Kevin battles Northern going aerial at Stewart Lake, Yukon.
Though I haven't been back to Taylor's Place for six years, I have reoccurring flashbacks that transport me back to the splendour of the Stewart Lake wilderness. The majestic Cassiar Mountains, the spruce-lined shores and quiet bays are reflected in my mind, along with the memories of battling trophy northerns.
The first thing that strikes you about Stewart Lake is the crystalline waters where you can see fish clearly outlined 20 feet (about 6m) down. From the air on a sunny day, the lake appears an almost tropical blue. Up close, the water is so transparent you can see small bottom-feeding lakers finning along beneath your boat. In June they come up on the flats to feed on the fresh water krill that are common in southern Yukon lakes.
I often wondered why many of the trout had scarred tails and backs, and then I came to the realization that the krill-browsing lakers were being assaulted by the great northerns that were laying in ambush for them. The trout were battle-scarred survivors that managed somehow to escape the jaws of death. I guess the lakers offered up a seasonal taste treat to augment the regular fare of whitefish that more typically inhabit the flats.
Stewart Lake boasts a healthy large pike population based on the abundance of lakers and whitefish to forage on. While you're not likely to get one over 30 pounds, there are ample number of fish in the 15-22 pound range.
I have vivid memories of one trip into Stewart Lake with companion, Bud Journey, who was freelancing for some outdoor magazines. It was one of those languid summer days, warm and windless. We motored along in Submarine Bay, so called because of the tackle busting northerns that have confounded more than a few anglers. Aided by polarized glasses, we took turns locating and spot casting to the pike. We could see our targets from 100 feet away, motored within casting range, then shut off the engine.
Normally on the first throw the suspended pike would launch torpedoes-like and hit our lures broadside. Sometime the first cast was the wake up call to spur a strike on the second shot. In an afternoon of fishing we brought to boatside more than a dozen northerns over ten pounds, with several in the 15 range and one nudging 22. We passed over dozens more small pike in the 4-10 pound range that would have been wall hangers by southern standards. Little wonder there were few pike under 4 pounds; they either were hiding or got eaten.
Choice of lures seemed to be unimportant. We were using big, flashy body baits and oversized spoons. They would just have easily hit a bottle opener or deer hair mouse cast from a flyrod.
Around 10:30 that night when, the evening sun was settling low on the horizon, we switched tactics and went to surface plugs cast close into the shoreline where the shadowy shape of pike could just be discerned in the dim light. We were treated to an explosive show of pike going airborne, including one 18 pounder caught in three feet of water.
As the daylight was fading about 11:30, we were slowly chugging out of the bay when I spotted one more pike I just couldn't resist. On my last cast, using an old Bass Oreno plug that had belonged to my grandfather I hooked into a four-pounder that hit the lure like a freight train and went aerial.
It was a fitting end to a perfect day on Stewart Lake. The stuff that memories are made of for a lifetime.
Using barbless hooks it was easy to release the pike to fight again another day. It takes a long time to grow trophies in those cold northern waters.
Kevin Shackell answers email@example.com.
Last modified on July 21st, 1997
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