Fishing Freshwater Pike and Muskie Fishing

Huge Pike Caught in Boundary Waters Would Have Broken Minnesota’s State Record, Except for One Technicality

"We were so excited about the fish, so pleased to see such a remarkably huge pike, that we just didn't think about taking photos of its measurements"
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A Minnesota angler with a massive pike.
Skorloken hooked the pike from his canoe, and he had to paddle after the fish just to keep it hooked. Photo courtesy Jacob Skorloken

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness spanning northeast Minnesota and southern Ontario has been a haven for generations of outdoorsmen. This includes Jacob Skorloken, who caught one of the biggest northern pike in state history during his 21st annual canoe trip through the area last month. The 39-year-old was paddling, fishing, and camping the BWCA with his father, Steve, and a few other buddies.

“It was the third day of our 10-day trip, and we’d stopped at a favorite deep hole in Crooked Lake, part of the Basswood Lake system,” Skorloken tells Outdoor Life. “I was alone in one of our three canoes when I dropped a 3/8-ounce blue-and-black jig over the side.”

He says he let the jig sink down to the bottom. After one lift of the rod tip, he felt something huge hit the lure in about 18 feet of water.

“My dad and brother-in-law were in another nearby canoe, and I told ‘em right away it was a big one,” Skorloken says. “But I thought it was just a good walleye.”

An angler with a big pike.
Skorloken holds up the massive pike he caught during a Boundary Waters canoe trip in May.

Photo courtesy Jacob Skorloken

After fighting deep for a few minutes, the fish made the first of three sizzling runs. It peeled off 50 yards of 6-pound line and put a deep bow in Skorloken’s 6-foot 6-inch spinning rod.

“It’s a miracle my 6-pound line didn’t cut during the 20 minutes I fought that pike,” Skorloken says. “I just got lucky. The jig hook was barbed perfectly in its mouth. The fine line must have fit between its large sharp teeth, so it didn’t cut the mono.”

The fish was too strong and hard to turn with light tackle, so Skorloken had to paddle after the pike just to keep it from spooling him. His dad and brother-in-law kept up alongside him, holding their canoe against his own to offer some stability.

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“I eventually worked the fish to the surface, but I couldn’t pull it in,” Skorloken says. “We finally got it in our net, and started to lift it, but the net handle started to bend. That’s when we paddled to shore, and [my brother-in-law] grabbed the net hoop to keep it from breaking.”

After reaching shore, Skorloken held up the huge northern for a few photos and took some basic measurements. He says it was 47.5 inches long with an 18-inch girth, which would have beat the standing Minnesota catch-and-release record by three quarters of an inch. (That record is actually a tie between two 46.25-inch pike, one of which was caught in Basswood Lake.) But because they didn’t photograph these measurements, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources can’t consider the fish as a potential state record. Still, that didn’t keep the agency from bragging about Skorloken’s pike on social media.

“We were so excited about the fish, so pleased to see such a remarkably huge pike, that we just didn’t think about taking photos of its measurements,” Skorloken explains.

An angler eyes the huge pike he caught.
Skorloken has been paddling, fishing, and camping in the Boundary Waters every year since he was 18.

Photo courtesy Jacob Skorloken

After they returned from their 10-day camping trip, Skorloken contacted the DNR about the pike. That’s when learned about the record technicality he’d overlooked in his excitement.

“It would have been great to have the record, but I already have a replica mount of the pike being made by a taxidermist, so I’ll be able to re-live that memory every time I see it on my wall,” Skorloken says.

The mount will also be a constant reminder of the draw that the Boundary Waters still has, even after all the years he’s explored the area.

“I’ve fished there for 21 years, and I love that area more than anywhere else in the world. I first went there with my dad when I was 18 years old, and I’ll be going back to the Boundary Waters for many years in the future.”