The Pike that ate a dog
Story by Mark Hume with Photography by Scott Walker
The great pike’s lair was discovered by accident. I’d wanted a plump whitefish to take home that day, as I fished a small lake about a 40 minute drive outside Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, so I replaced the bucktail I’d been using with a tiny Mepps spinner.
Pike are ubiquitous in the lakes that dot the rocky landscape around Yellowknife. . .you can catch them everywhere and anywhere on bucktails, or surface poppers. Whitefish will take a fly too, but I wanted to troll as I paddled my canoe back to the take out spot, and I knew the flash of a small spinner would quickly attract any whitefish that saw it.
Trolling down the shore I was surprised when the rod jerked violently towards the stern. I’d rested it so the reel would catch against the seat, otherwise it would have vaulted overboard.
I knew it was a pike by the violent thrashing fight, as it whipped its snaky body trying to throw the lure. It felt big, and I hadn’t expected to hook a pike on such a small lure. Nor did I expect to land it. Surely its great teeth would slash the leader.
But after a few minutes the pike came in. It was a nice fish of about 10 lbs., and it was hooked right in the end of its lip. That explained why it hadn’t been able to cut the leader with its teeth.
I released the fish, and started trolling again. A few minutes later the same thing happened. Usually I use a big mouthful of a fly for pike, something like a coho bucktail that will wedge in the side of their jaw, and put a bit of steel between their teeth and the leader.
The Mepps spinner was tiny. But instead of engulfing it, and severing the leader, the pike took it delicately, plucking at it with their lips. Three big fish in a row were hooked on the tip of the nose.
At the end of the lake I turned in along a reed bed, just off the parking spot, and hooked another pike. This one was the smallest fish of the day, a 24 inch baby. I brought it in quickly and tried to get it in the boat. But it slipped away, thrashing wildly. It dove in a spiraling motion, and I reefed back on the line, to force it to the surface again. I was thinking the day was over and I didn’t want to waste time with this little fish. As it came in the second time, it darted under the canoe to hide.
I put down the rod, took hold of the fly line, and gently pulled the pike out from under the boat.
That’s when the giant pike appeared. It came out of the dark water, materializing without warning and violently lunged under the canoe. I dropped the line and reeled back from the gunwale. A 30 or 40 lb. pike had just passed inches from my face.
Suddenly the line was screaming out from the reel. The big pike had attacked the small one, and was diving with it.
Instinctively I struck. The line tightened, the rod bowed and I sat there like that, not knowing really what to do next. I regained line slowly, and after a few minutes, the great pike came into view again.
He was holding a badly shredded 2 lb. pike cross-ways in his jaws. As I watched, both fascinated and horrified, the big pike tried to break the smaller fish in half. Scales and bits of flesh swirled out in a milky cloud.
The big pike seemed unaware of the canoe as he lay there just a few feet away, trying to devour his meal. I could see my Mepps spinner flashing, as it dangled from the lip of the dead fish.
The giant pike’s gills flared every time he bit down on his meal.
When I moved, the big fish suddenly dove, carrying its prey with it. Line raced out for a moment, then went slack. I reeled in, and found the spinner still there. Loose scales were still glinting as they settled slowly in the water underneath the canoe.
A few weeks later I returned to the lake with a friend. I’d told him of the giant pike, but he was skeptical. As we paddled along the reed bed, he hooked a small pike, another two pounder.
Let it dive on a loose line, I told him when he brought it close to the boat. He did, and a moment later his line began to jerk violently.
I remember him swearing in disbelief.
What the hell’s happening? he asked.
When he brought the line in there was a dead fish on the end that looked as if its body had been rasped with a cheese grater.
He might not have believed my explanation, except the great pike came back, swimming slowly past the canoe where we could both see it.
I don’t know how much the big fish weighed, but while he lay alongside the canoe I held my paddle out over the water. He was the same length: 5 feet.
I didn’t have a chance to fish that lake again, but the big pike came back into my life once more, when I met a young man at a party in Yellowknife. He was asking about fishing places he could take his in-laws, who were visiting from Ontario. I told him of the lake, an easy drive from town, and said it was a great place to catch big pike.
He knew the spot, but didn’t want to go back there after what had happened a few days earlier.
He’d taken his in-laws out for a canoe ride, and his mother-in-law’s dog had drowned in the lake.
What happened? I asked, wondering how a dog could drown.
I don’t know, he said. It was the weirdest thing. She put the dog over the side and it was swimming behind the boat, and then there was a splash and it was just gone. We paddled around and around, but we never saw it again.
I asked if it was along the reed bed near the launch site.
Yeah, he said, surprised by the question.
Just half way along? I asked. About 50 yards from where you launched?
Exactly. Yeah, but how did you know that? he asked.
I told him about the great pike, and the colour drained from his face. He never told his mother -in- law, and so far as I know, nobody ever caught that pike.