I could barely stand the excitement of packing for my 3rd annual Canadian Fishing trip deep in the bush of northern Ontario, CA. The past couple trips proved to be an amazing adventure, not to mention the unmatched pike fishing that would take place. It’s about a 12 to 14 hour pilgrimage from home base in west Michigan to the ‘secret’ fishing location that had been mapped out decades earlier by my wife’s family. That particular year would turn out to be different than any other year before or since.
Upon arrival we unloaded two big trailers of gear that make this trip possible. Quads, a Mule, and canoes would be our transportation from here on out. Once camp was set-up, we needed to plan out our first trek to get the gear in to the lake. The first lake we fished that week was a hike from our camp through some pretty swampy terrain. it all paid off as we were able to catch dinner in pretty short order. We fished that lake for a couple days and then pulled all the gear out to move to everyones favorite lake of the trip. It’s an old fly-in lake from the 50’s that is really tough to get into, but is always worth it! This lake happened to be about 12 miles down a logging road, another 2 mile down a “two-track” and then it was a 1/4 mile hike down a swampy trail to a creek that would feed us into the lake. After paddling what felt like a mile, the woods opened up and we were able to see the most beautiful uninhabited lake. That first day didn’t let us down and we were able to catch some great fish in just a few hours.
The following morning we were up early and prepared coffee and breakfast as usual, but the sky looked a bit sketchy so we started flipping radio stations to catch a weather report. The only station we were ever able to find was a french speaking radio station from further north, but we were always able to figure out most of the weather report. That day we tuned in and an english voice came over the stereo and was talking about a plane hitting a building in New York City. It was September 11, 2001 and we thought it was story time radio or something from the BBC, but then Peter Jennings voice came over the air and announced the US was under attack. All flights have been grounded and all border crossings have been closed. We all looked at each other not really knowing what we should do next. We decided that we should sit tight and fish a few more days until they get things sorted out and then we would head for the border and see how we get home. We fished for just a few hours that day and then returned to camp to get radio updates about the situation. It wasn’t good.
The next morning we decided that we would make this a normal day and worry about the border crossing toward the end of the week. We set out for the hike back down into the swamp and the paddle down the creek into the lake. It was in the 50’s that day with a light rain and my fishing buddy and I were in a 18′ canoe with homemade pontoons. We split off from the other group of 4 guys and started fishing a bayou shoreline. When you cast 1000+ times a day pike fishing, you start to make a game out of it. Casting into the gap between weeds is almost like playing Tetris. Well I made a perfect cast in between two lily pads and started cranking it back when I had a fish hit pretty hard. This fish acted a bit different than the others as it started swimming away toward the middle of the lake and there was really nothing i could do to real it in at the time. My buddy knew I had a big fish on when it started to pull our canoe toward the middle of the lake. It took about a half hour to get it to the boat and we could see what I was fighting. It was almost horrifying to see a nearly 4′ northern pike on my line and realize we were going to put it in the boat with us! We netted the fish and got it in the boat. That is when the wrestling match began! After getting it under control and on a stringer I was able to fully enjoy the adrenaline rush. That was by far the biggest fish I had ever caught!
Two days later we headed for the U.S. Border and showed all our credentials to finally get back in Michigan. We stopped at a gas station and picked up a newspaper. Those were the first images we saw of the horrible tragedy our country suffered while we were gone. We returned home and experienced the horrible footage that took over the news for the next month. I had the fish mounted and it hangs in a room in my house. A constant reminder not to forget what happened that September in 2001 and to always honor the lives lost.