When: January 1st, from 11am to 5pm
Where: Budd Lake in Morris County
What: Ice Fishing
Weather: As good as it gets for ice fishing. High in the mid-30's, mostly cloudly with a light SW wind.
I do a fair amount of fishing and I catch my fair amount of fish. However, no matter how grateful I am for some of the beautiful creatures that I have been able to photograph and release, sometimes it's really hard not to think about the ones that got away.
At about 3pm on New Year's Day, I was undoubtedly thinking about the one that got away.
A few hours earlier, a fish had taken the bait under one of my tip-ups, and after a short strugge during which I could tell it was a decent fish, it sliced through the line before I had a chance to see it.
This is exaclty what I was thinking about as our day was winding down. It was wonderul to get outside and Chris had caught a pike, but it was really hard not to be a little disappointed at the prospect of going home without catching one of my own after having one get away.
As all of this was playing through my head, I looked up to see a flag flying on one of my tip-ups; the tell-tale sign that something has taken the bait below it. I walked over to the hole, set my tip-up to the side, took in the slack line, pulled and set the hook.
I tend to be a fast-learner when it comes fishing, so instead of trying to force this one in and have him slice through the line again, I delicately played it until the the fish was tired enough to come out of the water. The pike came up to the hole three times only to disappear again, but the fourth time that it came up, it came out.
The 26-inch northern pike was the first that I had pulled from New Jersey waters. It was also the largest pike that I have ever caught and the largest fish that I have taken through the ice. Hat trick.
This would have been a great day without this fish, and normally a one fish day is nothing to write home about. However, after months of preperation for ice fishing and this being my first time out this year, it made the day pretty special.
This fish has immediately been put atop the leaderboard for the 2010 Fish of the Year, and although it would be mildly disappointing to have made my best catch of the year already, I have a hunch that won't be the case.
Chris with his New Year's Day pike from Budd Lake.