The celebrated leaping trout of Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska
We’ve all had amazing experiences on the water where a big muskie or northern pike comes up and grabs the bass or bluegill we’re reeling in. I don’t have enough hands to count the number of times a seagull has pounced on my lure and flown off with it. These things happen, especially on the Great Lakes and saltwater.
I’ve had bass grab my bobber and try to steal it. I’ve had pike grab walleyes I had on the stringer dangling from my canoe. Once I even had a huge sturgeon snap the hook from the line at boat side, but then swim into the net that had been set into the water to scoop it up. Talk about luck on that one. But I have never had a fish that I hooked jump into my boat, although I’ve heard stories from others about it happening to them. Recently, I witnessed just such a scenario, and what a spectacular leap it was.
We’d launched Hobie kayaks in a fairly large lake just south of the town of Cooper Landing, Alaska. I slid into the shallows and started long-line trolling a 3-inch white Mister Twister with no weight about 30 yards behind the kayak. The rainbow trout were biting well, and I landed eight fish in an hour.
After taking a short break I convinced Jared Burwell, the 12-year-old son of a friend, to fish with me to catch some more. No sooner had we hit the shallow soft-bottomed area where I had just caught some nice rainbows, and I was fighting another nice fish. These wild Alaskan rainbow trout are jumpers. Set the hook and they head straight for the surface and leap, head shaking, trying to spit it. Allow any slack line, and you will lose that fish.
This rainbow trout was a true piscatorial athlete. If I compared this fish to anyone, it would be Michael Jordan, who could leap to fantastic heights and hover for what seemed like an eternity.
The first jump was straight out of the water, nearly vertical to the surface. And that trout hung there while we both exclaimed, “Wow!” When the fish hit the water after that first jump, it turned and jumped again, not as high as the first leap, but impressive nonetheless.
On the third jump, “Trout Jordan” landed just inches from the side of the kayak and made a last good run with its head down as it stretched the reel’s drag, trying to reach the vegetation and free itself.
Jared kept the pressure on, and as the fish neared the kayak for the last time, it made one last leap right into the back of the kayak, where it flipped and flopped and spit the hook. I howled, “Can you believe that?!” Jared answered, “He’s not hooked anymore.”
I slid up next to Jared and snapped a couple of quick images while he corralled the fish and slid it back into the water.
We kept fishing and caught a couple more, but we just couldn’t quit talking about the one that lurched into the boat on its own. At the campfire on the beach, with everyone gathered around, we told the story and even the veteran anglers thought it was amazing.
The moral: You don’t need massive amounts of humongous fish to create an experience that is memorable. All you need is one fish that does something so incredible that it makes you smile, even laugh, every time you think about it. Without a doubt, that is what Jared Burwell’s rainbow trout gifted us on that beautiful fall day on a crystal-clear lake in Alaska.