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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
John Theriault asks 'Is this an alligator?' after 35 pound Northern Pike landed at Alcorn Lake near Chapleau
With warmer weather hopefully in sight, it seemed like a good time for a fishing story.
John Theriault kindly sent me a copy of 'Trespassing in God's Country' by his father George, who arrived in Chapleau in 1954 and founded Theriault Air Service. He had also served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Mr. Theriault now in his 94th year lives in Sault Ste. Marie.
Here is the story:
BY GEORGE THERIAULT from his book 'Trespassing in God's Country'
During our first year in Chapleau, I met Mr Ralph Stedman from Flint , Michigan. We had the pleasure of taking care of him and his son Larry for many years. He was such a naturally amicable man that within a year or two our business relationship turned into a long standing friendship between our families.
In the fall of 1956 my five year old son, John, and I accompanied Mr. Stedman and his son Larry to our little tent camp on the north end of Nemegosenda Lake. I didn't have any boats at the site, so for safety we tied two canoes together--a 17 foot square stern with a 9.9 hp motor and a smaller 16 foot canoe, loaded with our gear. We motored down the river to Alcorn Lake and spent the better part of the day still fishing for walleye.
Once we had our fill of catching walleye in the holes along the shore,we decided to troll down the center of the lake. I was using a red and white daredevil in hope of tempting a northern pike to hit my line. Most northern pike are found in shallow water near weed beds where they feed on smaller fish. Ralph and Larry were using casting reels whereas I was using an Alcock spinning reel with about 300 yards of 6 pound test line. It wasn't monofilament line: it was actually made of silk like the thread used on parachutes.
All of a sudden I felt my line tighten, as if I had hooked into a huge log. Ralph immediately saw my line go down and told his son Larry, who was running the motor to turn around because he thought my line was snagged. There was no reverse on motors back then , so Larry turned the boat around and I held the rod up. We motored back up the river about a 100 feet. The line was still out another 200 feet. At this time I began to entertain doubts about this snag. Larry pushed the motor a little faster until we were a 100 feet from where the line was hugging the bottom. Only then did I coinfirm my suspicions that this had to be fish. Whatever was on the line took it on a run for another couple of 100 feet.
We had to wait 10 minutes to get a glimpse of the fish. As soon as it surfaced, I knew it was a northern. It barely stayed on the surface for a few seconds before it dove to the bottom, pulling at least 50 yards of line.Then it sulked and pulled and held the 6 pounds of drag. We sat in this suspended state for several minutes. I knew if I expected to land this fish , I had to make the next move.
I asked Larry to paddle the canoe so that I could put side drag on the line. The northern made a dash and we followed, running the motor slowly enough to keep the pressure on. After a few minutes of this chasing game, the fish stopped, turned 90 degrees and took off a little faster. By now we were in the middle of Alcorn Lake, at a depth of 30 feet and the fish still on the bottom. The pressure was so intense that I could only imagine that I had hooked a 15 pound northern by the tail.
It seemed we had been trailing this fish for an hour, but when I looked at my watch, it had only been about 20 minutes. My hands were sore and tired, but I wasn't about to give up until I had gotten a good look at my opponent. Finally the fish eased up and I could reel in some of the line. This time I got it within 30 feet of the boat.
From our vantage point, we could see a huge northern. It looked like it was about 5 feet long. I knew my line couldn't handle much more pressure and I figured if this fish decided to take another dive to the bottom it was going to take all my line with it. I began to feel satisfied just to have seen this monster.
Just about the time I was giving up all hope of landing it, the line slackened. I quickly used the opportunity to reel in. My last ditch efforts to get the fish close to the boat paid off. Fortunately the fish seemed to have given up all its will power. By the time I got it within a foot of the boat, there was no fight left in this brute. Larry leaned over the boat and got his hand on the gills.
With a litle help from Ralph, he managed to hoist the fish into the small canoe.
My young son John took one very nervous look at the fish and said "Is that an alligator Mr. Stedman ?" His fear of the fish soon subsided and curiousity took over. He climbed over to the other canoe, examined it and decided it was the biggest fish or alligator he had ever seen. It was a huge one. The fish turned out to be a 35 pound northern--the biggest one I ever caught. We had the fish officially weighed and measured and the Stedmans took it home to have it mounted.