MN: Big pike: Was it a record?
Ely, Minn. – It's not out of the ordinary to catch a silver-phase northern pike on Snowbank Lake near Ely.
But a 42-incher that's heavier than the largest silver pike ever recorded in Minnesota?
That's Mark Plumley's story.
For one night last week, he thought he'd caught a new state record. He learned the following morning his fish wasn't a state record – because the DNR no longer recognizes silver pike as a distinct species.
"It was a little disheartening," said Plumley, 61, of St. Croix Falls, Wis. "But I wasn't any worse off than I was the day before, so I wasn't too disappointed."
Plumley caught the 42-inch fish, which had a 20-inch girth and weighed 18 pounds, 14.56 ounces, while fishing Snowbank last Wednesday afternoon.
For years, Minnesota listed a state record for silver pike. That fish, caught in Disappointment Lake in 1978, weighed 18 pounds, 14 ounces.
But the state removed silver pike from the state record list after research indicated "the genetics are the same" as regular northern pike, said Linda Erickson-Eastwood, DNR Fisheries program manager.
In essence, silver pike and regular northern pike are the same, save for their color.
According to the DNR web site: "An uncommon variant called the silver pike is dark silver or greenish gray, rather than the ‘clear' coloration of the muskie; yet it is a northern pike and has the northern pike's scale and pore pattern."
The state record northern pike, caught in Basswood Lake, which is near Ely, weighed 45 pounds, 12 ounces.
The most common size of silver-phase pike in Snowbank Lake is between about 2 and 5 pounds, said Ron Schmidt, who owns Smitty's on Snowbank, which is where Plumley and his group stayed.
"About four or five years ago, we had a pretty good hatch of them," Schmidt said. "It used to be so rare that we would see one or two a year. Now a group can go out and get one (relatively) easily."
That doesn't mean they are abundant: "If a (group) had four or five days, I'd say you are probably going to get one."
Plumley's fishing group was on the lake for five days. It was the only fish he caught last Wednsday.
It hit a Rapala X-Rap while he was trolling in about 12 feet of water.
"I got him good and tired out and let him make two or three runs," Plumley said.
Getting the fish in the boat was another story. The only net in the boat was a small one because Plumley's buddy talked him into leaving the muskie-sized net on shore.
His reason? "Leave the big net at home and we'll catch a big fish," Plumley said.
The group brought the fish back to shore and weighed it on several scales. Other people at the resort also wanted their pictures taken with it. Finally, the fish was weighed on a certified scale at Zup's Market in Ely.
Plumley initially planned to release the fish, but ended up keeping it. He plans to put it on the wall.
"This one was really an old fish," Schmidt said. "Half of its teeth were out. I don't know how many more years it had left."
While the DNR doesn't classify silver pike as a separate species, the agency does note each in its survey netting. During 2010, the agency caught them in Snowbank Lake in both gill and trap nets.