In the past couple for columns, Iíve been visiting with you about my recent fishing trip to northern Saskatchewan with Cree River Lodge. Hopefully, Iíve given you an idea of what being in this pristine, wild country is like. But, Iíve got a couple more things I want to relate to you about the trip. Just how I caught that 41 inch northern pike is one of them!
Pike are the most voracious fish Iíve caught and, Iíve fished for shark. When a pike takes a lure, his intent is upon killing and eating; heís a predator in every sense of the word. As mentioned in an earlier column, I was ďhookedĒ on pike fishing when I brought that first 22 incher to the dock there at Cree River Lodge. My friend Brad Fenson had told me about catching pike and walleye off the dock and within 30 minutes of my arrival, I was casting big flashy Mepps spinners. The waters of Lake Wapata and all the Cree River drainage is loaded with not only pike but walleye as well. Grayling stack up in large numbers in areas with rapids, where the river channel narrows and becomes shallower. But pike seem to be just about everywhere.
I was casting a medium size Mepps Aglia spinner and enjoying some fast paced action on walleye and smaller pike when I felt a walleye nail my bait; by the bend in my spinning rod, I surmised it to be a fair size walleye. I had the fish almost to the net when a LOG came shooting up out of the depth and grabbed my walleye in the mid section. I watched as the big pike grabbed my walleye! It was only a foot or so below the surface of the gin clear water when it attacked my fish! Phil Zimmerman had camera in hand and snapped the shutter at the prefect time to catch the vicious strike (see image).
Luckily I had the drag set pretty light on the spinning reel as the pike made a series of strong runs. He was pulling like a mule and being engaged in mortal battle with a mighty big fish, I didnít grasp the fact that he was simply hanging on to my walleye. The walleye was hooked, the pike simply had his teeth sank into the walleye and would not let go!
When the reelís drag and the tension of the rod finally began to tire the pike and I got him back alongside the boat, I could see that he was simply ďhanging onĒ. It was a bit tense for a few seconds, I was afraid the sight of the boat and net would cause my monster pike to let go of itís breakfast but he hung on tenaciously and he and, his intended breakfast was soon in the landing net. After a few quick pictures, he was released to thrill another angler. Iím sure in more heavily fished waters, pike of this size and even those much bigger would not be as naÔve and easy to catch but Cree River Lodge has exclusive fishing outfitting rights on over a hundred miles of river and the entire lake, most of these fish have never seen a lure.
THE SHORE LUNCH is a big deal when fishing with Cree River Lodge and the guides pride themselves in not only catching fish but also putting together an awesome shore lunch each day. A team of heart surgeons could not possibly work better or more efficiently together than the guides at Cree River when preparing lunch on a remote island in lake Wapata.
Around 11each morning, each boat begins keeping smaller pike and walleye for the shore lunch. At noon, the guides head to the rock cooking pit on a remote island where the fresh fish are promptly turned into snow white fillets. Some of the guides will be gathering tender to get the cook fire burning, another will begin cutting potatoes and onions. Rather than cast iron skillets, huge steel skillets are used. They heat up quickly and are big enough to hold a lot of fillets. Pure lard is big up in this country and I learned that because it can be heated to a higher temperature than conventional cooking oil, the fillets absorb very little of it. Lard gives fish an awesome flavor. I plan to use more of it back here in Texas on upcoming fish frys!
When the lard is hot, cubed potatoes are put into one of the big skillets and another guide is busy dusting the fillets with flour and dropping them into the sizzling lard. I noted they use Franks Hot Sauce in a big freezer bag to coat the fillets before battering them; just like we have done for years! A couple of minutes before the potatoes are done; a big double handful of chopped onions is tossed on top and allowed to cook until translucent. Pork N Beans top off the meal and for desert, homemade cookies are served.
If youíve been reading this column for long, you know I absolutely love fish fries; cooking fish outside is something I learned to do with my family while catching catfish on trot lines at Long Log Lake up in Oklahoma. Maybe itís the great tasting fish from those cold, clear northern waters. Maybe itís the lard but I can truly say I have never enjoyed better tasting fish. I have a cooking fire pit in front of a little cabin not far from our house. I recently made some measurements on the pit and am designing a cooking frame that will accommodate my 30 inch wok fashioned from a plow disk. My next fish fry here at home will be over an open fire and I WILL be using lard!
When you have time, visit www.creeriverlodge.com and watch the video, it will give you a good idea of what itís like up that wilderness country but you have to experience it for yourself to fully understand! To learn more about the outdoor opportunities Saskatchewan has to offer, visit www.tourismsaskatchewan.com.
Lukeís book, KILL TO GRILL, The ultimate guide to hog hunting, is finally available at www.catfishradio.com. The book not only gives some helpful hog hunting information but also goes into detail describing how easy it is to make sausage and cure ham at home. Several of Lukeís favorite wild pork recipes are included.