Written by: Drew Price
I first met Lauren Dunn in August of this year. Her dad, Brian, had contacted me to see if I was available to target some bowfin for potential IGFA women’s line-class world records. Lauren was coming to Vermont to go to St. Michael’s College for soccer and ski racing. He let me know that she had already held about 40 records and that they were driving through northern Canada to chase records on their way to Vermont. I could tell that this was going to be a pretty impressive young woman.
The bowfin trip was unsuccessful, which is very unusual, but then again, this summer was quite unusual, as Lake Champlain is at a historically low level. Earlier in the summer, I was able to get my long-term client, Rich Hart, into several new IGFA line-class bowfins. (He has caught 13 records with me thus far.) It was because of those records that Brian and Lauren had become aware of me. That day, the bowfin were not playing nice, and while we tried our best, not a single fish was landed. I knew better days were ahead.
Lauren found some time to go out with me the first weekend of October. We had to change our initial plans and decided to chase pike on Lake Champlain. Fall can be very productive on the lake if you know where to look for the fish. We met early on a Sunday morning and took time to square everything away for chasing records: we rigged two different rods with different lines, one floating and one sink-tip Orvis Bank Shot (one of the best pike lines on the market, in my book). We added the class tippet to the leader and carefully measured the bite tippet in accordance with IGFA regulations. Small things can put a record in the trash can pretty easily.
It was a long paddle to get to where I knew the pike would be. The first several hundred yards were in just a few inches of water. When we arrived, I had a good feeling, but after an hour of fishing with nothing to show, I was starting to think about other spots to head to. That changed quickly.
I was just saying to Lauren, “I’m going to turn to our right and do one more pass then we are out of here,” when she said “Drew, I have something” in a fairly nonchalant voice.
I looked up to see a pretty tight line, and then the reel started to spin as line peeled off. I told her to tighten the drag a bit, since I figured it must be loose if it was burning off line like that. I also told her to put the cork to the fish, believing that we had 16-pound tippet on that outfit. The fish took another scorching run after closing in near the boat. It didn’t seem like that large of a fish when I got a glimpse of it. But when it started tiring and getting close to the boat, I realized it was much larger than I had thought. I netted the fish (something I typically don’t do with pike, but everything is different when targeting records) and realized that it was not your typical pike. This was a real corker for Lake Champlain.
Without going into a great deal of detail, Lake Champlain pike don’t seem to be able to get as large as pike in similar areas. In Vermont, there is no closed season on pike, a bag limit of five fish, with a minimum keeper length of 20 inches. They are one of the most targeted fish during the ice-fishing season, and to add insult to injury, Vermont is the only state that still allows shooting and spearing of pike during the spawn. They aren’t treated like game fish should be, although there are some serious efforts going on to change that. For all of these reasons, the large pike in Lake Champlain are all around the 40-inch mark. Lauren’s fish was in that class.
We beached the boat, and I kept the fish in the water as Lauren took care of all the other things we needed to have. It is pretty amazing all the data that needs to be collected in order to get a line-class record. Lauren was a pro at it, like she had done it about 40 times before. The pike measured 39 inches and weighed 12 pounds. We got the pictures and took care of business. She wore a million dollar smile! It was then that she told me that the pike was the largest fish she had ever caught on a fly. I was pretty pumped to be involved in that.
I audibly gulped when I realized that the tippet on the rod was 8-pound not the 16 I thought it was. I had been encouraging her to play the fish a bit harder because I thought she was using the heavier line. Lauren was a pro, though, and did exactly what she needed to to land that fish. That says a great deal about her as an angler.
We stuck around the area for a while and hooked into several more fish. There were a couple of LDR’s (Long Distance Releases) and one other record caught. It was a nice fish with great color, but not anywhere near as impressive as the first fish of the day.
Lauren and I are talking about what species to target next. She has a laundry list of fish she is interested in, and I have some pretty good ideas on how to get her some more records. But she has soccer and ski racing, as well as a full load of college classes, and I have a full-time job during the school year. So it makes things a bit more challenging. I know that Lauren will be back in the boat or on a stream with me soon looking for the next record she can break.
Drew Price lives in Northern Vermont and is the owner and operator of Drew Price Fly Fishing. He fishes Lake Champlain and surrounding waters targeting carp, pike, bowfin, gar, bass and other species (even the occasional trout). He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.