Ron Hustvedt

Ron Hustvedt is an outdoors writer and photographer who covers a broad array of experiences, individuals and events centered on hunting and fishing. He is also a professional educator. Please visit his website at www.WriteOutdoors.com.

Posts about Sports

In search of giant pike, across the border, in winter's final trophy hunt

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: March 31, 2013 - 12:11 AM

Some anglers go ice fishing—we were out on a trophy hunt. 

Not your typical trophy hunt, however. There would be no killing, at least none intentionally. Trophies would be released, a little tired, but no worse for wear. 

Whatever the quarry, it’s true that trophies tend to live in special places that require a little extra work to get to. A specific bay on Lake of the Woods was our destination for this trophy hunt and big pike were our quarry.

The mythical number for pike anglers is the 40-inch mark which roughly works out to being a 20-pound fish. It takes a special body of water and the right tactics to land a pike of that size. 

Lake of the Woods is loaded with big fish including probably the highest population of pike over 40-inches in the 48 contiguous states. Although there are plenty of excellent big pike entry points on the American side, our trophy hunting crew decided to cross the border into Canada—Manitoba to be specific. 

Only a small portion of massive Lake of the Woods is in Manitoba, most of the lake is in Ontario. The segment in Manitoba is known as Buffalo Bay and we stayed at the beautiful Buffalo Point Resort located right on the lake complete with a marina—a great access point for four-wheelers and snowmobiles. 

The group leader for my trip was Bryan “Beef” Sathre of Fathead Guide Service. A national pro-staffer with companies like IceForce, StrikeMaster, MarCum Electronics, Rapala and Otter Outdoors, he has fished Lake of the Woods a ton but usually from the American side. 

“Late ice is big pike time all over the lake but it seems like Buffalo Bay just has a higher percentage of pike in that 40-inch range,” Sathre said. Anglers practicing catch and release is one of the chief reasons for that. “Trophies like this have been around a long time but have a lot more life to live so we let them go to keep making more pike to catch in years to come,” Sathre emphasized.

Also along with the group was seasoned big pike angler Sabin Rasmus who has iced numerous big pike and is equally adamant about releasing every pike as quickly as possible into the waters. “Celebrate the catch with a few photos and then let it go again—there’s nothing cooler than that big tail disappearing back in the hole and the gush of water as it swims off to be caught again someday,” Rasmus said. 

 

Methodology

Trophy pike can be caught in a variety of ways but it’s tough to beat a solid spread of tip-ups over the selected area. Pike roam the lake in search of easy food, often in the form of dead fish floating just underneath the ice. These pike will kill anything they come across as well but an easy meal is tough for any predator to turn down. 

Our bait for the day was a dead minnow right around a foot long that was hooked with two trebles on a quick-strike rig. This “Slew-Dog” rig is a special set-up and the rig of choice for big pike anglers. Northland Tackle also makes a quick-strike rig called the Predator Rig and we used a few of them as well. 

Anglers can make their own rig as well so long as the treble hooks are big enough to fit the bait. In our case, foot-long frozen herring with one treble through the head and the other between the dorsal and tail. Large baits tend to deter smaller pike. Once a pike is on the line, it’s important to set the hook during the initial run to ensure a hookset in the mouth rather than deeper in the throat. A mouth hook is what makes a successful release possible.

Connecting the Slew-Dog rig to the tip-up was mason line. The thick white line performs very well in these conditions and doesn’t slice and dice your hand as a big pike burns the line on your fingers as you let it run. 

The snow was still thick on the ice so after drilling holes with the StrikeMaster equipped with extensions, we shoveled out an area to serve as a windbreak and then shoveled a viewing point so that the flag could be seen from our main base. 

Main base was at the midpoint of a J-shape resembling a decoy spread complete with 12 tip-ups set at various depths below the ice. None of the tip-ups was further than 200 feet away but only the end of the “J” was within 50 feet of home base. It makes for some high-stepping sprints when a flag pops, not to mention plenty of falls when your boot busts through the layer of slush and your other leg takes too big of a step. 

On the snow, near each hole, we placed a small black bucket to provide for an easy visual reference. Monitoring a dozen or so tip-ups from sunrise to sunset can be quite exhausting without visual references. 

 

Success

Over two days of hardcore fishing, in cold and blustery conditions, our group found its fair share of trophies. Five of the seven anglers in our group caught the biggest pike of their lifetime and seven pike over 40-inches were caught along with many others just shy of that mark. 

When you fish this way, the only fair way to do it is to take turns. We decided who would be first before the first flag ever popped but it’s funny how multiple flags tend to pop all at once, knocking that system out of order. No complaints, however. When two or three flags go in succession and you are running from one hole to the next, it’s the peak of excitement and anticipation. It’s also a great way to warm up! This is cross-training at its finest. 

Even though he’s put numerous anglers on 40-inch fish both as a guide and a friend, Sathre had yet to bust the mark himself. All that changed on our last day of angling, however, when he pulled a chunky 42-inch pike through the ice. “I love putting other people on fish but I’m not going to lie, that was a lot of fun to catch and it’s amazing how much power a fish that size has,” Sathre said. 

Adding to the thrill was the sheer girth of Sathre’s pike. “It was a very thick fish that just rolled over my hands as I held it—definitely the biggest I’ve ever caught. Best of all, it’s still swimming,” he said. 

All the pike our group caught were successfully released, often without time to take photographs. Normally a March trip features warm weather and plenty of opportunities for successful releases and photographs. Not this year with below zero wind chills and temperatures in the teens at best. 

 

Accommodations

Crossing into Canada at the point of entry just north of Warroad was relatively easy and a passport card or book was all it took. Just a few hundred yards past the international border is the turn-off for Buffalo Point Resort. The resort has a wide variety of accommodations for visitors year-round including cabins for sale right on the lake. Check www.buffalopoint.ca for details or visit lakeofthewoodsmn.com for general information on fishing and accommodations on the American side. 

Buffalo Point Resort has a full marina that offers access in the winter and a landing in the summer. When not covered in snow, there is a lush 18-hole golf course with the perfect blend of lakeshore and woods. 

With a restaurant, store and bar on the premises there was little need to venture out into other parts of Canada. Our group is not much for boozing while fishing so we had no problem with the law in Canada restricting drinking on the ice. 

That said, Canada is under strict price controls on adult beverages so if that’s part of the after-fishing plans, make sure to come fully prepared. Just not over prepared—customs has strict restrictions on how much adult beverage can be brought into the country. 

Positioned on a point, Buffalo Point provides visitors with beautiful views of both sunrise and sunset. Being so far north, and relatively away from metropolitan areas, the stars shine brighter and the northern lights glow more colorful. 

 

 

 

Olympic medalist Kim Rhode no stranger to Minnesota

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: July 30, 2012 - 12:18 AM

             It’s too bad the shooting sports and archery don’t receive a more prominent position in Olympic coverage but it’s hard to avoid that this year with the United States teams doing so well.

            The men’s archery team took silver and skeet shooter Kim Rhode took home Olympic gold. She did so in a record-setting performance far surpassing her competition. Her score of 99 out of 100 was near perfect and a full eight targets better than the second place finisher.
            She also has accomplished something no other Olympiad has ever done—she has won five medals in five consecutive Olympics. Carl Lewis never did that nor did Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
            It’s a testament to the fact that archery and shooting are truly life sports. You can pick up the sport as a youth and continue it as a senior. Rhode won her first medal as a teenager and good friends of mine, Chuck and Loral I Delaney, are still avid shooters in their 70s.
            Those two stories converged back in 2006 when Kim Rhode spent the two weekends of Game Fair as a guest of Chuck and Loral I Delaney during the 25th Anniversary of the event.
The Delaney’s are strong advocates of the shooting sports and extremely accomplished shotgunners themselves. Loral I puts on shooting lessons for ladies at Game Fair each year and as an inductee into the national trapshooting hall of fame she’s definitely qualified. Go to http://www.traphof.org/Inductees/Delaney-Loral-I.html for details on some of her accomplishments (though not all).
            Rhode split her duties between the shotgun range providing instruction with Loral I and meeting with fans in the Information Tent. She was a very interesting woman to chat with and was very humble for a three-time Olympic athlete (at the time).
            I interviewed her for a profile that appeared in the Outdoor News and, all humility aside, she did sign an autograph for me and allowed me to check out her Olympic medals. It was impressive at the time but even moreso now that she’s the only individual Olympic athlete to win medals in five straight Olympics.
            What impresses me most about her shooting accomplishments was that she had to totally change her shooting style. Her first Olympic medals were achieved in trapshooting. Then they dropped that from the Olympics and she had to make the shift to skeet.
Kim Rhode and Loral I Delaney taught women shooting skills at Game Fair during her visit.

Kim Rhode and Loral I Delaney taught women shooting skills at Game Fair during her visit.

            I much prefer skeet to trap and, as anybody who shoots both will attest to, making the shift between them is a difficult adjustment.  The targets fly very differently and the rhythm is definitely a change.
            No word yet if she’ll be returning to Minnesota to visit the Delany’s at Game Fair again this year. Game Fair runs from August 10 to 12 and 17 to 19 at the Armstrong Ranch Kennels in Ramsey, MN and Olympic closing ceremonies are scheduled for August 12.
            If she does by chance happen to stop by, you can find out at www.facebook.com/GameFairUSA or on Twitter @GameFairUSA. Details on Game Fair can be found at www.GameFair.com
Rhode chatted with then Governor Tim Pawlenty who visited the 25th Game Fair to deliver a Proclamation.

Rhode chatted with then Governor Tim Pawlenty who visited the 25th Game Fair to deliver a Proclamation.

      

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