By Steven Wintemute
A couple of years ago I was fishing with good friend Sam Spiropolous. Sammy is an unbelievably good pike and musky fisherman and has a knack for catching big fish. Sammy has years of experience fishing with these very toothy critters and he handles them and catches them amazingly well.
One weekend while fishing Lake of the Woods, just around the town of Kenora, Sammy and I were having a great day. We had caught numerous big fish this day and nothing could go wrong for us. Or could it?
These fish take heft
Now imagine this…fishing with big 14-inch baits that resemble a fish, loaded up with three razor sharp sets of treble hooks, all while using heavy rods and a thick line. Believe me, you need this gear to catch big pike and musky.
Sammy loves to use a mesh cradle versus a net for landing these fish. It is easier on the fish and most times easier to take the hooks out of their very toothy mouths. Yes, they have razor sharp teeth!
Late in the day I hooked into a very nice 20-pound pike and as I was reeling the fish in I asked Sammy if he needed the cradle. Sammy said, “No buddy I think I will just hand balm this one, how hard can it be?”
One thumb on the hook
As he was using the pliers to take the hooks out of the fish’s mouth with his right hand, his left hand slipped and the fish clamped onto his right hand and bit down HARD! A pike’s teeth bend back in towards the mouth (so that fish cannot escape once they bite). Sammy was in pain yelling hysterically for me to do something.
My first instinct was to run but then I quickly remembered we were in a boat. My second instinct was to grab the fish’s mouth and open it so that Sammy could push his left hand into the mouth, lift up his right hand and then take it out. This he did! His thumb was a bloody mess.
This next part, I fear, is going to be hard to believe. As he was washing the blood off his hand in the water the pike bit and, yes! clamped down on his other thumb.
Sammy acted quickly this time, thank goodness, and got his left thumb out of the fish’s mouth.
The fish were biting alright
Now I was laughing and Sammy was laughing as well. We went to a marina to get a first aid kit. They had nothing. I bought some scotch tape and Kleenex and fixed him up the best I could.
At this point, most people in that situation would go to the hospital, but not Sammy. We fished for four more hours. Once back in Kenora Sammy got looked at and stitched up. When the doctor asked how the fishing had been Sammy smiled and gave him two, stitched and bandaged thumbs up!
Steven Wintemute is general manager of Pegasus Publications Inc. and editor-in -chief of Hooked magazine.