It was mid-January on a Minnesota-Canada border lake. We were ice fishing for lake trout and doing quite well. Between the five of us we had a dozen or so lakers on the ice by noon. These were nice fish that averaged about 4 pounds apiece. I was using ten-pound test and a jig I had made that was tipped with cut Cisco. I’d lift the jig slowly and let it flutter down really turning on the trout.
That’s when it hit! I set the hook and it was solid. I just knew I had a big laker! That’s when the fish took off. “Lonnie!” I yelled to my longtime fishing partner, “This one’s got to be at least 15 pounds!” Lonnie came running over with his treble hook gaff, the same one he had tangled my line on while trying to gaff a big walleye earlier that winter (breaking me off in the process) but that’s another story. “No, use my gaff!” I ordered. By this time I was in one heck of a battle with the fish. He was tearing out line at will. I would gain ten feet and he’d take thirty back. “This fish is well over 20 pounds!” I yelled.
This see-saw battle went on for about 10 minutes, but seemed a lot longer. My arm and back were beginning to ache. Lonnie offered to take the fish for a while. I replied, “Sure…NOT!” Now I was starting to gain some ground on the fish and was able to get him to the hole, an 8-inch ice fishing hole. “Here he comes! Get ready with the gaff!” I directed. Suddenly there was a huge head looking at me sideways from across the bottom of the hole. “This thing will never fit,” I thought. Just then Lonnie took a swipe at it with the gaff. “Don’t hit my line,” I whimpered. Lonnie missed and the fish took off on a power run and the pucker factor went off the scale. Our hearts skipped a few beats, but I was able to maneuver the fish back to the hole. “There’s his head! Take him!” I yelled, and, in one big motion, Lonnie slipped the gaff into the water and popped out this huge lake trout like it was being born by Mother Earth herself. The trout weighed in at 28 pounds, and measured 38 inches long, with a 28-inch girth. What a great day!
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