This Fish’n Canada adventure takes us to Lac La Biche, located in the heart of scenic north-central Alberta. A French translation of a Cree phrase meaning “Lake of the Elk”, Lac La Biche shares its name with the small community situated on its southern shore—and as the name suggests, it is a region that is rich in both wildlife and cultural diversity. Despite a modest population of under 3000, the hamlet of Lac La Biche is a thriving community, steeped in the history that surrounds the shores of its namesake. Just up the road is the Lac La Biche Mission, for example, a National Historic Site that invites visitors to walk on floors that nearly pre-date Canada’s confederation.
Just minutes away, Angelo found himself on his own mission. Joined by Ray Kohlruss, owner of Alberta’s Reel Angling Adventures (and no stranger to the Fish’n Canada audience), they were on a mission to find, and land, a big Northern Pike.
A few facts did emerge, however, that would definitely complicate their mission’s objective. Once again, Mother Nature was going to dictate how this game would play out.
“Surprise, surprise,” says Ang. “Normally when your guide tells you he hasn’t been on a body of water for over ten years, you should be concerned. But knowing Ray as well as I do, I’m not worried. If anyone can find a fish in a haystack, it’s him. The next surprise, though, I’m not feeling good about at all. We were going to target giant shallow-water Northerns that normally cruise the shorelines this time of year. Well, guess what? With zero wind and pea soup for water, that plan is now out the window.”
It turned out that Lac La Biche was in the middle of a massive unexpected algae bloom; a public advisory that was soon to be posted warned residents and visitors of this potentially harmful blue-green algae. And what’s worse is that the bloom appeared to span the entire lake. It was a coast to coast mung fest.
The only chance Ang and Ray had was to go deep, keep moving their baits, and hope to find the occasional active fish. With the visibility so poor all the way down the water column, back-trolling through this green mist was their most logical solution. Moving their huge, colourful Pike baits through as much water as possible would increase the odds that they would be spotted and struck by some unsuspecting big Northern.
“Well, it’s not a big Northern,” states Ang, after netting Ray’s first big Walleye. “But right about now we’ll take just about anything this lake will give us.”
While the Walleye population of Lac La Biche is enjoying a comeback since its near disappearance in the 1960s, the species has been designated a strict catch-and-release fish to help the numbers continue to recover. And by all reports, things are going really well.
DANCING WITH WALLEYE
With the day half over, only one fish in the boat, and Ray and Ang feeling as beat as a pair of rented mules, they noticed something strange on the surface a few hundred feet off their starboard side. Not exactly overwhelmed with fishing action, they decided to go and check it out. It looked like it could have been a dying fish but, in fact, it was a message from the fish gods. All they needed to do was interpret it.
What they found was a small to medium-sized Northern Pike lying upside down on the lake’s surface with a Whitefish, probably half its size, t-boned in its powerful death grip. Since they could see the gills of the Pike still working, they figured there was still hope for the fish. But if this dog-eat-dog battle continued, both parties would soon be pelican food. So the boys grabbed the Pike and, within seconds, the fish thrashed in hand and let go of its prey. Mr. Pike was very much alive and well, and was promptly released.
AN EPIPHANY (OR TWO)
After witnessing nature in its purest form with the little Pike and its death-grip on a meal half its size—and catching yet another Walleye on an enormous Pike bait—Ang had an epiphany. Actually, two of them: If you present a neutral or negative fish with a choice between a big or small meal, it’s going after the big one every time! And when you think about it, why wouldn’t it? It’s all about the ROI: return on investment. In this case, the investment is the energy the fish consumes to catch the meal versus the energy it gets from eating it. And when they’re shut down like they are today, that ROI has to be at a premium.
His second epiphany? Stop chasing Northerns when clearly the Walleye are saying they want to dance. Duh.
With these two new trains of thought, Ang and Ray proceeded to catch giant Walleye one after the other and throughout the middle of the day—a calalgae-infestedted day that is.
“We may not have succeeded in our original mission to make an episode on gigantic Northern Pike, but we did happen to stumble into a Walleye goldmine and, more importantly, discovered a great new tactic to deploy when fish are shut down,” says Angelo.
Lac La Biche is a perfect destination, not just for those seeking Northern Pike, but also for catch-and-release anglers looking to experience some of the most action-packed Walleye fishing anywhere.
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- Reel Angling Adventures
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