Big Surprise on Lake Ontario

The Thrill of Landing a Remarkable Catch

It’s common knowledge even outside the fishing community that anglers are known to tell tall tales. It’s really no wonder since, when spending time on the water, some truly amazing or wild things can occur that you almost need to see to believe. It could be a unique wildlife encounter, the thrill of landing a remarkable catch, or the heartbreak of the one that got away—which almost always grows bigger in our minds. The more time spent on the water, the more stories there will be. Thankfully today, with the popularity of cell phones and cameras, some of these moments can become realized with the ability to easily document them. As the saying goes, pictures or it didn’t happen. Right?

A recent adventure was one I’ll never forget, and that certainly falls into the category above. To be honest, it started with some not-so-good luck for myself. The day was young and I had already lost three good fish while out trolling on Lake Ontario for walleye. A break-off, a pulled hook, and then a big walleye shaking the crankbait free right before entering the net. I felt like I was on a bad luck streak and each fish was haunting me more than the last. These were good bites and I am still a little haunted. I finally broke the streak with a nice little walleye. Shortly after, my fishing partner, Eric, hooked into something massive. He said it wasn’t fighting quite like the walleye we were after. One of my favourite places to fish, Lake Ontario can sure offer up some surprise by-catches from time to time.

angler holding a walleye

(Photo credit: Ashley Rae)

Whatever Eric had on was peeling some serious line and he couldn’t get much leverage on it at all. Slowing the boat down helped gain some ground on this fish. He was counting down the feet on the line counter reel aloud as the fish got closer to the boat. He tightened and loosened the drag, adjusting to the movement of the fish so as not to put too much pressure on, or offer too much slack. It’s a delicate balance in the heat of the moment.

As the line counter number dropped, I grabbed the net and leaned out the back waiting to catch a glimpse as Eric reeled away. Moments later it surfaced and…oh my goodness! We both saw it at once, the biggest pike we’ve laid eyes on in Ontario waters. The sight of it took my breath away.

angler holding northern pike

(Photo credit: Ashley Rae)

I leaned over the back of the boat readying the net and waiting for the pike to come within scooping distance. As it came within reach, I slid the net underneath at which point the fish shook, sinking both trebles of the Jointed Deep Husky Jerk into the net and simultaneously popping the hook out of its mouth. NO, NO, NO! I was now left with only the head of the pike in the net while its massive belly hung over the side. Any sudden movement and this fish could break our hearts and make for a very long, quiet ride home. Eric was likely hollering from behind me at this point but I couldn’t hear anything. I just had to get this fish in the net. I leaned over the transom as far as I could (contemplating jumping in if I had to) and dropped the net a bit, quickly sliding the rest of its body inside. PHEW!

It was an emotional rollercoaster that thankfully ended with cheering, high-fives, screaming, and hysterical laughter. This fish was a brute! I even struggled a little bit to lift the fish into the boat. I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I was after my bad luck that day.

I snapped some quick photos before Eric sent his new personal best northern pike back into the cool Lake Ontario waters. We were both in awe but wanted to get the fish back quickly. I know we will be looking back on these photos and admiring this fish again and again.

angler holding a northern pike

(Photo credit: Ashley Rae)

Finishing out the day, we both got into some walleye and a few more pike. I must say that was certainly the most dramatic and exciting pike experience I’ve ever had.

About Ashley Rae

Ashley Rae is a year-round multi-species angler residing in Ottawa, Ontario. She is a full-time fishing writer and content creator. Ashley is passionate about chasing anything with fins from her boat, kayak, from shore, or on the ice

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