Dedicated pike angler Thomas Francis proved that persistence pays off last week while fishing North Idaho’s Hayden Lake near the town of Coeur D’Alene. Francis, who fishes for pike every chance he gets, boated a huge Northern on March 21. The fish has been accepted as the new Idaho state-record pike, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced Friday. The fish weighed 40.76 pounds and measured 49 inches long with a 26.5-inch girth.
“Pike is what I go after all the time,” Francis told IDFG after his record was certified. “I spend almost everyday fishing for pike. As soon as the ice is off and until it comes back.”
Francis explained that ice was still holding around the lake’s shoreline when he launched his boat last Tuesday. Unable to work tight to the shoreline, he started casting right to the edge of the ice, using the same gear and tactics he’s always used on Hayden Lake. He fished slow and deep, letting his lure sink all the way to the bottom, where it was hammered by a heavy fish.
“I felt her hit,” Francis told IDFG. “I fish with 80-pound-test line, and she almost immediately started peeling drag. She pinned herself to the bottom and just kept going, peeling drag the whole time.”
Francis knew he’d hooked into something special. And after a few hard runs, he saw just how massive the big female was.
“Suddenly I got slack line, as she was coming straight up from the bottom. She came flying out of the water, and it was obvious she was a huge fish.”
After playing the massive fish and netting it, Francis knew the pike was a contender for the state record book. He headed for the dock to find a scale and a tape measure he could borrow.
“We found a boat with a scale, and the fish pegged the scale out at 30 pounds,” Francis said, “so we knew we needed to find a bigger scale.”
Francis eventually located a certified scale, which registered 40.76 pounds. This was just enough to give Francis the new certified weight record for northern pike, as it beat out the previous Idaho state-record pike by less than a pound. That record fish was caught in 2010 from Lower Twin Lake, which is also located in Idaho’s panhandle region.
In addition to certified weight records, IDFG also recognizes catch-and-release records for Northern pike. These records are based entirely on the fish’s length. The current catch-and-release record for the species is a 49-inch pike caught from Coeur D’Alene Lake in October 2020. Francis’ fish was also around 49 inches long, but since the big female was caught in the spring, the fish was likely full of eggs and would have been noticeably heavier than a similarly sized pike caught in the fall.