There wasn’t a lot left in my pike & musky tackle box once I had removed any lure that sported more than one hook. Mostly buzzbaits and spinnerbaits remained – bass tackle at best and not nearly big enough to hook and hold Kesagami’s legendary trophy northerns. What’s that ? File off the barbs on those single-hook lures as well ? Will I ever catch a pike, even a hammerhandle, on such gutless gear ?
By the end of our 4-day stay at Kesagami Wilderness Lodge, all my misgivings and apprehensions about the effectiveness of single-hook, barbless tackle had been laid to rest.
Single-hook, barbless baits catch plenty of fish – big fish – trophy Kesagami pike included. In fact, of all the fish hooked during our stay, I lost only one large pike – and that had little (if anything) to do with the hook (and everything to do with the hook setter). It was a beauty, too, but there would be other giants hooked and landed – several, in fact.
Kesagami’s single, barbless hook policy does not limit catches – it limits kills. Far fewer fish, trophy fish in particular, are victimized by deeply imbedded hooks, foul hooking, or the kind of fatal mouth, gill and gillraker damage often caused by treble gangs. This point was (sadly) driven home later in the season when, after besting a dandy 17-pounder, we discovered that the multi-gang twitchbait had been taken so deeply, and had caused such irreparable gill damage, that the fish could not be saved. A hard lesson learned, more and more of my pike baits will be the single-hook variety in coming seasons.
Filing or pinching the barb down on even the largest hooks accomplishes several things – it facilitates both the initial hookset, causes less mouth / tongue damage to fish, and makes the hook easier to remove (especially with the fish in a cradle or still in the water) prior to releasing the fish. A clean entry wound and a quick release and a quick release increase the likelihood that a trophy pike (or any fish) will survive being caught, handled and released. That makes for a more enjoyable outing and, subsequently, a better fishery. That is a win-win proposition.
Many of the most effective pike baits come as one-hook wonders – spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, topwater & weedless spoons, Slug-Gos, casting / trolling spoons and a few spinners. That’s enough pike (or walleye, or bass) tackle right there for just about any good fishing spot – and Kesagami’s incredible fishery is well above that benchmark. But, if variety is one of the spices in your life, many other popular baits can be modified to work well with a single hook. Lure balance, buoyancy, depth and action can be affected by such changes, so pre-test each lure before dragging it all the way to Kesagami and then finding it doesn’t fish properly. Didn’t know or forgot about the single-hook policy ? No problem. Kesagami Wilderness Lodge will gladly supply you with split rings, suitable single hooks, even split-ring pliers to make the necessary changes to your favourite baits.
A trip to Kesagami will not only provide a memorable fishing vacation and the opportunity to challenge a trophy pike, but will validate the visionary conservation policies in place there. With a sound conservation ethic and program in place and the co-operation of visiting anglers, the world-class fishing at Kesagami will get even better in the years ahead.