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Bold: Adventures in pike with tournament angler Marc Pitre

Pike are often the first fish anyone catches because they’re pretty easy to find, but not everyone enjoys eating them. Still, Marc Pitre of Sudbury fishing northern pike can be as exciting as fishing gets

Talk to anyone who has done any type of fishing in Northern Ontario and you're going to hear a pike story. Talk to Marc Pitre of Sudbury and you will hear some of the best pike stories ever told.

The northern pike is a large carnivorous fish whose scientific name is ‘esox lucius’, but there are a lot of other names well known to Northern Ontario residents, usually heard in a sentence like "that slimy monster stole my hook!"

Hang around any marina or shoreline along the lakes and rivers of the North and you will hear plenty of adventure stories about catching that first pike, about catching a huge pike or even stories about hauling in a nice walleye only to have it ripped off the hook at the last minute by a thieving razor-toothed slimy fish.

Pitre, a Sudbury tournament fisher, has heard most of those stories but he said it's all about getting outdoors and catching those massive fish.

We spoke to Pitre earlier this week, just as he got home after a day on Trout Lake in North Bay. He was out with a friend and between the two of them, they "saw" one fish and that was it.

But Pitre said the fun of fishing for pike is the anticipation and the excitement builds from there.

"It's just something that you just keep going back for, over and over again, to get that high. Like as an example today we had just seen one and both of us were just ‘Oh my god, there's one!’ And you know the rush, the anticipation of the strike and the hit, and the excitement. Well, you start casting harder and you're reeling faster. It just gets your brain going," Pitre said. 

Pitre said there is fun and excitement in catching any fish, but the excitement about catching bigger fish began when he was a child.

"I grew up on the Wanapitei River. And my neighbour used to take his boys fishing on the river. We'd fish from shore. And they'd always invite me and we'd put minnows on and toss them with bobbers on the river and you know we would catch big pike. Well not always big pike. But when you're a six or seven-year-old kid, you know a three-pound pike is big."

And it was when he was younger that Pitre remembers catching another "monster" pike, maybe nine or 10 pounds he joked. The problem, Pitre said, was that he did not have any high-end equipment at the time. He said it was probably one of those combo kits that sold at Canadian Tire for $9.99.

"And it came with like a six-pound-test fishing line. So if you caught a 10-pound fish, you had to fight it for 15 or 20 minutes before you got it, otherwise you'd snap the line," Pitre recalled.

As an avid tournament fisher, Pitre said he thinks he has mastered a couple of techniques that always seem to work. One is to fish when the water temperature is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius), which he said is the optimal temperature for pike when they're feeding.

"There's lots of science to it. We studied it a lot over the years. But pike are fairly simple to capture. With spinner-baits, you can go into weedy bays and cast. Pike are ambush predators. They sit and ambush their prey, for most part, behind weeds, behind rocks, behind trees. They blend in and if something comes by, boom."

Pitre is also an advocate for the popular Rapala lures, known as Husky Jerks. He said when he is at a tournament, one guy uses the Rapalas, while the other guy uses the spinner-baits. They will try different depths and different colours until they get a good result and that sets the tone for the day.

The objective of the tournament is to catch the longest and heaviest fish. That sounds simple enough but Pitre will tell you it's not always that easy. 

"I caught a pike this spring, and we were in Georgian Bay. We usually keep a couple of nice pike like, you know, 30 inches. I kept a 32-inch pike last spring to bring home for supper. Well we got it home. In its stomach content it had 64 smelts!"

Pitre is also an advocate for eating pike. He said the obvious problem is that this is one species that has the infamous Y-bone, which makes it difficult to filet. Pitre said it is not hard to learn how to cut out the bones, and while you may sacrifice some extra flesh in the process, it is still a great fish to eat.

Full disclosure here, to be honest, Pitre said he is not a big fish eater. He admitted he loves things like chicken or pork chops, but he is assured by everyone he knows that pike tastes good.

Pitre's other advice is that no matter how much you enjoy fishing, he said it is always better to share the experience. He said this is especially true with children. He said the idea is to get youngsters hooked on the fun of getting outdoors and going fishing. 

"The thing is when you take kids fishing, don't worry about yourself. Think about the kids having fun and catching small fish. As long as they're catching fish it doesn't matter how big they are," said Pitre.

Len Gillis is a reporter at Sudbury.com. Bold is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.