, not at all what I was looking for, but it was marking some fish, so I decided to see what was down there. I dropped my 1/16 oz gold Kastmaster spoon down the hole and watched it fall to the bottom on the screen. I immediately got a bite and set the hook. It was a small yellow perch. With my curiosity abated I decided to walk farther out to another hole. The depth of this hole was 20 ft., which was closer to my target depth of 30 ft. Bolstered by the progress I decided to walk ten more feet and try again. After spinning the hand auger around and around for the third time I realized that I was not cold anymore, and I also realized that there must be at least a foot of ice under me.
With the hole drilled I sent the business end of my Garmin down the hole yet again. This time it read 30 ft. A smile crept across my face upon the realization that the hard work part of the morning might be done. Without wasting any time, I dropped my little spoon down into the darkness. A little blip began sliding down the screen of my fish finder and I watched its slow descent into the abyss. Upon reaching bottom I closed the bale of my reel and reeled up the slack of the line. I watched for any angry flashes on my screen but none appeared. The voice of self-doubt began to creep into my thoughts as it usually does when I begin a fishing expedition in earnest. It always tries to tell me that I picked the wrong spot, or that I must be an idiot for thinking that a Lake Trout would find this particular piece of metal appetizing. And like all semi descent, (or in my case novice) fishermen before me, I pushed the thoughts aside, held my breath, and lifted my lure up off the bottom.
Nothing. I gave it a jiggle, still no hits. I jiggled it harder, moving my rod up and down in a shivering motion like a dog may do when defecating after eating a peach seed. WHAP! My rod bent and my drag immediately began screaming. It happened so fast that I was unable to think, let alone holler fish on like I usually do. I couldn’t believe what was happening, and I panicked. My left hand reached out, fumbling with my sonar trying to pull it from the hole, hoping it would not get tangled in the line that was now screaming down the icy hole. As I pulled it up the fish must have known what I was doing because it zigged instead of zagged, wrapping the line around the sonars base.
“Crap” I whisper yelled. The adrenaline and panic really set in, and I began to sweat and shake as I single handedly tried to unwrap the delicate 2-pound test before it snapped. Meanwhile the fish apparently knew what kind of bind I was in because it picked up its pace. It was stripping line faster than I have ever experienced, and I knew that I was done for. Just then the line cinched down into a groove in the base and the tell tale popping of line under pressure began to jackhammer its way into my brain.
“No, no, no, no!”, repeatedly escaped my mouth as I frantically tried to undue the mess. With one last mighty effort I dropped the rod and with both hands untangled the overstressed line. With the line free my rod began a mad dash for the hole. I lunged, and luck was on my side. I was able to grab it before the fish could make off with my only jigging rod.
It appeared as if I was beginning to gain ground on this fish. Perhaps I could win this war after all. The line kept peeling from my reel, and I noticed that the reel looked dangerously empty. Another round of expletives left my lips, and I did the only thing that I could think of. I tightened the drag, said a prayer, and began to reel.
At first the fish continued its mad underwater sprint, but as the heightened resistance of my tightened drag began to wear him down, the sprint slowed to a jog, then the fish slowed to what seemed like a walk. I reeled harder now, recovering lost line, and rallying my troops to the flag. I could sense the will of my adversary breaking as water began to spill from the hole telling me my quarry was near. Its head broke the surface and with all the will I had left I pulled one last mighty pull. The fish slid onto the ice at my feet and for a moment we locked eyes, as mighty warriors do when they near the final moment of their lives. I reached down and petted its slimy freckled side. A sign of respect passed between hunter and quarry.lake trout 2
The fish that I caught, or the adversary that I fought, turned out to be a 20-inch 3-pound Lake Trout. While I realize that there are much bigger Lakers out there, this is the biggest fish that I caught to date. It was also the hardest fighting fish that has ever graced my tackle. When that fish slid onto the ice it seemed as if the world stood still. My heart skipped a beat, and a tremendous warmth flowed through my veins. I do believe that a love was born today. A love born of slime and fins. I can not wait until I meet another one of these magnificent creatures on the frozen battlefield known as hard water.
This concludes the story of my first Laker, and I hope you enjoyed it. You can find the theory as well as the method that I used to catch this Laker in a later blog post. As always, I wish all of you tight lines and good eats.

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